The Life of a Computer!

For this week’s blog, I chose to analyze the life cycle of my computer. My computer is something I use every day and I thought it would be interesting to look into the environmental impacts of something I rely on so heavily. Computers aren’t made completely of plastic but they do have essential plastic components. Computer hardware also contains lead and mercury which can be quite toxic which I will get to later. Plastic in computers is used as insulators and capacitors as well as casing and keys. Computers are manufactured in factories however sometimes they need to travel from factory to factory to receive different parts. This process of added transportation creates more carbon emissions that are involved in the process of making the computer. The computer then needs to be deployed from the factory to a seller. Again, more transportation emissions are generated by transportation. Once it makes it to the seller, it is sold to the customer for usage. The use and operation of a computer are typically the longest part of the life cycle. This typically lasts around three to four years depending on the owner. Computers on the market are also constantly getting upgrades. If the customer is the type to want the newest computer each year, this will cut down the use and operation time. During the operation period of the computer’s lifetime, it is often known to break or slow down towards the end of three to four years. Some computer owners choose to get maintenance done on the computer but more commonly, owners tend to buy new computers that have a longer lifetime compared to their current computer. Once the customer is done using the computer, then it is ready for disposal. Computers can’t immediately go to a landfill. They need to be disassembled and decommissioned so that the hardware can be disposed of properly. Then these pieces of the computer are thrown into landfills…or they may make their way into the ocean. If lead and mercury from the hardware make their way into the ocean it can cause immune problems for marine life. If toxic phthalates make their way into the ocean it has the potential to be very harmful to marine life as well.

I thought it was very interesting to analyze the lifecycle of a computer. I normally think about the life cycles of throw-away, short-lifetime items so I liked being able to look at something with a longer life cycle. I often don’t think about the hazards that come with the disposal of technology so this was a good reminder about the risks and effects that come with purchasing technology. Personally, my current computer has lasted me from the beginning of high school until my freshman year of college. According to the article that I read, my computer should be at the end of its life cycle, however, it has done a great job holding up, even during the elder years of its life cycle. My dad has even offered to purchase a new computer but I don’t really see the point unless it completely stops working. This is very similar to my phone. Throughout high school, I had an iPhone 5 which was considered very old especially in my senior year. It still worked for me so I didn’t really see a problem with it. At the end of my senior year, the camera stopped working and the battery life started to go down so I ended up purchasing a used iPhone 7 to replace it. I personally do not see the necessity of owning the newest version of a product every time one comes out unless I absolutely need it. Through learning in this class about how companies purposefully make products that have a shortened lifespan, I actually find joy in using a product past the intended lifespan that the company sets for it.

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2 thoughts on “The Life of a Computer!

  1. I 100% agree with you about using a product until you absolutely can’t any longer. We live in such a throwaway society that we don’t even make full use of products with longer life cycles.

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