WEEE and OR
An important keyword at the OR/Sustainability intersection is WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment), which is a directive of the European Union aimed at reducing the amount of waste from such equipment. WEEE puts much of the burden on the manufacturer. Here is an excerpt from a WEEE page on the European Commission’s Environmental site:
Producers will be responsible for taking back and recycling electrical and electronic equipment. This will provide incentives to design electrical and electronic equipment in an environmentally more efficient way, which takes waste management aspects fully into account. Consumers will be able to return their equipment free of charge.
The EURO 2006 program makes no mention of WEEE, but there were 3 talks concerning WEEE in EURO 2007 (see this page). A rather critical view of such legislative intervention on the environment’s behalf was taken in a 2003 issue of Interfaces (see this page, scroll down).
WEEE-like activity is happening in the US to a lesser extent. I described one instance here.
Lastly, this interesting story in Computing is about how more emphasis should be placed on re-using computers than on recycling them. It mentions a study claiming that about three times as much fossil fuel is used in manufacturing a PC than by the PC in its lifetime. (The study appears to be Energy intensity of computer manufacturing: hybrid analysis combining process and economic input-output methods, E. Williams, Environmental Science & Technology 38(22), 6166 – 6174 (2004). See also this related volume. Note the series name of the volume: Eco-Efficiency in Industry and Science series of Kluwer Academic Publishers: Computers and the Environment.)