Smartphone Encore Challenge Winners Announced; UIUC Team Runners Up

In a previous post, I promoted a webinar hosted by Net Impact in which the winners of the Smartphone Encore Challenge would be announced, along with an overview of closed-loop strategies at Sprint. You can watch the archived webinar at https://netimpact.org/webinars/the-circular-economy-is-calling-closing-the-loop-in-the-smartphone-industry. (Note that the quality of the video for the winning concept was poor during the webinar; you can view the video separately at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjYyW4i7OS8.) The Challenge was sponsored by Sprint, HOBI International, Brightstar, and Net Impact, and asked students to find profitable and innovative ways to repurpose old smartphones or their components. Participation was limited to the first 25 teams to register. Read more about the Challenge at https://netimpact.org/impact-programs/smartphone-encore-challenge.

SECwinners

I’m pleased that a concept submitted by UIUC students, NEO, was a runner up in the competition. NEO involves the reuse of smartphones as low-cost computers for teaching programming to kids, thus addressing e-waste, digital divide, and education issues simultaneously. This innovative idea was created by Elizabeth Reuter, Kevin Lehtiniitty, and Biplab Deka.

The students came up with this concept for their final project in ENG/TE 498 “Sustainable Technology: Environmental and Social Impacts of Innovations,” which I taught in collaboration with Dr. Brian Lilly and Kirsten Walker in spring 2014. For their final class project, students could either prepare a repair guide for iFixit.com, or create a mock entry for the International Sustainable Electronics Competition, a global student competition administered by SEI which ended in 2013.  The video below was prepared as part of that class project.

The winning concept from students at UC Berkeley, TouchCart, involves using old cellphones to make finding items easier in grocery stores while also allowing scanning of items during shopping. It also allows connection to customer service, and quick check out. The other runners up, StreetSmart from Ohio State University, involves used cellphones as in-car technology to help track driving habits. This would allow insurance companies to more easily reward safe drivers with lower rates. The winning team received $5,000, which can be used toward attending a Startup Weekend to help take their business idea to the next level. And they’ll also receive strategic guidance from executives at Sprint, Brightstar, and HOBI to strengthen the team’s business model.

Despite not winning this particular competition, Team NEO is participating in other student competitions to raise funds to bring this worthy concept to reality. Join me in wishing them all the best in these pursuits, and congratulations for their achievements thus far.

 

Smartphone Encore Challenge Finalists to be Announced in Earth Day Webinar

smartphone-encore-challenge-logo-v02In a previous post, I wrote about a new electronics-related competition debuted this year: the Smartphone Encore Challenge. The Challenge is a collaboration of Sprint, HOBI International, Brightstar, and Net Impact in which student teams were challenged to find profitable and innovative ways to repurpose old smartphones or their components. Participation was limited to the first 25 teams or individuals to register.

The winning individual or team will receive $5,000, which can be used toward attending a Startup Weekend to help take their business idea to the next level. The winners will also receive strategic guidance from executives at Sprint, Brightstar, and HOBI to strengthen their business model.

Tomorrow, April 22, 2015–Earth Day–Net Impact will present an “Issues in Depth” webinar, featuring the concepts of the winners of the Smartphone Encore Challenge and two runners-up. The webinar, entitled “The Circular Economy is Calling: Closing the Loop in the Smartphone Industry,” will also feature Darren Beck, Director of Environmental Initiatives at Sprint, who will share the successes and challenges of applying closed-loop strategies to Sprint’s business. The webinar begins at 11:00 CDT and you can register online at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6002673046428866561.

I can’t wait to see what the winning students have come up with! For more inspiring sustainable electronics ideas from college and university students, visit the Sustainable Electronics Initiative YouTube channel, where you can find winning entry videos from past years of the SEI International Sustainable Electronics Competition.

Smartphone Encore Challenge Seeks Innovative Reuse Concepts

The International Sustainable Electronics Competition ended in 2013 after inspiring students around the world to consider ways to extend the useful life of electronic devices. Now SEI is happy to witness the launch of another sustainable electronics student competition–this one focused on the reuse of smartphones or smartphone components. smartphone-encore-challenge-logo-v02

Sprint, in collaboration with HOBI International, Brightstar, and Net Impact, have announced the Smartphone Encore Challenge.

