Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are often presented as tools that are put to use towards desirable outcomes, such as efficiency, development, security, and now also sustainability. ICT for sustainability and Green IT are increasingly promoted as fields that will produce new knowledge for more sustainable products and practices, countering current challenges such as climate change and non-renewable energy use. In the discourse on the new role of ICT, the sustainability of ICT itself remains invisible. For example, in 2016, the world produced almost 50 million tons of electronic waste, of which a large part is considered hazardous waste.
Currently, 80% of e-waste is unaccounted for in terms of sustainable management and recycling . Electronic waste is the fastest growing waste stream. At the same time, there are only five top-of-the line facilities in the world that can recycle e-waste with minimal release of dioxins. The sustainability of the design, production, and consumption of ICT should therefore be perceived as a priority in tackling e-waste.
This IFIP Position Paper – work on which began in TC9 in Autumn 2017, led by David Kreps – sets out some of the detail of the problem, as it currently stands, and what role the International Federation for Information Processing affirms it can play in trying to redress it.