A 9$ computer to tackle the eWaste problem...

The tiny C.H.I.P. computer board. It cost just 9$ and has more "ports" than the MacBook ....Credit: NextThing

By using this cheap computer you can put back in use old electronics that is dormant in a drawer awaiting to become an eWaste. Credit: NextThing

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Credit: A. Einstein

Early 2015 a start up, NextThing, opened up a project on Kickstarter to develop a 9$ computer. They were looking for 50,000$ back up and in just 12 hours they got 100,000$. Now, in November 2016 they are ready to release it. It comes with a 1GHz microprocessor, 4GB of storage and 512MB of RAM plus connectivity to video and I/O peripherals.

Along with it they have expanded their offer to include a more expensive one, a 16$ computer for those who can afford it ;-)!

What I found interesting is their vision of having people buying this computer as a way to "recycle" old stuff, like old monitors, keyboards, toys... bringing new life into them.  On their web site they are listing 3 project ideas to revamp old stuff. Take a look!

As EIT Climate, Digital and Raw Material are teaming forces to address the eWaste problem from a technology point of view (sort of circular approach using technology to solve technology generated problems - may be Einstein would have objected to it) we also realise the crucial role played by culture, and recycling is actually more about culture than anything else.

Clearly, it is not a 9$ computer that can solve the cultural issue, of course, but it is good to see that a company pushes one of its product, innovative for sure in terms of pricing, under the banner of recycling. They are basically challenging our seriousness to tackle the recycling issue. We can no longer say: Hey, I have no more use for that old keyboard, I have to discard it!

On the other hand it surely cost more to re-use a keyboard than to discard it. The cost is not at all the 9$ for the tiny computer, it is the cost of the time I need to spend to think about a possibility of reusing the keyboard and then assembling the various pieces to make it happen.

There is more. Do I really want to reuse some old stuff or my "self-realisation" drive pulls me towards buying the very latest of the market ... because it is so cool to have the latest stuff! We need to create a culture where recycling and reusing is "cool". Unfortunately it is quite difficult to do that, since companies are spending billion of $ to advertise the very latest products and do that by enforcing over and over the idea that to be cool you HAVE to buy the very latest stuff.

Hence it is a mixture of rational assessment on the need to recycle and reuse and an emotional perception that this is the way to go. And, of course, you then need to walk the talk. I was impressed when I attended the EIT Climate Summit to discover that they served only vegetarian food as snacks and lunch. This is because they say over and over that meat is environmental costly generating 10 times as much CO2 than an equivalent (from a nutrient point of view) vegetarian food. Hence, no meat on their table (I should say I was happy to be part of the EIT Digital, but I had to appreciate their coherence). 

Author - Roberto Saracco

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