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Microsoft Corporation’s decision to end support for the Windows 10 operating system by October 2025 could lead to a significant rise in e-waste concerns, as per Canalys Research. This scenario might render about 240 million personal computers obsolete, posing a potential threat of contributing to landfill waste. The projected weight of e-waste generated from these PCs is estimated to be approximately 480 million kilograms, a figure equivalent to the weight of 320,000 cars.
Despite the potential for these PCs to remain functional for years after the support period ends, the demand for devices needing more security updates is anticipated to be low. Microsoft has suggested providing security updates for Windows 10 devices until October 2028, which comes with an undisclosed annual fee. If the extended support cost aligns with historical trends, switching to newer PCs might be a more economically sensible choice for users. Consequently, this shift could result in the number of older PCs being discarded.
On a positive note, advancements in recycling technology present a glimmer of hope in alleviating the environmental impact. Recycling processes now involve extracting materials from personal computers and server hard drives for use in electric vehicle motors and renewable power generation. Peter Afiuny, Chief Commercial Officer at Noveon Magnetics, emphasized the potential of repurposing end-of-life computers into magnets that drive sustainable technologies such as electric vehicles and wind turbines.
Furthermore, Afiuny highlighted that hard drives are often disposed of prematurely, contributing to abundant wasted rare earth magnetic materials. Redwood Materials underscored the potential for nearly infinite recycling of batteries, facilitating the retrieval of essential metals like lithium, cobalt, nickel, and copper. This recycling approach addresses the escalating global need for electricity and sustainable technologies.