All posts by Keelin Mayer

Unlocking the Hidden Value in E-Waste

Teresa Madaleno:

The phrase “Spring Cleaning” is familiar to a lot of us. Some people call it a time for “getting rid of junk”. However, when it comes to those drawers that are full of obsolete gadgets or that corner in your garage that is home to old computers and broken appliances, the word “junk” is totally inappropriate. Why? Because all this stuff isn’t garbage, its valuable e-waste.

E-waste precious metals

There are a lot of people, as well as junk removal companies that are unaware of the hidden revenue old electronics can generate. Up to 60 elements from the periodic table can be found in electronic equipment. For facilities like Sparta’s e-waste upcycling and recycling operation in Toronto’s East end, it’s a matter of using a sophisticated processing system to recover all those valuable resources. As we continue to buy, buy, buy when it comes to electronic devices, the opportunity goes up, up, up for recyclers.

“You would be amazed with the sheer volume and type of e-waste we process every month,” said Sparta President and Chief Technology Officer, John O’Bireck.

Sparta’s facility processes well over two million pounds of e-waste every year and that number is expected to grow. In fact, growth recently led to a hiring blitz at the upcycling/recycling operation.

While minimizing environmental pollution, e-waste recycling can recover gold, silver, copper, platinum, palladium, lithium, and cobalt. Extracting precious metals when recycling e-waste costs less and is far less damaging to the environment than mining them. According to Statista, globally e-waste is thought to hold about 60 billion U.S dollars’ worth of raw materials.

A circular electronics system where resources are not extracted, used, and wasted, but re-used in various way, leads to sustainable jobs and sustainable communities.

The case against traditional mining

Mining activities are a source of local and global environmental concern thus making urban mining an attractive alternative. For instance, all the smartphones, computers, and electric vehicles we purchase have rechargeable batteries powered by cobalt. This is a metal mined by people working in slave-like conditions in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Recent news reports have tried to bring the horrendous working atmosphere to the attention of the western world.

Its not just the working conditions that make mining of new materials a bad idea. Mining comes with a long list of negative consequences, including those listed below:

  • Primary forest loss
  • Fighting over mining control
  • Population displacement
  • Eco-system disruption
  • Health issues (use of explosives and chemical substances)
  • Water contamination
  • Food insecurity (expropriated farmland)

While upcycling and recycling of electronics is not the only solution to climate change, more experts insist it is becoming an important factor in efforts to develop a sustainable planet. Companies are turning to B2B operations like Sparta’s e-waste processing division to not only divert waste and lower their carbon footprint, but to help them with growing concerns about security and privacy. Important data is stored on electronic devices and when employers upgrade to new equipment, the old must be properly wiped of information. A bonus for companies working with Sparta is that its e-waste processing facility is certified to generate verified, high-quality carbon credits from the upcycling/recycling of electronics. This is an attractive prospect for businesses that have tried but are unable to reach their environmental goals.

Sparta’s electronic waste recycling operation is one of the first in the world to be certified by a reputable independent third party to offer carbon credits from processed e-waste.

Bird Flu Spillover: What Does it Mean for Human Health?

Teresa Madaleno:

People all around the world seem relieved to hear that the COVID-19 pandemic may soon be declared “over”.  However, while there is no need to panic, scientists and health agencies want people to be aware that the next virus could already be percolating.

Bird flu is starting to cause concern because there seems to be evidence of spillover. Spillover is when an illness in one species spills over to another species. In the case of bird flu, there is evidence it has been infecting other mammal species, including mink and seals. Hundreds of millions of birds have died of the bird flu since the fall of 2021, but the most alarming news came in late February (2023) from the World Health Organization. The WHO revealed that an 11-year-old girl in Cambodia died from bird flu. So far there is no evidence the strain discovered in the little girl has spread from human to human. It is believed the girl got the flu directly from a bird.

“This is the kind of natural phenomenon that our team pays close attention to. We have a health division and have always said that our environment is closely linked to our health. Our belief as a technology company is that when there is a problem, there is opportunity to develop a solution,” said Sparta President and CTO, John O’Bireck

Doctor Christine Dupont is a biologist with the University of Waterloo. Here’s what she recently said about the bird flu:

“This strain doesn’t seem like just a regular bird influenza. It’s a highly pathogenic avian influenza. Bird influenza is common, and these viruses evolve quickly. It’s monitored intensely because there is potential for bird flu to become a human pandemic.”

