30% of use still means there is 70% waste

apple_iphoneRecently, AppleInsider published a story titled “Nearly 30% of Apple’s first-gen iPhones are still in use – report“. In short, the report mentions several statistics regarding the first generation iPhone. Please keep in mind that the first iPhone was released in June 2007, only to be replaced by the iPhone 3G in July 2008. That means that this phone was marketed (very well, if I remember correctly) for a mere 13 months.  The first generation iPhone sold 6.1 million units, which were  most likely all purchased within those 13 months. After all, why would someone want to buy an old version of a phone, if the newer, cooler, faster, sleeker model is available for a similar price?

The report names several other statistic, but I want to focus on the main statistic here. 30% of first generation iPhones are still being used. This means that 1.83 million first generation iPhones are still in use. And yes, that is a large number. However, 4.27 million is a greater number – this represents the amount of first generation iPhones that are no longer in use. What happened to these phones? Did they break? Did they suffer a fall that rendered them incapable of functioning correctly? I bet this happened only rarely. Instead, Apple came out with a new product. This product was superior to the previous generation of Apple products.  If my memory serves me correctly, since the introduction of the first generation iPhone, the world has also been introduced to two more generations of iPhones, as well as the iTouch and the brand new iPad. (And in related news: Apple Sold 1 million iPads in a month!)

While these new gadgets are a lot of fun, I am concerned about our lasting impact on the environment. The resources and natural capital needed to make these products is expensive, as well as environmentally hazardous. More importantly, the vast disposal and often improper disposal methods increase our need for a more sustainable system. However, Electronics Recyclers International CEO John Shegerian seems to disagree with me. In the article “Why the E-Waste Industry Love the iPad“, he mentions that this the iPad is a good thing.

I wonder if it is possible to allow designers to be creative and create new products, which would add to existing gadgets, instead of creating a desire for increased disposal and consumption of new products? Even if Apple, or any other electronics designer and manufacturer, would introduce a new performance-based, rather than product-based, model for their business and industry. We still have to convince consumers  that a cell phone, computer, or other electronic device can function to its full potential by simply maintaining the equipment, similar to the way you maintain your car, and possibly upgrading to a few new features. This would allow us to use our new gadgets until they actually fail, instead of only lasting as long as we think they are fun. For example, when the seats in your car start to wear down, do you get rid of your car and purchase a new one? Why can’t we have the same model for our electronics?

Apple is obviously concerned about their impact on the environment, as they have published information about the carbon emissions related to their products. By performing such analyses, one only hopes that Apple designers and engineers will be able to make products which will improve their products by leaving a lower environmental footprint. But I do want to encourage Apple and other electronic recyclers to research the life cycle impacts of their products, and consider not only the design of their products, but also the lasting environmental impact their products will leave on the Earth and future generations.

E-Waste Competition Winners Announced

poster2010

Winners have been announced in the International E-Waste Competition.  The competition is part of the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The competition is designed to prompt the industrialized world to dialogue about product designs for environmentally responsible computing and entertainment. The goals of this competition are to learn about ways to re-use electronic waste (E-Waste) for new and productive means, explore new ideas of how to address E-Waste problems, and contribute to the body of knowledge that advances the practice of environmentally responsible product design.

The winners were announced at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), the coordinating agency for the Sustainable Electronics Initiative.  ISTC is part of the Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability at the University of Illinois.

The videos of the winning entrants were shown as a part of the International E-Waste Video Film Festival. The videos of the winning entries will be shown on the websites of the e-waste competition www.ewaste.illinois.edu, www.istc.illinois.edu, www.sustainelectronics.illinois.edu, as well as SEI’s YouTube Channel.

Entries were judged in two categories: Technical/Geek and Artist/Designer. A total of 33 entries were submitted; 26 were in the Artist/Designer category, and 7 in the Technical/Geek category. Prizes were awarded for the top three projects within each category, along with two honorable mentions in the Artist/Designer category. The first, second, and third place winners will receive $5000, $3000, and $1000 monetary prizes, respectively. In addition, honorable mentions will receive $500. The total amount of money to be given out during the International E-Waste Competition is close to $20,000, which has been made possible through generous contributions by several sponsors, including Dell and Wal-mart.

