Greenpeace France: “The Deployment of 5G Risks Exacerbating Digital Pollution”

Greenpeace France has released a position on 5G  as creating “digital pollution” putting forth that 5G will increase carbon emissions, increase e-waste, strip the earth of natural resources and contribute to human tragedies on a global scale. Greenpeace France has outlined these serious environmental and human rights issues. Greenpeace France recommends fixing your phone rather than always upgrading to the latest model, refusing connected objects like virtual speakers and using wired connections at home. Digital pollution refers to all forms of pollution generated by new technologies: greenhouse gas emissions, chemical pollution, erosion of biodiversity, production of electronic waste. The bulk of this pollution occurs when the equipment is manufactured (not when it is used). “Fighting digital pollution therefore means using fewer computer objects, and making them last longer.” 

Greenpeace France has this information on their website page “What is Digital Pollution”  which states:

[ translated by Google]

“5G corresponds to the fifth generation of mobile telephony standards. For the same amount of data, 5G requires less energy than 4G. However, this efficiency will not compensate for the sharp increase in the volume of data transferred: a significant increase in electricity consumption in the digital sector is expected. Even more worrying, the deployment of 5G will require new equipment for the infrastructure of the 5G network and the uses of individuals, aggravating digital pollution.”

“According to a study by the High Council for the Climate (HCC) , its deployment would lead to an increase of 18 to 45% of the carbon footprint of the digital sector in France by 2030. The main risk: an explosion of new digital terminals (smartphone, virtual reality headset, connected objects) in order to make full use of 5G. The HCC regrets that the allocation of the first 5G frequencies to telephone operators was made without prior impact study.”

“The Citizen’s Climate Convention called for a moratorium on the deployment of 5G. The President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, had laughed at this proposal, by caricaturing the “ Amish model ”, who would like “ [to return] to the oil lamp ”. In a context of ecological emergency, however, it seems essential to balance the services expected from a technology, with the environmental, social and health costs it entails.”

“Digital pollution refers to all forms of pollution generated by new technologies: greenhouse gas emissions, chemical pollution, erosion of biodiversity, production of electronic waste. The bulk of this pollution occurs when the equipment is manufactured (not when it is used). Fighting digital pollution therefore means first of all using fewer computer objects, and making them last longer.”

“In addition to this energy excess, there is the pollution of ecosystems and the human tragedies linked to mining activity. In the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, we speak of  “blood minerals ” (tungsten, tin, tantalum, gold) because their illegal trade finances the civil war. In the Brazilian Amazon, the Waimiri-Atroari rivers are permanently polluted by the tin and tantalum mining industry . In the Baotou region of China, rare earth mining results in significant toxic releases to air, water and soil.”

“As for the end of life of this equipment, it is no better. A UN Report (2013)estimated that 75% of electronic waste escapes legal recycling channels. They are exported illegally to China, India or Africa, and end their lives in huge open dumps, like that of Agbogbloshie, Ghana. And for the waste that reaches the recycling channels, their design prevents the recovery of raw materials. Many metals from digital technologies (gallium, germanium, indium, tantalum, rare earths) are hardly recycled!”

“Video streaming alone represents 60% of data flows on the Internet, due to the weight of video files. A film like Pulp Fiction, offered by Netflix in very high definition (4K), weighs around 10 gigabytes, or 300,000 times more than an email without attachments (30 kb). According to the think tank The Shift Project , the consumption of video streaming (VoD, pornography, Youtube, social networks, etc.) emits nearly 1% of global CO₂ emissions. This is less than the carbon footprint associated with the manufacture of terminals. This is nevertheless of great concern due to the rapid growth in video traffic.”

“The carbon footprint of video streaming is inflated by the heavy use of fossil fuels (gas and coal) to power data centers. While more and more companies are committing to 100% renewable energy, some (Amazon, Netflix, Pinterest, Twitter) are still lagging behind .”

“How to reduce our digital pollution?

To act in favor of an Internet more respectful of the planet , here are two proposals for action that can make the difference.

1. Extend the life of IT equipment

Manufacturers of computer terminals (computers, tablets, smartphones, televisions) rely on the obsolescence of their products to encourage us to buy new ones. The techniques are known: fragility of objects, exorbitant cost of repairs, unavailability of spare parts, aggressive marketing, etc. Here are some tips for avoiding these traps:

  • Do not give in to the sirens of advertising. As long as your device is working, no need to buy a new one. Maybe a new smartphone has just come out, more beautiful, more powerful, more “cool”, but do you really need it?
  • If your device is broken, try to fix it. It may still be under warranty (even refurbished devices have a warranty, inquire). Otherwise, and if the repair is too expensive, you can take it to a repair café, where we will accompany you (free of charge) to repair your item.
  • Buy second-hand and “low-tech” if you have no choice but to buy. Choose refurbished devices (cheaper and less polluting), and choose products with the lowest possible energy consumption.

Associations like HOP (Stop Programmed Obsolescence) act to force companies in the sector to facilitate these good practices. Do not hesitate to follow their actions and support them.

2. Videos: limit very high definition

Very high definition videos aggravate digital pollution on two levels: they encourage the acquisition of larger and more complex screens (therefore more polluting) and require more energy to be read (because they are heavier). Here are some tips to thwart this race for gigantism:

  • Avoid the TV 4K and 8K . If your current screen is really no longer functional, or suited to your needs, why not opt ​​for a standard refurbished television? In addition it will be cheaper;)
  • Adapt the resolution to your screen . If you watch a clip on your mobile phone, 240p resolution will probably suffice. If you’re watching a series on your laptop, 720p should do the trick. It is sometimes possible to change the default settings (eg on Netflix) so that you don’t have to think about it every time
  • Use wifi or wired when you are at home. It consumes 23 times less energy than 4G, and it will not change your experience. Also prefer downloading over video streaming when possible. [Note EHT recommends wired only to reduce wireless radiation.]
  • Block autoplay on social media. On Facebook , as on Youtube , it is possible to deactivate the automatic playback of videos. These networks try to get you to watch as many videos as possible without your explicit consent. You can take back the power.

If you are already doing all of this against digital pollution …

Here are some additional ideas for those who want to go even further to limit digital pollution:

  • Refuse “connected objects” . Do you really need a virtual assistant to help you turn off the light or turn on the radio? From a connected refrigerator that sends you an email when you run out of tofu? These objects, too, have a high ecological cost. They also pose significant risks to your privacy .
  • Switch off your internet box at night and during your absences . These devices use a lot of electricity even when you are not using the internet . Their annual consumption is between 150 and 300 kWh , which is as much as a large refrigerator!
  • Fight against the video advertising screens which invade our cities. In 2018, there were a million of these screens in France , each generating 350 kg of CO₂ per year. That is the equivalent of a million Paris-Nice round trips by plane each year. Collectives already exist in Lyon or Paris , do not hesitate to contact them to help you set up your own campaign.”

Read it at Source: Environmental Health Trust