From the competition web site: “Millions of smartphones get discarded each year as consumers upgrade to new models. The old phones get tucked away in drawers or thrown away, burdening landfills. According to the EPA, only about 10% of phones in the U.S. are reused or recycled. It’s such a waste – these devices are still wonders of technology, with an amazing capacity to capture, process, store, and transfer data. They’re often chock full of features, including an accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS, camera, and more. They’re also an untapped business opportunity…We want you to find profitable and innovative ways to repurpose old smartphones or their components. You get to put your creative and business skills to use addressing an important issue, and, if you win, you’ll get some support to put your idea in motion.”

Specifically, the winning team will receive $5000 which can be used toward attending a Startup Weekend (powered by Google for Entrepreneurs)  to work on the development of their idea. Winners will also receive guidance from executives at Sprint, Brightstar, and HOBI to strengthen their business model. “In addition, the winner and two runners up will be featured in a Net Impact ‘Issues in Depth’ webinar on Earth Day. They’ll also present their business ideas to sponsor executives through a videoconference, and will be highlighted in a national press release from Sprint.”

Sounds pretty cool, right? Well, if you’re interested, there are a couple of important points to note. First, participants need to be members of the Net Impact student community. Simple enough–it’s free to join. Next, be aware that students can choose to participate as individuals or as members of teams.

Most importantly, participation in the competition is limited to the first 25 registrants. Full details, including the registration form, are available on the competition web site.

Those lucky 25 will be shipped an entry kit containing:

  • Two (2) pre-owned Android smartphones for reference and prototyping — the devices will be fully activated with voice, text, and data for the length of the contest
  • List of device features/capabilities and guidance on disassembly/repair
  • List of estimated costs for the device as well as voice, text and data connectivity to help price your product
  • A consent form that all members of the team will need to sign and return
  • Pre-paid shipping label to return the devices at the end of the competition

Each team (or individual registrant) will develop a product concept and business pitch (and optionally a brief video). These ideas must be submitted by March 27, 2015, at 11:59 pm PT.

Expert judges will select one winner and two runners up, based upon criteria outlined on the competition web site.

So put your thinking caps on, students. Your solution might just become a reality.

View the 2013 International Sustainable Electronics Competition Winning Videos

See the previous post for the press release announcing the winners of the 2013 International Sustainable Electronics Competition, including project descriptions. The winning videos are featured on the competition web site and the SEI YouTube Channel. For your convenience, see the embedded player below. Congratulations to the winners and to all this year’s participants. You are all winners for considering the environmental and social impacts of electronic devices and for considering possible solutions to green various aspects of their product life cycles. Keep monitoring the competition and SEI web sites for information on future competitions or similar educational initiatives.

 

2013 International Sustainable Electronics Competition Winners Announced (ISTC Press Release)

ISTC Logo
One Hazelwood Drive, Champaign, IL 61820
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Joy Scrogum, Co-coordinator, Sustainable Electronics Initiative, ISTC, Champaign IL (217) 333-8948

 

 

NINE STUDENTS HONORED FOR FRESH IDEAS IN SUSTAINABLE ELECTRONICS

International Sustainable Electronics Competition Awards 2013 Winners

CHAMPAIGN, IL –  (Dec. 6, 2013) Old smart phones don’t have to be doomed to silence in a drawer or a landfill. According to two winners of the 2013 International Sustainable Electronics Competition the phones can keep track of your cattle, or be tiled together to form large-scale electronic displays.

The winning entries were announced in a ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 5, at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), a division of the Prairie Research Institute, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Nine students on four teams from around the world were awarded prizes for their ideas on the beneficial reuse of electronics to prevent e-waste generation.

The Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) at ISTC has held the annual competition since 2009 to prompt dialogue about the environmental and social impacts of electronics and to contribute to the body of knowledge that advances the practice of environmentally responsible product design, manufacture, use, and disposal for electronics. The competition is open to college and university students and recent graduates.

The winners in the Product Category (items intended for sale) were:

  • E-waste Meets Farming, smart phones remanufactured as cow collars (Platinum, $3,000) Michael Van Dord, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia;
  • Mion, a multi-purpose dynamo lighting system (Gold, $2,000) Mikenna Tansley, Jiayi Li, Fren Mah, Russell Davidson, and Kapil Vachhar from the University of Alberta, Canada;
  • Cellscreen, a large scale display system made from old phone displays (Silver, $1,000) Sam Johnston, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia.