Technical/Geek Category Winners

First Place

  • Team: Port-e-garden
  • Project name: Port-e-garden
  • School: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Video

Second Place

  • Team: Chaps
  • Project name: BioGrow
  • School: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Video

Third Place

  • Team: CSULB Studio Group #1
  • Project name: The Pure Drive Home Automation and Computing System
  • School: California State University, Long Beach CA
  • Video

Artist/Designer Category Winners

First Place

  • Team: revOlve
  • Project name: revOlve
  • School: Rochester Institute of Technology, New York
  • Video

Second Place

  • Team: eLiminators
  • Project name: E-volve
  • School: California State University, Long Beach CA
  • Video

Third Place

  • Team: eMotion
  • Project name: eMotion
  • School: California State University, Long Beach CA
  • Video

Honorable Mention

  • Team: CSULB ID 2011
  • Project name: The Personalized E-Waste Recycling Bin
  • School: California State University, Long Beach CA

Honorable Mention

  • Team: CSULB ID Team
  • Project name: E-Responsibility
  • School: California State University, Long Beach CA

The competition was started at UIUC in the fall of 2009. In 2010, the competition was expanded to an international base, where students from all over the globe were able to submit their projects and a 2-minute video online. Each project was judged on their project description and video.

The international scope of the competition was evident through students who submitted entries from various states in the US (Illinois, Minnesota, California, New York) and other countries (Cyprus, Canada, Australia, Turkey and South Korea). The jury of the competition included a variety of experts, including

  • Vicky Matranga, Design Program Coordinator of International Housewares Association;
  • Clive Roux, CEO of the Industrial Designers Society of America;
  • Joe Jasinski, Global Senior Industrial Design Manager at Dell, Inc.;
  • Steve Belletire, Design Area Head at Southern Illinois University;
  • Sam Al-Basha, Engineer at the IL Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity;
  • Chris Newman, Materials and Management Branch of US EPA;
  • Mike Tibbs, Sr. Director of Information Systems Division Compliance at Wal-mart;
  • Roger L. Franz, Engineering Manager at Motorola;
  • and Will Larkin, Director of Vendor Management Office and Star Complex at Wal-mart.

SEI Symposium

Symposium PictureThe 2010 Electronics and Sustainability: Design for Energy and the Environment Symposium held two weeks ago was a great success! Over 20 impressive speakers in the fields of academia, manufacturing, retail, government, and recycling presented their take on electronics and sustainability. We had an impressive turnout, lively conversation, and overall, a great time had by all.

Here are some highlights from the event: Continue reading “SEI Symposium”

Helping two great causes at once!

cell phone recycling By now, everyone has heard of the massive earthquake which struck Haiti last week. Undoubtedly, everyone has heard horrid stories of devastation. As I wondered what to write this week’s blog about, I found an article, which really speaks for itself, and I just wanted to make our blog followers aware of this cause, because it is a wonderful way to incorporate ewaste issues along with charity.

Continue reading “Helping two great causes at once!”

International E-waste Design Competition Turns Refuse into Resource

Electronic waste, or “E-Waste,” generated by computers, TVs, cameras, printers, and cell phones, is a growing global issue. According to the U.S. EPA, Americans currently own nearly 3 billion electronic products and as new products are purchased, obsolete products are stored or discarded at alarming rates. About two-thirds of the electronic devices removed from service are still in working order. However, only about 15% of this material is recycled while the vast majority is disposed in landfills. The Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI), hosted by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), is pleased to announce the International E-Waste Design Competition, in which participants will explore solutions to this problem at the local level and beyond, by using e-waste components to create appealing and useful products. Continue reading “International E-waste Design Competition Turns Refuse into Resource”

A satirical and very true view of the e-waste problem

Electronics PurchasingThe Onion is a very popular, purely fictional and extremely satirical website. The Onion usually consists of stories whose point is only to amuse, with stories such as “Most College Males Admit to Regularly Getting Stoked”. As topics become more interesting to media outlets, The Onion is usually there to make fun of those same topics with their dead-pan sarcasm. While amusing, most of their articles have never struck a particular chord with me until their article titled “New Device Desirable, Old Device Undesirable”. Continue reading “A satirical and very true view of the e-waste problem”

Life Cycle Analysis: Part 2

Last week, I described what life cycle analyses are and briefly touched on how they can be used by companies in Life Cycle Analysis: Part 1. This post (along a few more that will follow) will be a part of a blog mini-series about life cycle analyses. I want to educate our readers about the general concepts of LCAs. Without further ado, here comes part 2: Continue reading “Life Cycle Analysis: Part 2”

SEI Provides "Ask an Expert" Service

The Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI), hosted by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), is pleased to announce the availability of its online “Ask an Expert” service for the submission of questions related to electronics and their environmental impacts.

