Grad Student Designs Cardboard Computer

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The future of computers may be found in your recycling bin.

A design student at the University of Houston has developed cardboard computer casing. Though the future of the product is yet unknown, it opens the door to using more disposable materials with high-tech devices.

As a part of his graduate thesis, Brenden Macaluso developed the sustainable casing. No screws or fasteners are necessary, speeding up both the manufacturing and disassembly of what Macaluso calls “Recompute.”

“We don’t realize how much effort it takes to do. A computer is something that will be disposed of and we’ll dispose of it because of its finite life, so why do we put so much effort into producing it?” Macaluso asked, as reported by the Houston Chronicle.

Recompute only uses three major electronic components: A motherboard with processor and memory, power supply and a hard drive. Photo: sustainable-computer.com

Recompute only uses three major electronic components: A motherboard with processor and memory, power supply and a hard drive. Photo: sustainable-computer.com

There are eight USB ports available in the case. It is made of corrugated cardboard, which not only makes it recyclable, but gives it a unique design. It also weighs much less than other desktop computers.

Recompute’s Web site says the computer uses the bare minimum electronic components. They include a motherboard with processor and memory, power supply and a hard drive.

The Web site also notes the computer’s look and feel “evolved from several months of research in attempting to define the question, ‘What is sustainability in design?’”

It is a question that is very important to Macaluso. He considers himself to be a designer before an environmentalist, but believes products should be designed with the end of their life cycle in sight.

“I wanted to address three things: How do we manufacture things, how do we use them and how do we ultimately dispose of it?” Macaluso told the Houston Chronicle.

Recompute has not yet been mass-produced, and it is uncertain when it will be available in stores. Macaluso is currently in talks with retailers and manufacturers. The Web site claims it will be ready for production by this holiday season, although there is currently a waiting list, according to Macaluso.

Electronic waste (e-waste) is a hot topic right now. Product sales in the industry are driven by obsolescence. Consumers replace their gadgets in an average of three-year cycles, while sending out-of-date products to the landfill. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, of the 2.25 million tons of televisions, cell phones and computer products generated in 2007, only 18 percent was recycled. That means 1.84 million tons were sent to landfills.

This is not the first computer-related product made of cardboard. Inhabitat reported that U.K. designer Giles Miller designed a corrugated cardboard laptop carrying case.

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