In an investigation that spans the globe, award-winning filmmaker Sue Williams investigates the underbelly of the international electronics industry and reveals how even the tiniest devices have deadly environmental and health costs. Consumers love - and live on - their smartphones, tablets and laptops.
A cascade of new devices pours endlessly into the market, promising even better communication, non-stop entertainment and instant information.
The numbers are staggering. By 2020, four billion people will have a personal computer.
Five billion will own a mobile phone. But this revolution has a dark side that the electronics industry doesn't want you to see.
Nearly 5 years ago, I met Ma Jun, China’s leading environmental activist.
He told me about his work building a huge database of government pollution records.
His goal was to create transparency and raise public awareness about Chinese factories that were ignoring the country's environmental regulations. The database contains the details of thousands of factory violations across the country.
As Ma Jun poured through the entries what shocked him the most was the large number of electronics factories cited – as he said, we think of electronics as a clean industry - but here were thousands of factories working for the most famous brands in the world, discharging tons of toxic chemicals, heavy metals and waste directly into China’s rivers and lakes, land and air.
Ma Jun is a quietly charismatic man and at first I thought I would make a film just about him and his work.
But as I learned more about the electronics industry and its history, I realized the tragic environmental scandal he discovered is not confined to China.
Why we selected this film
A shocking investigation into a subject which is still little-known and yet concerns us all.
This documentary shows us the real environmental and human cost of our electronic devices.
In the USA and in China, this film reveals what happens behind the scenes in this industry and the effects in terms of pollution and public health, on both factory workers and local residents.
Clearly proving manufacturers’ accountability, this film also presents existing solutions and possible alternatives, but questions brands’ drive to mitigate the consequences related to their production.
As consumers, we are all responsible for our choices and this documentary helps us to make these choices in an informed manner.
- Award of Excellence, Special Mention: Documentary Feature, Impact DOCS Awards Honorable Mention, Environmental Award
- Sheffield Doc/Fest Boston Globe Filmmakers Fund Award
- GlobeDocs Documentary Film Festival Honorable Mentions: Best International Documentary, Best Environmental Documentary
- Seattle International Film Festival Honorable Mention
- Melbourne Documentary Film Festival Honorable Mention
Limit your purchase of electronics
If you're really serious about reducing your CO2 footprint, this is the way to do it. Electronics make up 62% of the greenhouse gas emissions that result from our purchasing habits.
Why is this?
To manufacture just one 2 g computer chip, you need 1,7 kg of fossil fuel, 1 m3 of nitrogen, 72 g of chemicals, and 32 litres of water. For a 750 kg car, you need 1,5 tonnes of fossil fuel—two times the weight of the final product.
For aluminum cans, it's about 4-5 times the weight; it's 6000 times the weight of the 2 g computer chip.
Reduce our electronics waste
Our smartphones, from the moment they are made to when they end up in a mountain of other discarded electronics are a true burden on the environment.
You have no idea how many dangerous chemicals come into the making of your smartphone. For instance, such carcinogenic substances as benzene and n-hexane as well as other just as dangerous substances so, instead of buying the latest model of smartphone that just came on the market, let’s try to keep our smartphones and other appliances longer, or have them fixed.
12 tips for reducing your daily energy consumption
1. Keep your thermostat around 19 or 20C
2. Lower the thermostat to 16C at night or during extended absense
3. Keep your thermostat properly adjusted
4. Turn off the heat during summer or extended absense
5. Defrost your refridgerator and freezer regularly
6. Do your laundry at low temperatures
7. Choose "eco" cycles for washing machines and dishwashers
8. Avoid using a clothes dryer unnecessarily
9. Turn off electronics that aren't in use – avoid standby mode
10. Take a shorter shower
11. Cover the cookware
12. Clean the light fixtures
Adjust settings according to your needs
You can see serious energy savings by adapting your appliances according to your needs.
For example, a hallway doesn't need as strong of lighting as an office or reading room.
Place your living room lighting strategically according to where you are most often seated and in need of light. You can also reduce your energy needs by taking advantage of natural light sources.