Last February, as the industry was at the peak of fighting the anti-print eco nuts, we took a deep dive into what really goes into all of those high-tech devices we all now can’t live without, focusing on exactly what happens when people discard them (regularly) and move on to the next device.
In the Dirty Little Environmental Secrets Print Haters Don’t Want to Talk About article, we revealed some alarming stats:
But only about 14% of the computers components and materials can actually be recycled into usable materials. What’s in E waste?? Among the many hazardous materials harmful to human health and the environment are: lead, mercury, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, to name just a few (for more, go here). EPA numbers indicate that only about 18% of the 3,000,000 tons of used electronics in the US are actually recycled. Let’s compare that with EPA’s estimate that 57% of the paper consumed in the US was recovered for recycling in 2008.
The silence from our critics was deafening. I never heard from any of them. Not a one.
As we are in the midst of a heavy time for delivery of books, the din from the haters has again swelled. The new comers to the anti-phonebook team love to jump in with all kinds of pronouncements (most without any factual basis) that phonebooks are killing the planet in so many ways. But its refreshing when you get to see something online who actually gets it right.
The treehugger.com website has a regular writer Pablo Paster, who actually did his homework recently in this blog. After calculating the impact of an annual directory, he then compared the environmental impact to a digital alternative — the much treasured iPhone. The conclusion: the carbon footprint is 3.1 kg CO2e per phone book. Over a lifetime of phonebooks, that would come to 186 kg CO2. Using just an iPhone, it has 70 kg CO2 which adds up to 2.1 metric tonnes of CO2 over a lifetime of smart phones. Net net: “a lifetime of smart phones has over eleven times the impact of a lifetime of phone books.”
Pablo then tries to even the playing field with all of the other devices that an iPhone could replace. But it starts to sound a bit weak especially if he had dug deeper on what the disposal impacts for an iPhone are vs. a phonebook.
All in all I have to congratulate the guy on doing an honest assessment. It’s refreshing to see that someone will admit that all technology isn’t necessarily the slam dunk eco alternative to a phonebook that they are made out to be. And don’t get me wrong, I love my iPhone. But that print phonebook requires no ongoing power, no special routers, no Internet connection, is full portable, can be used easily by nearly 100% of the reading population, and is distributed FREE. Sounds like a real bargain to me….