Dupont went on to explain that spillover is a concern when you have a highly pathogenic virus that can cause infection in various organ tissues. Pandemics we have experienced in the past, such as the Spanish flu and the swine flu came from spillover that can be traced back to bird flu.

Experts at the Doherty research institute in Australia explain that some viruses, as part of their natural evolution, are good at jumping to new hosts. This is what happened with mpox, formerly called moneypox and with SARS-CoV-2 (COVID).

Climate change, as well as urban sprawl are bringing humans and wildlife closer together thus creating more opportunity for us to interact with animals, including those that are infected. Government agencies and researchers are monitoring the situation with bird flu.

So, what can you do? The WHO is recommending you avoid direct contact with sick or dead wild birds, poultry, or wild animals. If you come across a dead bird report it to local authorities.

Sustainable Crypto Mining Through Carbon Credits

Teresa Madaleno:

Cryptocurrency assets like bitcoin require a significant amount of electricity, which leads to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. However, all signs point to cryptocurrency demand growing. According to Grandview Research, the global cryptocurrency market was valued at USD 4.67 billion in 2022 and is likely to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 12.5 percent from 2023 to 2030.  With pressure on all industry sectors to lower carbon footprint, what can bitcoin or other crypto coin miners do?

There are a few different options to deal with the use of energy in crypto mining, including innovative approaches to ledger updates that require less computing power, as well as turning to cleaner energy sources. Still, many crypto miners struggle to reach their sustainability goals. This is where carbon credits can come in.

Carbon Credits Role in Crypto

Before explaining exactly what carbon credits have to do with mining cryptocurrency, here’s a quick explanation of how cryptocurrency mining works: Crypto, such as bitcoin relies on a network of high-performance computing. What these super computers are doing is adding and verifying a new transaction record to the blockchain, which is essentially the decentralized bank ledger where bitcoin is traded and distributed. To create a new record, miners must solve a complex equation generated by the blockchain system. In order to out-smart and out-pace your competition, you need to be constantly updating your computer hub, including getting rid of old equipment and bringing in the new. It takes a considerable amount of energy to manufacture computers. According to a United Nations Study, to manufacture just one new computer, it takes at least 10 times that computer’s weight in fossil fuels and chemicals. Sparta Group’s electronic waste recycling facility is one of the first in North America to be certified to generate verified carbon credits when upcycling e-waste. This means if you are a bitcoin miner you can divert your e-waste (computers) from landfill and generate carbon credits, thus helping you reduce your overall carbon footprint.

Shortly after Sparta announced in 2022 that it was certified to generate carbon credits through its electronic upcycling/recycling facility, one of the country’s largest digital currency miners, Hut 8 Mining decided to take full advantage of the program. Literally tractor trailer loads of obsolete equipment from Hut 8 Mining have already been processed at the Sparta facility in Toronto and thousands of verified carbon credits have been generated for the crypto miner. By the way, Hut 8 happens to be a big promoter of transparency in energy use and encourages the use of renewable energy sources.

“The digital asset revolution has already begun in many ways. For instance, in some countries like Brazil, banks are allowing people to pay their taxes with cryptocurrency. As the demand for crypto grows, and the pressure for miners to lower their carbon footprint increases, companies in all industry sectors will be seeking high-quality carbon credits,” said Sparta President, John O’Bireck.

Many in the cryptocurrency mining business suggest that to lower the carbon intensity of digital currency, the best approach is to move towards a higher percentage of renewable energy supply, while also using a significant supply of carbon offsets.

The Canadian government has set the 2023 carbon price at $65 per tonne, but that is expected to increase to $170 by 2030. Carbon pricing is an instrument that depicts the external costs of greenhouse gas emissions, such as extreme weather, damage to crops, and health care costs from heat waves, droughts, as well as flooding. Businesses that struggle to reach environmental goals, can purchase carbon credits from companies like Sparta Group that are certified by a qualified agency to generate credits. In Sparta’s case, all scientific calculations, the monitoring protocols, as well as the processing set out by the e-waste upcycling facility have been approved by the Canadian Standards Association (“CSA”).

Sparta Technology That Protects in More Ways Than One

– Teresa Madaleno:

Most people are aware of the strain on our hospitals. Physicians and healthcare administrators have said the problems plaguing the system have been around for a long time, but the COVID-19 pandemic made it worse. Experts in healthcare have also indicated that they are willing to look at all safe steps to improve care. Sparta Group’s CASPR™ can be one of those steps. One trial shows just how relevant the technology can be in the hospital setting.