Questions related to electronic waste, or “e-waste” issues, sustainable electronics design, improving electronics manufacturing processes and related topics can be submitted via an online form available at http://www.sustainelectronics.illinois.edu/services/askexpert.cfm. SEI staff members will provide one hour of free Internet and/or literature searching related to your sustainable electronics question. Also provided is input from ISTC staff scientists and/or referrals to external contacts for further information on technical questions. Responses can be expected within a week (usually within 1-2 business days). Citizens, organizations, government agencies, businesses, non-profit groups, and academic institutions are all invited to use this free service.

The responses obtained from the Ask an Expert service are meant for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as endorsements by SEI, ISTC or any affiliated organization. Responses are also meant to be starting points for inquirers rather than definitive answers, advice or prescriptions for action. Inquirers must draw their own conclusions based upon the information provided.

In the near future, questions and answers received via this service will be archived and searchable on the SEI web site, www.sustainelectronics.illinois.edu. An extensive collection of resources is also under development for the web site, and archived Ask an Expert questions and answers will be integrated into relevant resource collections.

According to the U.S. EPA, Americans own nearly three billion electronic products and continually purchase new ones to replace those deemed “obsolete,” even though about two-thirds of the devices are still in working order. As designers, manufacturers and the general public are becoming more aware and concerned about this issue, SEI’s Ask an Expert service will be one way to address concerns and assist in more sustainable practices.

SEI is a consortium dedicated to the development and implementation of a more sustainable system for designing, producing, remanufacturing, and recycling electronic devices. Members of the consortium include academia, non-profit organizations, government agencies, manufacturers, designers, refurbishers, and recyclers. Specific elements of the SEI include programs for research, education, data management, and technical assistance. SEI conducts collaborative research; facilitates networking and information exchange among participants; promotes technology diffusion via demonstration projects; and provides forums for the discussion of policy and legislation.

For more information on SEI, visit www.sustainelectronics.illinois.edu or contact Dr. Tim Lindsey, Associate Director of ISTC, at 217-333-8955 . For more information on the Ask an Expert service contact Laura Barnes, ISTC librarian at 217-333-8957.

ISTC is a unit of the Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Diigo Digest: All You Need to Know About Finding Electronics Recyclers

7-3-09
by Amy Cade

This week’s topic for discussion is about the health impacts of electronic components/waste. I have decided to approach this topic in a roundabout way. Stay tuned for a comprehensive summary of articles that discuss the affects of lead and mercury when they are exposed through open burnings of electronic parts. But this week I would like to highlight websites that offer information to consumers about how to donate or responsibly recycle old electronics from the beginning.

imagesProbably one of the most comprehensive websites about finding recyclers is the EPA’s page entitled, “Where can I Donate or Recycle My Old Computer and Other Electronic Products?” This provides an extensive list of recyclers and recycling programs by manufacturers.

The “e-Steward” program is a voluntary certification program that recyclers can apply for. If you donate your computer to a recycler that is e-Steward certified, you are guaranteed responsible recycling. One way the e-Steward program ensures this is by promising that your electronics will not be exported because exportation of waste can often result in the waste being handled or recycled in ways that are detrimental to the environment and human health.  A complete list of e-Stewards can be found on the Electronics TakeBack Coalition website or at http://www.e-stewards.org/local_estewards.html

PCMAG.COMAnother site offering information on where to give your old electronics is the PCMAG.com Electronics Recycling Superguide. This offers a list of manufacturer recycling programs, as well as explanations and benefits of those programs.  (Note the manufacturer list begins here; use the links on the left side of the online article to access various portions of the alphabetical manufacturer list.)