One platinum level ($3,000) winner was named in the Non-product Category (concepts valuable for artistic, educational, policy, or similar content):

  • ENERGENCIA, an educational program based on a children’s game kit encouraging the use of recycled materials and renewable energy concepts by Stephanie Vázquez and Pedro Baños of Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey Campus Puebla, Mexico.

“The world must find ways to end the tide of e-waste in the environment,” said Craig Boswell, U of I graduate and president of HOBI International, an ISO 14001 certified electronics recycling and asset management company. “This competition, and these brilliant young winners, help us advance the dialog about environmentally responsible product design, manufacture, use, and disposal of electronics,” he added.

Boswell was one of an expert panel of six judges consisting of industry professionals, recycling experts, and the competition founder, William Bullock, professor of Industrial Design, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The cash prizes were funded by donations from Arrow Electronics, Professional Field Services, and ISTC.

Other jurors were: Jason Linnell, executive director, National Center of Electronics Recycling; Bill Olson, director, Office of Sustainability and Stewardship, Motorola Mobility, LLC; Lynn Rubinstein, executive director, Northeast Recycling Council; and Kyle Wiens, CEO, iFixt and Dozuki.

Joe Verrengia, director of Corporate Social Responsibility for Arrow Electronics, participated in the ceremony, noting “We understand more than ever now that the end of life of all of those electronics is often very short. We need to come up with something better to deal with that. Competitions and incubators can develop those ideas that hopefully help the world, help Arrow, and maybe be a source of really smart new workers in the future.”

The videos of the winning entries are featured on the SEI and the competition web sites, ewaste.illinois.edu, and sustainelectronics.illinois.edu. They will also be available on the SEI You Tube channel, youtube.com/seiatistc.

See below for a more complete description of the winners and their entries.

Product Category

Platinum ($3,000): E-waste Meets Farming. This project tackles e-waste through the reuse of discarded but internally (circuit board and CPU) functioning smart phones in the manufacture of cow collars. A cow collar is a device worn by cattle on dairy farms which can store information about the individual animal wearing it. It can also send that information to a central hub to be backed up, and communicate with machinery on the farm so that the cow is fed correctly and milked for the correct amount of time, etc. Cow collars can warn farmers of sickness or other health concerns for individual animals by monitoring activity and conditions through the inclusion of a GPS and accelerometers. The advantage of reusing smart phones in cow collars is that all the necessary components are assembled in a very compact and highly functional way. The phone has GPS, accelerometers, wireless technology, printed circuit boards, and software compatibility. Furthermore phones damaged beyond the point of being internally functional can also be used for the manufacture of cow collars, by being recycled via normal streams. The resulting materials, such as plastics, can be used in the construction of casing and external collar components. This concept was submitted by an undergraduate in product design engineering, Michael Van Dord, from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia.

Gold ($2,000): Mion. Mion is a multi-purpose, dynamo-powered bike light for people living in disadvantaged communities. Their lack of an adequate source of lighting makes it difficult to perform evening tasks, including children’s studies, resulting in a significant barrier to human development. Mion is designed with consideration for the people living in these communities and who are lacking traditional furniture. Its organic form provides multiple lighting angles when placed on a flat surface, one focused and one ambient. This allows for optimal lighting, giving the user an option between more open or focused coverage. Mion uses the energy provided by a dynamo: a small motor that generates electricity using the propulsion of a bicycle wheel. The dynamo uses rotating coils of wire and magnetic fields to convert mechanical rotation into a pulsing direct electric current through Michael Faraday’s law of induction. In the long term, a dynamo is both cheaper and more ecological than a battery-powered system. When Mion is clamped onto the bike frame, it uses a direct energy source from the dynamo, charging its reserve AA batteries while also having the ability to provide light during the evening hours. Its detachable clamp allows the user to bring the lighting fixture wherever needed. In addition, the reserve, rechargeable AA batteries, may be removed and used within other products. These batteries become a significant object in themselves as the lack of reliable electricity can lead to other issues with day-to-day activities. Each part of Mion is made from recycled electronic waste. The internal components of the light and dynamo are repurposed parts from old electronics such as desktop computers, cameras, and cell phones (including LEDs, magnets, copper wire, and gears in the dynamo). Both the housing unit for the light and the dynamo casing are made of recycled plastics which can be reclaimed from electronic devices. Mion was submitted by a group of design students (Mikenna Tansley, Jiayi Li, Fren Mah, Russell Davidson, and Kapil Vachhar) from the University of Alberta in Canada.

