Weighing the Environmental Risks Of Electronics Fabrication In Wisconsin

Proposed Foxconn Factory To Manufacture LCD Screens Would Involve Complex Group Of Materials
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Dome Poon (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Fabricating liquid-crystal display components is a much more involved process than assembling the final product.

When it comes to the environmental impact of manufacturing electronics, there is an essential distinction between fabrication and assembly. Creating the basic components that of a device is a process that fundamentally results in a variety of byproducts, some of which can pose threats to ecosystems, human health and essential resources. Putting those components together into a finished product requires energy and resources too, but this step leaves a much less significant environmental footprint.

The Taiwan-based company Foxconn has proposed building a LCD factory in southeastern Wisconsin, pending state approval of a $3 billion incentives package for the project. Based on statements the company has made so far, this facility would likely be dedicated to fabrication. Along with requiring significant amounts of water for day-to-day needs, this type of manufacturing relies on a variety of substances, from solvents to heavy metals, that would need to be stored and disposed.

Both federal and state laws, through regulations administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Natural Resources, govern how manufacturers are able to use materials that can have negative environmental impacts. The incentives package for the Foxconn proposal would alter some would of these rules, particularly those related to the initial planning process for siting and building a factory.

WisContext associate editor Scott Gordon spoke with Wisconsin Public Radio's Central Time executive producer Judith Siers-Poisson on the Aug. 21, 2017 edition of the program, and discussed the environmental challenges of electronics fabrication and several examples of pollutants that often play key roles in the process.

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