CASPR™ stands for Continuous Air and Surface Pathogen Reduction and it’s a technology that Sparta provides thanks to a development and distribution agreement with CASPR Group. The CASPR™ technology allows for continuous reduction of viruses and other harmful pathogens in the air and on surfaces; including surfaces in forced-air ventilation systems.

CASPR has been installed in all sorts of settings, including gyms, schools, offices, medical clinics, and hospitals. In a hospital trial, CASPR products were installed in the HVAC system and applied low levels of oxidizing molecules over a four-month period. Compared to the previous year, there was a reduction of staff absentee hours from 1,313 to 762. That’s a 44 percent improvement.

“We would never suggest that the technology can solve all the hospital problems in this country, but we are proud that we can contribute in an important way to keeping much needed hospital staff on the job,” said Jason Smith, Director of Sparta Health Group.

Designed by award winning doctor, Christophe Suchy Ph.D., the CASPR technology uses a multi-wavelength ultraviolet light and catalyst with a proprietary coating and screen design to covert moisture and airborne oxygen into oxidizing molecules, including low-level hydrogen peroxide. This disinfects both the air and surfaces. Essentially, CASPR™ creates healthier air to breathe and cleaner surfaces for staff and patients.

In hospital settings maintenance can slow down hospital room turnover time. Smith pointed out that in addition to its disinfecting quality, CASPR™ requires zero maintenance. There is one other bonus with CASPR. In short-staffed hospitals, schools, and companies, there can be a reduction in costs, as well as time associated with manual disinfecting of surfaces and the purchasing of cleaning supplies.

What Makes a Carbon Credit High-Quality?

– Teresa Madaleno:

Not all carbon credits are equal. Some are of poor quality so you might not be getting what you think. Poor quality means your carbon credits aren’t really tied to an emissions reduction project that is effective.

Carbon offsetting normally comes into play when a business is unable to completely cut their carbon footprint through day-to-day practices. Most companies fall into this category. After reducing or mitigating emissions within their supply chain and operations, many companies consider carbon credits that finance projects that reduce, sequester, and avert equivalent carbon emissions. One of the first carbon offsetting projects involved reforestation. Today, there are offset projects involving wind power, methane mitigation, clean water, regenerative agriculture, solar power, and now e-waste recycling.

It is important for companies to understand which carbon credits are generated from high-quality, verified carbon credit programs to have the best impact with offsets. One sign of quality is a project that is certified by a registered body. Sparta Group’s ERS International, which focuses on the recycling and upcycling of electronic waste, is certified by a world leader in standards testing. Sparta announced in late 2022 that it was officially generating verified carbon credits through its work at ERS. Another factor to consider is that data monitoring and quality controls are much stronger today than they were when the first carbon credit program was introduced.

If you are thinking of offsetting emissions by purchasing carbon credits, consider the quality guidelines below:

Quantification: Ask how the emission reductions and removals are quantified. This means the methods used to measure GHG, as well as collecting, analyzing, and storing emissions data. Emissions should be quantified in a conservative way and a discount for uncertainty should be factored in.

Baseline: Ask if the company measured using a baseline. Credible baselines determine the emissions that would have been emitted and/or removed from the atmosphere had the project not been implemented. Baselines are represented as tonnes of carbon dioxide. The most credible baselines are conservative and assume that less as opposed to more GHGs would have been emitted.

Preventing leakage: This refers to the assurance that the activity (project) avoids GHG emissions rather than just displacing them.

Assurance of additionality: This means that the GHG emissions reductions and/or removals linked with a carbon credit would not have happened without the resources provided by a project/program.

Safeguards: Ask what safeguards are in place to ensure the project does not cause social, physical, or environmental harm. In the case of Sparta’s ERS International, the company has multiple certifications for reaching high standards, including ISO 45001, ISO 9001, OHSAS 18001 and R2v3.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and educate yourself about the best opportunities for your business. Keep in mind that today, data monitoring and quality controls are much stronger than they were when the first carbon credit program was introduced so if you are determined, you will find a high-quality carbon credit program.

At Sparta we know there is little point in offering up poor-quality carbon credits. It doesn’t help the environment and it doesn’t help your company reputation to be associated with low-quality. Making the right choice when it comes to carbon credits is important, and its why Sparta management is so proud of the high standards at its ERS International facility.

There is Hope When it Comes to the Environment

Teresa Madaleno:

A lot of the environment-related news we read and hear about is negative; however, it looks like we will see more positive progress in terms of the environment over the next couple of years.

