While green energy solutions often rely on new technology, MIT students who took class STS.032 (Energy, Environment, and Society) in fall 2020 discovered that even many promising innovations share a downside — electronics waste (e-waste).

“We’ve been using energy technologies that work well for our needs now, but we don’t think about what happens 30 years in the future,” says Jemma Schroder, a first-year student in the class who learned that waste from solar panels, for example, is on the rise. The International Renewable Energy Agency has projected that, given the current rate of accumulation, the world will have amassed 78 million metric tons of such waste by 2050.

“We’re trying to dig ourselves out of the pit, but we’re just digging ourselves another pit,” Schroder says. “If you’re really aiming for sustainability, you have to think about all aspects of the problem.”


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