10.3 - Environmental Issues

What are environmental issues?

Environmental issues concern the natural world and the negative effects of producing, using and discarding computer systems and devices.

Energy and Material Consumption

Dump Trucks

In the past 30 years, the number of technological devices has increased astronomically and thousands of new devices are manufactured each day. These devices need to be assembled using a range of materials, including plastics, metals and some rarer elements and need a considerable amount of electrical power to run.


Certain systems like web servers and data centres must be powered on all day, every day, which uses a large amount of energy.

Pollution and Waste

Generating the electricity to power computers creates pollution - an average PC could require up to 50% more energy per year than a fridge. Computers are difficult to recycle and discarded components can lead to land, water and air pollution due to harmful materials, such as lead and mercury, leaking into the environment.

Smartphone trends are also negative for the environment as new devices are released yearly, with minor upgrades that people buy to appear fashionable and up-to-date. To lessen the environmental impact, people should reuse and recycle their devices.

Tips to Reduce Waste

Turn off computers, monitors and other connected devices when not in use.

Adjust power options to help minimise power consumption.​

​Devices with the Energy Star sticker use between 30% and 70% less electricity than usual.

Repair older devices rather than throwing them away.

Ink jet printers use up to 95% less energy than laser jets.​​

Think twice about printing paper, don't waste ink and remember to recycle paper.

Positive Environmental Impacts

  • Communication advancements (such as video messengers) reduces pollution as people do not have to travel to speak to each other. This is especially beneficial in business - workers can talk from the office and do not need to catch a plane to speak.

  • Smart devices can monitor usage and reduce energy waste - such as smart air conditioners and home security systems.

  • Collaboration software (such as cloud-based technology and Google Docs) allows experts to work together and share data.

  • The internet and research databases allows scientists to study the environment more efficiently.

  • Documents can be viewed on a screen rather than printed out - books and newspaper articles can be read on kindles / tablets saving paper and ink.

  • New materials and more environmentally-friendly processes have been developed thanks to increased technology and research.

10.3 - Environmental Issues:

1a. Make a list of all the negative impacts of technology on the environment that you can think of / research. [6]

1b. Make a list of all the positive impacts of technology on the environment that you can think of / research. [6]

2. Describe at least 5 tips for saving energy and reducing waste related to computers and technology. [5]

Exam Board:

Eduqas / WJEC


2016 + 

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