Here are just a few examples that give us reason to be hopeful about the future:

Clean Energy  

We live in a global world so what happens on one side of the world, impacts the other side of the world. This couldn’t be truer when it comes to the environment. For example, countries that are high energy users are negatively affecting the atmosphere, which in turn has weather implications elsewhere. The good news is that many emerging nations have developed plans to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. The Just Energy Partnership is a new financing program that will help nations make the switch from dirty energy to clean energy at a more affordable cost. We have been calling for inclusive ways to help cash-strapped countries reduce their use of dirty energy and now it’s happening. Additionally, international energy agencies report that global investments in energy efficiency reached USD 560 billion in 2022, an increase of 16 percent from 2021. Much of that can be attributed to energy saving tools developed thanks to our digital world. For instance, Sparta can provide its customers with a platform that can help optimise a building’s environment, energy, maintenance, and health, thanks to a relationship with Metrikus. This is just one example. There are countless others.

Smart Agriculture

For the first time ever, food industry experts are working together to address the damaging impacts of climate change. As a company that strongly believes in collaboration, Sparta applauds these experts. In addition to companies working together, more governments around the world are helping to fund climate smart agriculture methods and tools. Farming will get greener in 2023. Recently, the Financial Post reported that new research supported by the Royal Bank of Canada shows that the country is on the verge of a green revolution in agriculture. In fact, there is an “explosion” of innovation, environmental stewardship and productivity coming. We are already changing how we grow things and how we raise livestock by implementing new technologies.

Electronic Upcycling 

Remember when your grandfather would take a broken tool or other object and instead of throwing it in the trash, he would turn it into something else; something that was of better value? Well, that is what is happening with e-waste. More than 50 million metric tonnes of e-waste are generated globally every year, but people are starting to realize the value in that waste. For example, at Sparta’s e-waste recycling/upcycling facility, just about anything that comes through the door can be transformed into something new and valuable, thus diverting it from the landfill. Today, countries that didn’t have electronic recycling just a few years ago, are now home to busy e-waste recycling facilities. In December, Sparta opened one of the first industrial scale e-waste recycling facilities in the Middle East.

A Second Life for Clothing

Just under 50 percent of Millennials and GenZ respondents in a 2021 survey said they like to spend money on second hand items. This is reflected in the marketplace. Value Village is a good example. It started back in 1954 in the United States with just one store and the number of outlets is still growing. There are now well over 300 of the second-hand shops across the world – 130 right here in Canada. Over the last few years, several independent thrift shops, especially in the clothing category have opened in provinces across Canada. Let’s give a shoutout to Vintage Depot in Toronto, Ontario, Wildlife Thrift in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Le Magasin du Chaînon in Montreal, Quebec, just to name a few. It is also good to know that many leading environmental universities around the world are working hard to develop sustainable textiles, including materials made from natural resources and agricultural waste streams like stems, straw, and leaves. Have you heard of Tencel? It’s an award-winning fabric made from wood pulp. There is also Pinatex, an alternative to leather that is made from pineapples, as well as Econyl, a project that takes industrial plastic waste, old fabrics and even fishing nets that we often see floating in our lakes, rivers, and oceans and turns them into a replacement for nylon. Special technologies are also in development to make it possible to recycle clothing materials that have traditionally been impossible to disassemble and reuse.

There are many other advancements in the green space, but the point is, where there are problems, there are often creative, driven people close behind who are developing solutions.

Teresa Madaleno is a former journalist, author, and communications consultant. She is Harvard certified in the Health Impacts of Climate Change and has a certificate in Circular Fashion from Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

How Telehealth Has Helped the Environment

Lane Simond:

A recent study shows that telehealth systems during the first two years of the pandemic resulted in significant savings for both patients and the environment.

Many health systems were forced to adopt telehealth care for medical appointments during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak. The concept is nothing new, but the study demonstrates how it took a health crisis to reveal that the tool has been under utilized until now.

The study conducted by UC Davis Health researchers looked at telehealth visits’ carbon footprint and the potential savings to lives, costs and time compared to in-person health visits. The researchers worked with data from five UC health systems and then calculated the round-trip distance, travel time and travel costs, as well as injuries and fatalities linked to driving to appointments. Additionally, the team looked at data on greenhouse gas emissions that patients would have generated if they had gone for in-person ambulatory care as opposed to telehealth services.

Here are some of the results from the study:

  • CO2emissions savings of close to 21,466 metric tons over the two years.
  • Elimination of the need to commute 53,664,391 miles
  • An estimated 204 years of travel time saved
  • $33,540,244 travel-related costs saved
  • 4 injuries and 0.7 fatalities.

