Not So Soon

Greenpeace Warns Deluge of E-waste with Vista
by: Jerry Liao

Just last week, I received an email from Greenpeace stating their concern regarding the expected deluge of E-waste in developing countries due to Microsoft’s newest operating system – Windows Vista. Let me print the press release in full for your perusal:

Vista, Microsoft’s newest operating system, could trigger a deluge of E-waste in developing countries, Greenpeace warned. The group argues that with Vista, more companies and individuals may feel the need to replace their existing computers sooner as these become incompatible with the new operating system. The result: massive volumes of computer scrap in dirty
recycling yards and dumpsites in the Philippines, Thailand, and in other Asian countries where most of the world’s E-waste dumps are located.

“With Vista, Microsoft could effectively hasten the obsolescence of half the world’s PCs, especially in the absence of fully-functioning global take back systems for PCs,” said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics Campaigner Beau Baconguis. “Companies will feel the need to upgrade more computers sooner – and when they do, the world is unfortunately not prepared for
the massive E-waste the upgrades will generate.”

“As it is, the current environmental policies of computer companies are not enough to provide an effective solution to the growing mountains of toxic electronic waste from computer components. Microsoft should have factored in these consequences and should have laid out mitigating measures to minimize the problem of obsolescence, before they started introducing new innovations. Innovation should not translate to more pollution,” she added.

A study conducted by SoftChoice Corporation stated that 50% of the current breed of personal computers are “below Windows Vista’s basic system requirements” while 94% are not equipped to run on Windows Vista Premium edition.

The ability of PCs to be easily upgraded is also important if the massive volumes of E-waste is to be prevented. Greenpeace has been engaging manufacturers of PCs and mobile phones to phase out toxic substances in their products and institute take-back mechanisms for the same products at the end of their useful lives. The demand comes with a challenge to PC manufacturers to design their products so that these may be easily upgraded, disassembled, and recycled properly.

“We maintain that the useful lives of existing electronic and computer equipment should be prolonged as much as possible. In the end, this is about social responsibility. The idea that software innovation would result in more mountains of computer scrap
ending up in the dumps of Asia and Africa, contaminating the environment, and affecting the health of communities, is both offensive and intolerable,” said Baconguis.

Greenpeace is a non-profit organisation, with a presence in 40 countries across Europe, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific. Greenpeace focuses on the most crucial worldwide threats to our planet’s biodiversity and environment. They campaign to: stop climate change, protect ancient forests, save the oceans, stop whaling, say no to genetic engineering, stop the nuclear threat, eliminate toxic chemicals and to encourage sustainable trade.

First, let me just say that I commend the efforts of Greenpeace for bringing to our attention certain problems that may affect our environment and for doing every possible means to preserve Mother Earth. But with all due respect, I think this concern that because of Windows Vista will cause more E-waste is a bit overboard.

Vista definitely has its benefits but is it worth the upgrade and the money is a question that lingers mostly to those who have seen and tried Vista. Vista will cost $199 for Basic version, or $100 for upgrade from Windows XP. Premium version, $239, or $159 for upgrade. Ultimate version, $399, or $259 for upgrade. The hardware requirement to run Vista with 3-D interface: 1 GHz 32-bit or 64-bit processor, 1 GB of RAM or more, 20 to 40 GB hard drive with at least 15 GB of available space, high-end graphics processor.

So if you’re a PC owner with a lesser configuration that what I have stated, you will not only consider the cost of Vista but also the hardware upgrade. And if budget will be a problem, chances are you will stick with XP or enhance your machine and do away with Vista altogether.

Another reason why I think people will delay the upgrade to Vista is the recent announcement from Microsoft that it will extend support for Windows XP Home and Windows XP Media Center through 2014. Microsoft knows that the inability of many existing
computers to run the more horsepower-hungry Vista, ensure there will be XP computers in use for years to come.

Now if in case this won’t be a problem or concern for developing countries and they will at once take the plunge to upgrade to Vista, then I have one unsolicited advice: Send to us third world countries – we will accept them with open arms. We will give it our students so that they may use it for their studies. We will accept Pentium 4 PCs with Windows XP anytime.

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