Over the past 10 years, Sheila Davis has played a valuable role at SVTC and in shaping environmental policy in the high-tech industry. She is one of the co-founders of the Computer TakeBack Campaign and sits on its steering committee. In 1996 she researched and developed the first electronic recycling legislation to reach the California Governor's desk and in 1999 spearheaded the first pilot programs in the country to collect and recycle electronic waste from the residential curbside.
GREEN JOBS PLATFORM FOR SOLAR
|Over the past 10 years, Sheila Davis has played a valuable role at SVTC and in shaping environmental policy in the high-tech industry. She is one of the co-founders of the Computer TakeBack Campaign and sits on its steering committee. In 1996 she researched and developed the first electronic recycling legislation to reach the California Governor’s desk and in 1999 spearheaded the first pilot programs in the country to collect and recycle electronic waste from the residential curbside.|
Sheila Davis of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
1. What made you decide to create something like the Green Jobs Platform for Solar?
We have witnessed the environmental and health impacts to workers in the global electronics industry. In Santa Clara County there are more than 21 superfund sites that are a result of the electronics industry. Entire villages in Africa, India and China are being poisoned by lead, mercury, brominated flame retardants and hundreds of other chemicals released from computers being recycled in primitive recycling conditions. SVTC is very concerned that the solar industry shares many of the same business models, hazardous chemicals, production technologies, parent companies and global suppliers as the electronics companies. Our goal is to work with the solar industry in the early stage of develop to develop systems that protect workers and communities throughout the solar supply chain and the products life cycle.
2. What is the goal of the platform?
The first step is to work with the solar companies to agree to incorporate the principles into their business practices. The next step will be to develop standards each of the green jobs principles. And finally we would like to see the principles developed into policies that would be equally applied throughout the solar industry.
3. If solar panels last for 25 years, why the concern for recycling now?
We’ve learned from that electronics industry that it is important to design the products for recycling. Otherwise it will be very expensive and inefficient to recycle the panels 10 or 25 years down the road. Effective recycling systems begin at the product design stage and are part of the companies’ business model. If this planning doesn’t take place today, then we will end up with a lot of low value toxic junk that will probably be dangerous to recycle and may have to be landfilled.
4. Do you think U.S. companies should be responsible for environmental and health concerns of other companies in their supply chains, say in China or India where environmental laws are poorly enforced?
If a company makes a profit from selling a solar panel or putting if they are sourcing parts from throughout the world and then putting their label on the final product, they should take responsibility for all of the materials, workers and communities in their supply chain.
5. How is the solar industry similar to the environmental impacts of the electronics industry?
Today’s most common solar PV technology is based on silicon semiconductors and uses manufacturing processes and materials similar to those in the microelectronics industry. Many thin film panel production processes are similar to those used to produce flat panel televisions. Unfortunately, many of these technologies use toxic, explosive, corrosive or potentially carcinogenic materials, such as cadmium and selenium.
6. The argument will inevitably be that in order to make solar energy affordable the manufacturing process must be made more efficient ... which usually leads to more environmental compromise. How do you combat this philosophy?
With each new improvement in efficiency and reduction in cost, the customers should expect improvement in the solar panel’s environmental performance. This could be accomplished by the solar industry aggressively setting benchmarks for environmental improvements and getting these goals or benchmarks adopted into environmental regulations. This will level the playing field so that companies who are trying to do the right thing are rewarded for improvement rather than penalized for making environmental investments that their competitors are not making.
7. Is solar the only alternative energy source that you are looking at or is there a wider view of future energy industry goals?
We are currently looking at solar because its technological processes and environmental footprint (for hardware) are similar to electronics. However, we are also concerned about nanotechnology.
8. What's next on the agenda for SVTC?
We understand that the changes that we are asking of the solar industry won’t happen overnight. We want to see solar be successful at addressing the climate change problems, as well as in reducing its environmental footprint. We are in this for the long haul.
Over the past 10 years, Sheila Davis has played a valuable role at SVTC and in shaping environmental policy in the high-tech industry. She is one of the co-founders of the Computer TakeBack Campaign and sits on its steering committee. In 1996 she researched and developed the first electronic recycling legislation to reach the California Governor’s desk and in 1999 spearheaded the first pilot programs in the country to collect and recycle electronic waste from the residential curbside.
Before becoming SVTC’s executive director, she served as program director of SVTC's Sustainable Technologies Program (formerly the Clean Computer Campaign). Sheila's research, advocacy and policy development led to a successful ban on hazardous electronic waste from the California municipal landfills and the subsequent passage of the first electronic recycling legislation in the nation. Sheila holds a Bachelor's Degree from the University of California and served as a journalist, state legislative aide and community development specialist before joining the staff of SVTC.
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