Electronic waste has become a growing concern in the world among governments, businesses, and consumers. These concerns are well founded as electronics waste presents economic, social, and environmental challenges. Economically, discarding electronic waste into landfills represents inefficient use of valuable materials and energy resources. Socially, improperly recycled electronic waste that takes place in third world countries with poor labor standards represents a moral dilemma for developed countries. Environmentally, electronic waste is a threat to all living organisms as it contains proportionally high levels of poisonous and toxic materials. To deal with these growing challenges a strong response needs to be made by all the stakeholders in the life-cycle of electronic devices. However, despite the apparent need, compared to the rapid increases in electronic technology that make it faster, more available, and more affordable, the technology to process electronic waste has not kept pace. This fact alone points to the inadequate funding, attention, and research that has been invested in the problem.
Though it also points to an opportunity; the opportunity to build an efficient system to deal with the problem using what is already known about the lifecycle of electronic devices. Therefore, the goal of this work is to create a modeling tool to help stakeholders in the life cycle of electronic devices understand the consequences of their choices as they affect the use of material and energy resources.
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In a time when ever more electronic devices are permeating everyday life, the question of disposing these electronics becomes more and more important. It does not take an expert to see that the number of electronic devices in the United States has been increasing for many years. In Figure 1 and Figure 2 below, the dramatic rise in the use of computers, the internet, and cell phones is very apparent.