Innovation That Matters

The Abacus is an all-in-one PC incorporated into a keyboard | Photo source Pentaform

Biodegradable, low-cost computer combats e-waste

Computing & Tech

The Abacus is made from a completely biodegradable polymer and its packaging is mushroom-based

Spotted: Although we often think of tech as being right on the cutting edge, the majority of technological appliances are way behind when it comes to being made from unsustainable materials, and this includes computers. It’s no surprise that e-waste is becoming a crucial issue in the fight against climate change. According to the UN’s Global E-waste Monitor, a record 53.6 million metric tonnes of electronic waste was generated worldwide in 2019, up 21 per cent in just five years. London startup Pentaform is demonstrating that it doesn’t have to be this way, with its Abacus biodegradable PC.

The Abacus is an all-in-one PC incorporated into a keyboard. Underneath the keys is a complete computer, including USB ports, ethernet port, HDMI and VGA output, built-in speaker, integrated track-pad, Intel Quadcore Processor, Wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and up to 4GB memory and 512GB storage. It even comes pre-installed with Linux Ubuntu and will run Windows 10. 

On top of this, the Abacus is made from a completely biodegradable polymer. Once the computer is thrown away, it will fully biodegrade, along with its packaging, which is made from mushrooms. Not only is it energy efficient – drawing around 15 to18 Watts of power, about the same as an LED light bulb – the Abacus is also 63 per cent smaller than an average desktop PC, thereby reducing the cost and carbon footprint of shipping, as well as freeing up more desk surface space.

In this digital age, knowledge of computing has become a vital part of education. For some schools, however, purchasing new computers is financially unfeasible. Computers like Abacus could help bridge this gap, by providing an affordable, low-energy solution. According to the company, the Abacus is “the perfect tool for students of all ages. Low-cost and portable, it is ideal for home study, and for teaching computing concepts like programming, editing documents or just browsing on the internet.”  It can also work with most types of displays – even 4K – making it extremely versatile. The company donates a share of all proceeds to “closing the digital divide across rural Indonesia”.

As the number of connected devices continues to grow, the need to tackle e-waste on a global scale is becoming increasingly urgent. At Springwise, we have witnessed a growth in innovations aimed at solving this problem. Recent ideas include a collaborative approach to tackling e-waste and a platform that tackles e-waste with an appliance rental model.

Written By: Lisa Magloff

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