Some programs are easier to use than others. In Illinois, for example, Panasonic’s collection program offers a large number of collection centers and will take back any type of brand.

Editor of Dealnews.com, Louis Ramirez, suggests the HP and Gateway programs are two of the best manufacturing trade-in programs for consumers because they tend to offer the most money back.

The PCMAG article  also offers a list of retailers that offer take-bake programs.

Finally, PCMAG.com includes a list of web-sites that offer cash for your electronics. Gazelle, for instance, offers free shipping of your item and will pay you $115 for your electronics on average.

I have also found databases that include recyclers which are not on the websites listed above. These databases are:

www.electronicsrecycling.org and

www.reconnectpartnership.com .

(Please note that this post is intended for information purposes only and is not meant to be construed as an endorsement of any electronic recycling website or any affiliated organization.)

I would like to invite readers to submit information on any recycling/donation resource not covered in this post in the “Comments” section below.

One Student's Experience with Electronic Waste

Amy Cade, June 2009

Most of you have probably had to deal with an old TV or computer before. When your hard drive crashed or when you needed to update from that ugly tan box taking up your entire desk you probably ran into the trouble of figuring out what to do with the old TV or computer.  I might have a different experience with electronic waste or “e-waste” then most.

I grew up with a “fix it” dad. You had a problem; dad would know what to do. For instance, my grandparents hated the pebbles that fell to the bottom of their pool. No problem; “Kids,” he’d say “its $.10 per pebble, $.20 for the really big ones.” I made a killing those summers.  When my dad learned of people’s problem of not knowing what to do with their old electronics he seemed to have no trouble finding the solution. Students of Chicago Public Schools needed computers and people had working or nearly working computers that they did not want anymore. I was 7 years old when my dad, Willie Cade, turned this into a business. He took unwanted computers, fixed them up and provided them to houses of at risk children. At the time, this just meant prospective giant fortresses of e-waste in my basement.

In high school I grew an inclination towards art but I still had aspects of my father’s love of science and technology. So in college, I decided to major in Industrial Design and Painting. Industrial designers–people that are in charge of making sleeker shoes and fancier blenders–can be considered a big proponent of the production of useless stuff which just contributes more waste to the world. But more recently, industrial designers can also be seen as friends of the environment; they can design things that use better materials, produce less waste during the manufacturing or use stages, or can be disassembled easily and without harm to the environment or sometimes even benefitting the environment. gDiapers, for instance, are flushable and compostable diapers so instead of sending diapers to landfills, you can turn the waste into biosolids. This is the type of design I am interested in.

During my junior year of college I introduced my Industrial Design professor, William Bullock, to my dad so that they could collaborate on solutions to e-waste. They came up with an idea to make a competition for students to design things using old computer parts. First, they wanted a class to figure out background information on the topic. So fall of my senior year I, along with 3 other students, researched e-waste internationally, nationally, and locally to see how big of a problem it was. We found that e-waste is a huge problem at all levels. We surveyed a couple buildings on campus and found rooms full of old computers that no one quite knew what to do with.

In the spring of my senior year I was in the second part of the e-waste class, this time with about 20 other students. In this class we surveyed other recyclers, heard presentations from various e-waste or design experts, and towards the very end of the semester held an e-waste competition. The competition was better than I could have ever imagined. It was held on the University of Illinois main quad on a beautiful day, there were a lot of interested students walking by, there were plenty of great ideas and astonishing presentations from the 21 design teams, and there were 6 prizes that consisted of thousands of dollars in scholarships. There were designs for kiosks, super computers, digital projectors that could be adapted to any low tech classroom, and even things like housing for plants and recycling stations. The competition gave me great hope for the future of e-waste. (For more information on the competition, along with links to press coverage and photos, see the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center web site.)

Now I am working at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center which is part of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. My job is to search for information about what the problems are related to e-waste and what is already being done about it. Some days I am more optimistic than others but overall I feel like this problem will get better.

In the coming weeks I’ll write more about my experiences in Professor Bullock’s class, providing tips for how to host an e-waste collection event. I’ll also be interviewing my dad, Willie Cade, to present more about e-waste issues from the perspective of a recycler/refurbisher and William Bullock to hear about his take on e-waste from the industrial design perspective.