In addition to this, the widespread usage of this technology results in a significant increase in air pollution. More data centres are needed to accommodate the ever-growing need for connectivity, and electronic device consumption remains unabated. There are already an estimated 22 billion Internet-connected gadgets (3.5 billion cellphones) around the world, which serves as a fair illustration of how much electronic waste can collect.
Consumption Has Increased
There is little doubt that data centres’ energy usage will continue to rise as the volume of material grows around the world.
As the number of Internet-connected gadgets and data centres grows, so does the need for storage space and the infrastructure that keep those centres cool. When you consider that the arrival & implementation of the 5G will rapidly multiply the connected equipment which transmits data, this is not surprising that certain sources indicate that the this consumption requires 2% of the world’s power generation, which in turn will lead to the emmisions of polluting gases.
These figures are expected to rise by 2020, when the Internet is expected to account for 3% to 4% of global carbon dioxide emissions, according to studies by consulting firm McKinsey. Greenpeace takes this a step further, estimating that web traffic accounts for 7% of all worldwide electricity use.
Examples That May Surprise You
These global numbers could be significant. Some examples of the environmental impact caused by new technologies are less startling. A research by the French Environmental Protection agency found that sending a single email with 1 MB of data results in an emissions of 18 grammes of carbon dioxide.
The number of grammes of CO2 emitted by all emails sent around the world each day rises to 293 billion if that figure is extrapolated. In terms of emissions, sending 20 mails a day for a year amounts to driving 1,000 kilometres.
Sending emails or purchasing music online is less wasteful than mailing a letter or purchasing a CD, of course. Not to add that video conferencing, even if it consumes a lot of bandwidth and data, eliminates travel that would otherwise be considerably more harmful to the environment.
What To Do About The Issue
Large technology corporations are attempting to reduce the impact on their global data centres on the environment in the face of this expanding pollution.
Either through system optimization (e.g. using machine learning) or by locating data centres in colder climates with less expensive cooling, efforts are being made to reduce their energy use. The usage of wind electricity also helps to reduce pollution levels.
Aside from the emission of toxic gases, new technologies are also a source of environmental harm. As we mentioned before, an estimated 22 billion gadgets are currently connected to the Internet, many of which are continually being updated. UNEP estimates that roughly 50 million tonnes of technology trash are generated each year as a result of this trend (UNEP).
As a result, all of those discarded parts pose an issue because some of the constituents are quite polluting. The problem is growing worse, not better. If current practises continue, the United Nations estimates that the amount of technology waste will rise to 120 million tonnes per year by 2050.
More Recycling And Less Intentional Obsolescence
There are two ways to slow this dangerous trend: raising the average gadget lifespan and recycling those who are discarded. This trend will be aggravated by the final arrival of 5G and its enhanced capacity to link devices to the Internet.
As a result, we must first address the industry’s use of planned obsolescence in making its products. With the “Longer Lifetime for Products: Advantages for Consumers and Companies” resolution, the European Parliament issued an important ruling in this case in 2017. The goal of this directive is to reduce the amount of waste in technology by providing users with additional tools for equipment repair and by providing tax benefits to enterprises who improve the durability of their products.
It’s also important to promote recycling. Only 20% of garbage is currently recycled, according to the United Nations. When it comes to reducing our environmental impact, we must “urgently shrink our ecological impact by changing how we produce and use goods and resources,” as stated in Sustainable Development Goal.