To mark America Recycles Day, Dell and its Social Good Advocate, Adrian Grenier, are joining with Uber and Goodwill Industries of Greater New York and Northern New Jersey (Goodwill NYNJ) to help people in New York City properly recycle used technology and keep it from joining the millions of pounds of e-waste that is improperly recycled each year.
On Saturday, Nov. 14, drivers on the Uber network will provide free pickups of used electronics in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens courtesy of Dell. Drivers on the Uber network will transport items to Goodwill NYNJ’s donation centers across the city where they will be recycled through the Dell Reconnect program.
According to a United Nations University report, the world produced 41.8 million tons of e-waste in 2014, with less than one-sixth of it being properly recycled, leading to toxic chemicals going into landfills and polluting our environment. Proper recycling of technology is especially challenging in cities like New York, where mass transit is a primary form of travel, making transporting a used computer to a drop-off location difficult.
Dell is working to change how people view used electronics through global takeback programs and the implementation of a closed-loop system that integrates recycled e-waste plastics into new products. To help encourage everyone to take advantage of the day, a native New Yorker and Dell Social Good Advocate, Adrian Grenier, will recycle his used technology and Uber around New York to thank people for responsibly disposing their computers.
“We all need to do our part to keep our environment and homes clean and healthy,” said Grenier, actor, producer and Dell Social Good Advocate. “The NYC Tech Takeback makes electronics recycling easier and helps New Yorkers to rid their homes of dusty old tech while doing something good for our planet. Why wouldn’t you want to participate?”
On Nov. 14 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., residents of Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn can take part in NYC Tech Takeback by opening the Uber app, entering the promo code TECHTAKEBACK and requesting an on-demand pickup at their home or office. A driver will collect the used technology and transport it to a Goodwill NYNJ location for recycling. All technology drop-offs are free. Participants must wipe all electronics clear of data prior to donation.
“When safeguarding the environment is as easy as requesting an Uber ride, the choice is a simple one,” said Josh Mohrer, Uber NYC General Manager. “Uber is honored to partner with Dell and Goodwill to help New Yorkers dispose of their electronic waste in an environmentally-conscious way.”
NYC Tech Takeback is powered by Dell Reconnect, a program that collects any brand of used electronics in any condition for recycling at more than 2,000 Goodwill locations across the United States. The program makes disposing of used technology easy and free while providing a tax deduction to donors and ensuring that their used electronics will be recycled (and in some locations reused or refurbished) responsibly from landfills. All proceeds from donated devices go directly to Goodwill, with each donation helping people with disadvantages and disabilities through job training, employment placement and technology skills development through Dell-sponsored programs in their local communities. Since the program began in 2004, Dell Reconnect has diverted more than 427 million pounds of used electronics from landfills.
“Goodwill encourages people to repurpose the clothing they no longer need and responsibly recycle unwanted electronics,” said Mauricio Hernandez, executive vice president, business operations for Goodwill Industries of Greater New York and Northern New Jersey (Goodwill NYNJ). “When residents donate to Goodwill the items they no longer need, they support our mission of empowering individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment to gain independence through the power of work. In 2014, Goodwill NYNJ diverted more than 112 million pounds of unwanted goods out of landfills, including 2.5 million pounds of electronics.”
Recycled computers are disassembled and the materials are integrated into new Dell products as part of the company’s circular economy initiative and closed-loop recycling program. Since 2014, Dell has recycled 4.2 million pounds of e-waste plastics back into new Dell products. These closed-loop plastics are used in 31 monitor models and three Dell desktop systems available globally.
“Reducing the impact our technology has on the environment is a priority for Dell. One of the best ways to accomplish that is by encouraging proper recycling of electronics and informing people of how easy it is for them to give their computers a second-life once they are done with it,” said Deborah Sanders, director of global takeback, Dell. “We are constantly finding new ways to meet our 2020 goals of collecting 2 billion pounds of used electronics for recycling and reuse. Our partnership with Goodwill is a great way to achieve this while also providing support and job training tools in communities across the country.”
For a full list of Goodwill locations around the country that accept used electronic donations year-round through Dell Reconnect, visit Dell.com/Reconnect.
Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?
Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?
But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?
The Big Picture
The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.
That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.
One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.
There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.
As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.
Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.
Make and Model of Car
Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.
On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.
The Bottom Line
Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?
Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.
New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035
New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.
New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.
Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.
Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”
The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.
Zero net emissions by 2050
Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.
Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.
She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.
Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”
A worldwide shift to renewable energy
Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.
Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.
Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.
Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.
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