The move toward sustainability in the electronics industry requires innovative approaches that consider aspects of product design, development, materials, economic viability, and consumer patterns. To explore the design, development, and commercial uptake of green laptops, a paper has been published in Technovation.
Study: Determinants of innovative green electronics: An experimental study of eco-friendly laptop computers. Image Credit: AZir/Shutterstock.com
Challenges Faced by the Electronics Industry
The electronics industry is one of the fastest-growing technology sectors in the world. With this rapid growth, which influences society, markets, and the environment, there has been a consequent rise in global electronics waste. In 2014, 41.8 million tons of electronics waste was generated by end-of-life products, with 53.6 million tons generated globally in 2019. This figure is predicted to rise to seventy million tons by 2030, almost double the 2014 figures.
Electronic waste exacerbates causes environmental damage. Much of it is sent to landfills, where toxic materials used in the construction of electronic parts can leach into the environment and water tables, contaminating them. Additionally, problems occur during the manufacture and recycling of electronic parts that can have a damaging effect on both the environment and human health.
Challenges with the sustainability of electronics manufacture extend from raw material exploitation to end-of-life disposal and recycling. Mining operations to extract the heavy metals and other materials vital for component design, the emissions produced during manufacture, and the waste generated are all factors that contribute toward the current unsustainability of the electronics industry.
The Push for Sustainability and Green Electronics in the Computer Industry
The push toward sustainability and green innovation in the electronics industry is therefore central to achieving the aims and regulations set forth by numerous international bodies. These include the Montreal Protocol and the Kyoto Protocol.
In response to these protocols and other international agreements, companies in the computer industry such as Acer, Samsung, LG, and Dell have begun to develop green electronics. The key difference between green electronics and traditional electronic components is that environmental attributes are treated as design objectives instead of constraints. Innovation in this sector has led to the development of environmentally friendly electronics components.
An Overview of Printed Circuit Board Recycling and Resource Recovery
Further considerations in the field of green electronics go beyond component design to energy transfer and understanding consumers’ willingness to pay for environmentally friendly products. Although a central consideration should always be the design of eco-friendly devices, manufacturers should also consider consumer spending patterns and perceptions and act accordingly. They need to consider which green attributes consumers value.
Recent research has addressed several issues in the computer industry that pertain to sustainability, including regulation and policy, end-of-life processes, provision of information systems, supply chain management, materials, and energy utilization. These studies, by presenting in-depth theoretical understanding and sustainability-focused models, have informed the current direction of product development.
The Importance of Green Innovation for the Computer Industry
Studies have shown that companies that embrace green innovation benefit in several ways. They not only drive down waste and cost but also increase competitiveness, add value to products, enhance technical knowledge, satisfy market demand for eco-friendly technologies, and meet international regulations on environmental protection which are becoming increasingly more stringent.
Innovation must also satisfy consumer needs, as, without commercial uptake, even the best-designed products will fail. A main driving force in current consumer patterns is sustainability and the perception of green products. More efficient use of resources reduced emissions, and less environmental damage are key concerns that influence consumer purchasing decisions. Computer companies must therefore incorporate consumer and technological dynamics into their product design.
Creating Green Laptops
Laptops are one of the most popular consumer computing products. In 2021, it has been forecast that 277 million laptops will have been shipped, with the average lifespan of products being 3-5 years. Manufacturing laptops that include green innovation is of paramount importance to the computer and consumer electronics industries.
To investigate the development of green laptops, the study published in Technovation has used a conjoint analysis method to identify several key factors. The most crucial factor is price, as this tends to inform consumer spending patterns. Further important attributes include the battery, keyboard, central processing unit, and monitor. Additionally, lead-free electronic component designs are needed.
The study identified that the optimal design of a green laptop will include a median price point, alloy-based materials, solar-powered batteries, a multicore CPU, SSD storage device, LED monitor, and using sustainable recycled cardboard materials in keyboard design. The design of these components, in line with international regulations, will improve waste management, emissions savings, compatibility, and reduce pollution, amongst other benefits.
By considering green innovation and developing consumer electronic products such as laptops in line with international regulations, computer manufacturers can significantly improve the sustainability of electronic devices whilst adding value, advancing technological development, and satisfying consumer demand.
The study presented in this article provides a comprehensive knowledge base for future development in the field of sustainable green laptops and other computing devices.
Liao, C-S & Chuang H-K (2021) Determinants of innovative green electronics: An experimental study of eco-friendly laptop computers [online] Technovations | sciencedirect.com. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0166497221002054