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Environmental Challenges of RFID

Is concern for the environment incentive enough to look for new and safer means of disposal? When Wal-Mart expects savings of $8.4 billion yearly from complete RFID deployment, is its zeal in finding end-use solutions matching its yen for profits? (Admittedly, the retailing major is eco-conscious, going by its use of RPC's and possibly other thoughtful measures). If the two do match, then the RFID recycling and reuse issue would also get the deserved boost, as much as, if not more than the initial implementation drive did.

Of all the uses listed earlier, some are obviously warranted, and justifiable. However, it's possible to question whether they are necessary at all for the purpose they are now serving in supply chain and inventory management of product retailers, arguably the largest sector of RFID use? Surely it must be possible to manage inventory and ensure proper checkout of goods from stores through other advancing technology. Wasn't barcode system serving the purpose? That's a new debate.

Let's not despair yet

Severe anti-dumping laws are enforced in some countries, with little or no considerations for global consciousness and responsibility. The stage is here when the complete onus is on the manufacturer to exercise restraint and responsibility, guided by serious legislation. What we need is more laws and complete governmental will to implement them humanely, as well as continued awareness and action campaigns in all countries.

Perhaps the electronics manufacturers in general and RFID tag users in particular can take a leaf out of European car makers' books: by 2015, European law (End-of-Life Vehicles Directive) that becomes effective come January, will mandate that 95% of each automobile should be recycled. (Jim Motavalli in New York Times Service). What's heartening in this nature-friendly mandate is the assurance that the reduction in potential waste to an astonishing 5% is achievable sans technology breakthroughs, costly or otherwise. Sanity and wisdom indicate that biodegradability should, and will replace all else as the corporate mantra in the near future.

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