It is interesting that the researchers estimated the emissions savings to be like a year’s worth of carbon dioxide emissions from electricity of over 4,000 US homes.

“Studies like this are of great interest to us at Sparta because technology is the backbone of our organization and while our health division is looking to leverage advanced tech to make it quicker and easier for people to get health care and health supplies, our Environment and Energy divisions are focused on saving client’s money, as well as saving the planet,” said Jason Smith, director of Sparta’s health division.

The UC Davis Health researchers hope their telehealth findings will encourage health systems around the globe to continue with telehealth long after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

The study was published  in the Journal of Telemedicine and eHealth.

Note: Although telemedicine was initially introduced in Canada in the early 60’s, it wasn’t until after the year 2000 that it became known to many patients. Between 2015-2018 the number of physicians in the country offering telemedicine skyrocketed. According to Canada Health Infoway data, rates of virtual care in Canada rose from 10%-20% in 2019 to 60% in 2020.

Climate Change and Cardio Health

Teresa Madaleno:

Two recent studies suggest that hot and cold environments cause a response in the body that can result in cardiovascular problems; providing more proof that environmental health and human health are closely linked.

Physiologists at the University of Innsbruck in Austria took a close look at the impacts of hot and cold environments as the world faces a climate crisis. The current state of the global climate is causing more intense heat waves, which have triggered natural disasters at an alarming rate. Meanwhile, energy costs are soaring and in some areas of the world, homeowners are forced to live with much less heat in their homes.

During a cold study, the researchers from Innsbruck, along with scientists from Britain and Canada, cooled the skin temperature of 34 test subjects from just 32 to 34 degrees to 27 degrees with ten degrees cold air. At times they cooled the entire body and at other times, they just cooled the face. When the entire body was cooled, they discovered a rise in blood pressure due to an increase in vascular resistance in the skin. When the face was cooled, they observed a similar increase in blood pressure that was the result of a reflex increase in vascular resistance of the skin throughout the whole body. This showed the team that it doesn’t take sub-zero temperatures to cause serious reactions in the human body. As you can imagine this can become a big concern for people who are unable to heat their homes due to the energy crisis.

During the hot study, researchers from Innsbruck worked with experts in Slovenia to investigate how heat waves impact the health of industrial workers. Male participants of the study spent nine workdays in a laboratory setting. On the first day they experienced normal summer temperatures for Central Europe (range of 25.1 to 25.7 degrees). They worked under the same conditions the last 3 days. For days four through six they experienced a heat wave (35.2 and 35.8 degrees). Throughout the study period, participants took part in tasks that reflected a typical industrial workday.

The results of the hot study showed that mild heat waves can increase core skin temperatures and increase skin blood flow. Researchers report that these reactions can help prevent overheating of the body while it is at rest; however, while standing the body must defend internal temperature while maintaining blood pressure to avoid fainting, something that puts a strain on the cardiovascular system. Furthermore, the researchers indicated that the response to the heat continued after the heat wave ended. In other words, there was a residual effect of the heat wave.

While the studies show extreme impacts on our cardiovascular system, the surprise was that even mild cold temperatures can have a significant negative effect. It is important to note that the negative effects are even seen in young people.

The researcher’s findings have been published in Journals Scientific Reports and Experimental Physiology.



Why We Should Care About Pollination Loss

Orsen Coverly:

COP15, the United Nations Biodiversity Conference in Montreal shed more light on the importance of protecting our ecosystem. Pollination loss is part of the ongoing concern when we talk about the ecosystem. A recent news release issued by Harvard’s School of Public Health points out that pollination loss is something we should all pay attention to.

Some might assume that pollination loss has no direct impact on their lives, but it does. In fact, it has a big influence over our environment and wellbeing – and it is something Sparta group is aware of.

“Loss of pollination is just one issue in our ecosystem that threatens our food supply and can impact our health outcomes. We know we can’t just focus on reducing waste and saving energy for clients. Yes, the health of our clients’ business is important, but we need to also work on innovative solutions to protect the health of the workforce because of things like loss of pollination,” said Director of Sparta Health Group, Jason Smith

The Harvard study is the first to quantify the human health toll of pollination loss. The study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, indicates that poor pollination has resulted in a 3-5 percent loss of fruit, vegetable and nut production. In turn, this has led to more than 427,000 deaths from loss of food consumption. The research goes as far as to point to diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers that can be associated with loss of certain foods and nutrients.

