Electronics From Milk

By Carol Baroudi
Jun 19, 2015 4:30 PM ET

Arrow | Value Recovery

One of my biggest concerns on the road to sustainable IT is that, today, electronics are made almost exclusively from nonrenewable sources. Metals and oil for plastic come from the earth’s crust, never to be replenished. Last week, I wrote about new computer chips made from wood. This week, the news is about electronic components made from, yep, milk.

If you haven’t heard about Arrow’s Heroes of Innovation Campaign, you’re in for a treat. #Whyisit that the real heroes who are creating innovations that change lives often go unsung? Among these heroes is microbiologist Anke Domaske, who is doing remarkable things with milk, including creating technical components. Begin to imagine a world of electronics free of toxic compounds, sourced in renewable materials. That’s downright hopeful. But lest we forget to connect the dots, we need to remember that milk comes from cows, which need lots of water and food, and this food again needs water to grow. All materials come with energy and water footprints. Sourcing more environmentally friendly materials is emphatically a win, but of itself doesn’t exempt us from the need to be intentional and judicious in our use. How many cows would it take to replace metals and plastics in the billions of electronics we’re manufacturing? The good news is that for now, Anke Domaske is working with spoiled milk – milk that would otherwise be thrown away. So, in one sense, her creations are upcycling of what otherwise would be considered waste. I’m thrilled by her work and appalled by the milk waste – in Germany, Anke says, more than 2 million metric tons of milk are thrown away each year.

I’m excited to think that in years to come Arrow’s Value Recovery business could be composting spent electronics. Until then, we’ll continue to get the best use out of the electronics we have.

Carol Baroudi works for Arrow’s Value Recovery business, promoting sustainability awareness and action. Her particular focus is electronics at the IT asset disposition stage, e-waste, and everything connected. Follow her on Twitter @carol_baroudi and connect with her on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/carolbaroudi.