From Recycling to Fair Trade and Conflict Free Material. Companies such as HP Are Doing a Great Job.

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Despite there are a lot of efforts on recycling, very little of our stuff is recyclable and being recycled. I don’t think we are doing enough, designers and consumers have a dilemma, and we love nicely designed packaging but hate to see the kind of waste we’re producing. Food containers are one good example.

Now a new sugar-based polymer could be used to make food containers compostable at home together with your potato peels. A team of scientists at the Imperial College London led by Charlotte Williams in partnership with BioCeramic Therapeutics have created a degradable material from sugars derived from the breakdown of lignocellulosic biomass. This is definitely not the first "biorenewable plastic," previously biodegradable plastic made from sugar beet or corn-based biomass. There is a Denmark-based company, Agroplast, that is working on developing plastic products from animal urine, that’s good idea but not for my milk please.

The polymer developed at the Imperial College London is instead derived from the sugars that are produced when you breakdown lignocellulosic biomass: biomass made from cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin that is found in wood byproducts, grasses, and some types of agricultural waste. I think there are still technical and economic issues before this becomes market ready. I like to see fair trade biodegradable material to be used for all our everyday consumerables.

If you think recycling is the only problem for computer and electronics, think again. Think about blood diamonds, blood oil and blood minerals, and now blood PCs. HP is the first trying to trace ‘conflict minerals’ in electronics as part of their socially responsibility initiatives and they are taking it to an unexpected place including the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo.

Concerned that purchases of metals could be financing armed conflict in the West African country, HP and other companies are turning their attention to its suppliers of metals, including tin, gold, tantalum, and tungsten, which are used in everyday computing products. Most of the world’s raw material came from places where there have been conflicts for a long period of time.

It is not easy at all for HP to trace all their components and to make sure that they are fair trade and conflict free zone. The push toward "traceability" in the metals extraction is an outgrowth of HP’s practices of auditing its supply chain partners to make sure they do not contribute to human rights and environmental violations. Kudos to HP. Next time you buy a HP notebook you will find a Fair Trade and Conflict Free stickers on top of the Recycle stickers there. In the meantime if you’re interested in recycled PC, you can buy the fashionable keybag designed by Joao Sabino, is a made from recycled computer keyboards available in red, white, black and pink! If you have a few old keyboards, you can actually create your own.

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