The researchers turned to empirical evidence from hundreds of experimental farms across Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe that focused on crops dependent on pollination. They also used a risk-disease model to determine health impacts associated with changes in pollination, specifically the impact on diet and mortality. Lastly, the team calculated the loss to the economy from lost pollination. Depending on where you live, the economic impact of lack of pollination can be devastating.

“We don’t have technology that directly addresses the issue of pollination loss, but we do have technologies that address many other environmental concerns that can impact health, as well we are always looking at developing new technologies to address societal problems; the type of problems that can impact the whole world. Looking after the health of your business and your personal health is our priority,” Smith explained.

For more details on the study, click here.


The Hard Facts About Electronic Waste

– Lane Simond:

We have always been consumers, but many retail experts will argue that consumerism really began following the introduction of the television. While the first TV set was invented in 1920, it wasn’t until 1951 that the average household discovered the medium. Today, the level of consumerism promoted through television shows and commercials has been amplified by the worldwide web. We have more access to more products and services than ever before. The problem with this is that our consumerism is killing the planet.

When we just look at electronics and how quickly a device becomes outdated, it is easy to imagine how much waste accumulates. Electronics are among the biggest contributors to soil pollution and roughly 80 per cent of the items buried in dumps could be recycled according to Rubicon, a leading provider of digital waste solutions for business and governments around the world.

As we go about our day-to-day lives, we generally don’t stop to think about how each of our actions and purchases might impact the environment. Here’s a look at some hard facts just about electronic waste to keep in mind.

  • 3 billion mobile phones have been thrown away this year. To put it in perspective, that’s 31,000 miles of phones. Many of these phones could be repaired and reused.
  • 27 million tons of small electronics like toasters, camera’s, electric toothbrushes, and vapes have been tossed out in 2022, but only 17 per cent will be recycled.
  • 81 million tons of waste from tablets, computers, and washing machines will be thrown away by 2030.
  • Volatile supply chains have led to a 500 per cent increase in the cost of lithium, which is needed for batteries. Most lithium batteries end up in landfill, thus jeopardizing the soil and groundwater. Sparta Group in concert with researchers at the University of Ottawa is trying to develop a safe, effective way to recycle lithium-ion batteries.
  • 57 billion dollars’ worth of gold is hidden in our e-waste.
  • If one million laptops were recycled instead of being tossed into landfills, enough energy would be saved to power 3,500 homes.
  • Recycling electronic waste could significantly reduce the need to mine new materials for the creation of the latest, greatest gadgets.
  • Many retail stores collect and recycle electronics regardless of where they were originally purchased.

If you have read this far, thank-you. It is important to know these facts – our soil, our air, our drinking water and our marine life depend on us paying attention to what consuming does.

Sources: ABC News, International Electronic Waste Recycling Experts,

More Efficient Mining of Bitcoin Creates Huge Opportunity for E-Waste Recyclers

Teresa Madaleno:

Over the last couple years, there has been much debate about the amount of energy required in mining cryptocurrency, but now miners are finding ways to become more efficient. While this is good for the planet and mining companies that want to reduce their power bills, it also creates big opportunity for e-waste recyclers.

What is crypto mining?

Cryptocurrency mining is the process of gaining cryptocurrencies by solving complex equations with high-power computers – a lot of computers. Some refer to this as supercomputers, some call it a computer network. Either way, if you can imagine a massive room full of servers, stacked on top of one another, several feet high and humming along 24/7, then you can picture crypto mining at work. Because it comes down to correctly guessing a number or hash in order to be rewarded with cryptocurrency like bitcoin, miners have to invest in more bitcoin mining hardware, as well as more hardware that has more hash power to give them a better chance at being rewarded. This leads to a large amount of electricity being needed by mining rigs. A mining rig is a computer that is customized for cryptocurrency mining. Since a lot of power is needed to verify transactions and cool down computers so they don’t melt, you can see how mining a currency like bitcoin can become energy intensive. This is what is needed to add transactions to the blockchain in a decentralized network. So, what does this have to do with recycling?

Opportunity for more e-waste recycling

In order to remain competitive, companies that mine cryptocurrency must have the fastest, most up-to-date supercomputers. Often this means all those servers in those massive rooms I just described must be updated with new units every 8 to 10 months. Those obsolete servers can be recycled as opposed to landing in the dump where they have the potential to leach toxic pollutant and materials, such as lead and mercury. Adding to this normal turn-around of computers that creates product for e-waste recycling, we have miners now looking to suddenly swap out their technology all at once because they are feeling added pressure from the media, government, and the public to find more efficient computing systems. This is leading to an unprecedented number of electronics that require recycling.

At Sparta Group’s ERS International, recycling computer networks is all in a day’s work; however, due to a growing influx of obsolete computers and contracts with companies like bitcoin miners, ERS staff are working extra hard to keep up with the barrage of computer components that require recycling, upcycling and refurbishing.

“We are proud of the work we do. We can’t do a lot about the constant swapping out of electronics, but we can make sure that the computers that come through our doors never make it to landfill. Our operation has a zero-waste policy that we take very seriously,” said President of Sparta Group, John O’Bireck

O’Bireck went on to point out that in addition to recycling materials, ERS generates verified carbon credits; something few e-waste recyclers are certified to do.

Sparta Group recently announced that it was working with one of the largest bitcoin miners in North America to divert obsolete computers from landfill, while at the same time generating carbon credits. The e-waste facility is bracing itself for more cryptocurrency clientele as more bitcoin miners feel the pressure to reduce their energy consumption.

Mounting pressure for energy efficiency

Recently, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy called for the U.S to conduct thorough research on the energy impact of crypto mining. In a new report, the Department of Energy is being asked to work on setting industry standards for crypto mining’s impact on the environment.

Last summer, Tesla CEO, Elon Musk weighed in on the Bitcoin energy consumption issue indicating that Tesla will accept cryptocurrency for car sales, but only when there is “confirmation of reasonable clean energy usage by miners with positive future trend.”

Around the same time Musk made his announcement about cryptocurrency, New York lawmakers passed an environmental measure that would establish a two-year moratorium on new and renewed air permits for fossil fuel power plants used for energy- intensive work like cryptocurrency mining.

In Canada there are several bitcoin mining projects that are looking at weaning off fossil fuels by using solar, wind and hydroelectric. There is also a non-profit coalition called, Crypto Climate Accord that urges cryptocurrency miners to switch to renewable energy. At the same time, many cryptocurrency miners are talking about dealing with their energy intensive business through carbon offsets. Carbon offsets make up for their own emissions by preventing or absorbing carbon dioxide released elsewhere.

With so much discussion and pressure about energy use in currency mining, many miners are trying to get ahead of any legally mandated crypto energy regulations that are bound to come in the not-so-distant future. Meanwhile, e-waste recyclers like Sparta Group’s ERS will be busy for several years since so many computer networks will require recycling services.

How to Make Your Holiday Season Green

Lane Simond:

The holiday season can be a lot of fun, but it can also be damaging to the environment. The energy from lights and cooking, the waste from food and paper products, as well as the purchasing of gifts that people don’t need or want, all lead to an unsustainable celebration.

Here are some tips on how to make your holiday season greener:

Make your own wrapping paper – a lot of the wrapping paper we buy in stores in not recyclable due to its shiny coatings, foils and colours so it ends up in a landfill. However, you can avoid this nasty waste by wrapping gifts in old maps, children’s artwork, or a scarf or other cloth item. Some people even use the comics section of a newspaper.

Use LED lights – using LED lights is a good option as they require 80% less energy and last about 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. As a bonus they’re easier to work with because they are cool to the touch. Remember to only have your holiday lights on when you are in the room to enjoy them. This includes the office too. In other words, make a rule that the last person to leave work turns off any holiday lights in the office.

Send e-cards – It is a long-standing tradition to give holiday cards to family and friends. It is also fun to receive them. Instead of sending cards via regular mail delivery, be kind to the environment by sending an e-card instead.

Give green gifts – whether you are having a secret Santa at work or have to buy gifts for family, a green gift is good for the environment and shows the recipient that you have been thoughtful. Examples of green gifts include, reusable coffee mugs or containers, gift certificates, energy saving items for the home, handmade ornaments, handmade baked goods, pottery or ceramics, as well as paintings and photographs. You can also consider shopping at a second-hand store.

Recycle – no matter what supplies you rely on during the holiday season, remember to recycle. You can recycle old decorations, recycle old electronics if you get new devices as gifts, and you can even recycle your Christmas tree. Many towns and cities have programs that allow for your tree to be transformed into mulch or wood chips.

Reduce food waste – the holidays are dominated by festive food but so much of it goes to waste. Consider creative recipes for leftovers, share with those who might not have a big social circle, freeze leftovers, and plan ahead. Good planning can help you avoid making more food than you need.

While these are just a few basic suggestions, there are many other ways you can protect the environment during the holiday season. You might even find that being greener will also save you time and money.

Addressing Climate Change Can Improve Financial Performance Study Shows

Teresa Madaleno:

There has always been a perception that if a company focuses on addressing climate change, it will be too expensive and hurt the bottom line; however new insights from an Ernst and Young (EY) study indicates that companies that do act on climate change can attain “above expected returns.”

In a survey of over 500 companies focused on sustainability, EY discovered that 93 percent made public climate commitments. While these companies can’t deliver all the emissions reductions that our world requires, more than two-thirds (69 per cent) say that they gain higher financial value than expected from their climate actions.

As it turns out, the companies taking the strongest actions report that the efforts boost customer value in terms of brand purchasing behavior and improve employee value, such as staff recruitment and retention, which led to improved financial value. 

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has called for the world to cut emissions by 45 per cent by 2030, as well as reach net-zero emissions by 2050. This is what needs to happen to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Unfortunately, not enough companies and individuals are taking strong action to achieve this. Deeper cuts and involvement from companies in all industry sectors is required. The EY report urges businesses to make curbing emissions a priority.

The good news is that while there are still companies that think doing good is too costly, more are making the connection between investing in climate reduction and long-term financial value. Those who struggle to attain their emissions reduction goals are turning to carbon credits to help reach company targets. Furthermore, they are realizing that investors are watching closely to see how they respond to the climate crisis. The EY study states that 74 percent of institutional investors are now more likely to divest when a company demonstrates poor environmental, social and governance performance.

To read more about the Ernst and Young study click here.

Sparta Group Applauds U of T for Being Second in World Sustainability Ranking

Lane Simond:

Sustainability rankings are becoming an important measurement as more investors and consumers demand environmental accountability. Sparta is thrilled with the news that Canada’s University of Toronto (U of T) has come in second place on the first ever Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Sustainability Rankings.

Rankings by QS are approved by International Ranking Expert Group (IREG) and is considered one of the most-widely read university rankings in the world. The university sustainability rankings are going to be one of several annual rankings by QS.

The first ever university sustainability rankings featured 700 universities using a process that measured an institution’s ability to tackle the world’s greatest environment, social and governance (ESG) challenges. A long list of sustainability aspects was weighed, including sustainable education, sustainable research, social impact, employability, equality, and quality of life.

“We have an advanced e-waste upcycling facility and corporate office in Toronto so hearing that a Toronto university ranked so high is fantastic. It’s the young minds at U of T that will one day be running environmental businesses like ours. The staff, administration, and students who contributed to this ranking deserve our applause,” said Sparta President, John O’Bireck.

To read more about the ranking and what U of T is doing to protect the environment click the link below:

U of T Sustainability

Turning Your Pile of E-Waste into Opportunity

Lane Simond:

Technology is so entrenched in both our personal, as well as professional lives. Everything from wearable monitors, and smart home devices to desktops, laptops, iPads, mobile phones, and TV’s that stream shows from the Internet dominate our everyday interactions. The problem is that all these electronics become waste in a short period of time.

Many companies plan obsolescence of their products. They update and create new software and discontinue support of older devices. In fact, today it is often cheaper to buy new than to repair what is old. Electronic devices contain all sorts of valuable materials, including gold, silver, copper, platinum, palladium, cobalt, and lithium. These are all precious metals that are reclaimed at Sparta’s e-waste recycling facility, ERS International, thus giving them new life and reducing the need for new mining. Many studies support the recovering of metals. One study found that mining copper, gold, and aluminum from ore costs 13 times more than recovering metals though urban mining of e-waste.

While getting rid of your company’s e-waste can free up space for new devices, there is a bonus to sending that waste to ERS International – the Sparta division is a certified generator of carbon credits. This means if your company needs to reduce its carbon footprint, but is struggling to reach its goal, sending e-waste to ERS can help offset carbon and get you closer to your objective. A Sparta news release outlines the advanced carbon credit program.

There are many benefits to recycling electronics. For example, it helps conserve energy, reduces air and water pollution, reduces greenhouse gases and conserves natural resources. However, not many recyclers can generate and offer their customers carbon credit to offset their emissions. In a world where ESG is becoming mainstream, being able to offset emissions is crucial.

Whether your company already recycles e-waste or is thinking about it, take into consideration that Sparta’s ERS not only diverts your trash from landfill, but it also turns it into an opportunity for you to further reduce your carbon footprint and prove to the world that you are taking action to protect the environment.