Silver ($1,000): Cellscreen. The Cellscreen is a large-scale, coarse display intended to function as an advertisement or public display. The Cellscreen itself can be thought of as a tile which forms the base unit from which many different configurations can be made. Each tile is comprised of disused cell phone displays which form the display matrix. The premise is that a run of tiles can be produced from one set of screens at a time due to the large volume of cell phones that are disposed of. For example, there might be a range of tiles comprised entirely of iPhone 3g screens. Grouping screens by type is intended to circumvent any issues that might arise from display quality when mixing and matching screens from different manufactures and for compatibility. Cellscreen tiles comprised from older devices, such as early color screens, might be well suited to large scale advertising whereas those from newer devices with high pixel density and touch functions might be suited to other applications, such as information kiosks. Cellscreen is targeted toward manufacturers and suppliers of cell phones encouraging them to reclaim their obsolete products for reuse in a new product. Cellscreen was submitted by Sam Johnston, an undergraduate in product design from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia.

Non-Product Category

Platinum ($3,000): ENERGENCIA. ENERGENCIA is an educational program based on a  game kit in which children can build their own toys using recyclable materials, reusable electronic devices, and renewable energy concepts to create projects that can move, turn lights on, etc. These projects employ reusable, reclaimed electronic components like small engines supplied in the game kit. The other recyclable materials like cardboard, cans, and plastic bottles can be obtained by children themselves to complete a project. Through the projects made possible by the game kit children learn about alternative energy sources and develop environmental awareness and positive environmental behaviors. The students who submitted this concept developed theories related to the ideal age range of children for which this kit would be effective, and they investigated these ideas through a hands-on workshop for children conducted in cooperation with teachers from schools at the American School of Puebla. This concept was submitted by undergraduates Stephanie Vázquez and Pedro Baños of Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey Campus Puebla in Mexico.

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The Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the home of the State Scientific Surveys: Illinois Natural History Survey, Illinois State Archaeological Survey, Illinois State Geological Survey, Illinois State Water Survey, and Illinois Sustainable Technology Center. For over 160 years the Surveys have applied cutting-edge science and expertise to keep Illinois’ economy, environment and people prosperous and secure. www.prairie.illinois.edu 

 

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) was established in 1985 and joined the Prairie Research Institute with the other surveys in 2008.  Its mission is to encourage and assist citizens, businesses, and government agencies to prevent pollution, conserve natural resources, and reduce waste to protect human health and the environment of Illinois and beyond.  www.istc.illinois.edu

 

2013 International Sustainable Electronics Competition Awards Ceremony/Webinar, 12/5

Another year of the International Sustainable Electronics Competition (formerly the International E-waste Design Competition) has passed, and the jurors have completed their evaluations of this year’s entries. This year’s winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), the host agency for the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI), on December 5, 2013 from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. CST. Brief descriptions of the winning projects will be given and the associated project videos will be shown. Cash prizes will awarded to winning teams in two categories: Product and Non-Product.

For those who cannot attend in person, the ceremony will be simultaneously broadcast as a webinar. This webinar will also be archived for later viewing on the ISTC Sustainability Seminars page. To register for the webinar, go to https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/703576527.

SEI wishes to thank all of the students who participated. All of the participants are winners in the sense that they are actively thinking about ways to solve real world problems and foster a more sustainable system for the design, production, use, and management of electronic devices. It is always inspiring to see students from around the world applying their ingenuity to issues that affect the global community.

This year’s winning videos will be posted to the competition web site after the ceremony, and will also be feature on the SEI YouTube channel.

Sustainable Electronics Funding Opportunity: EPA P3 Program, Deadline 12/17/13

P3 Program Logo“P3” is the US Environmental Protection Agency’s “People, Prosperity, and Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability.” As stated on the program website, this is “a unique college competition for designing solutions for a sustainable future. P3 offers students quality hands-on experience that brings their classroom learning to life. The competition has two phases. For the first phase of the competition, teams are awarded a $15,000 grant to develop their idea. They bring the design in April to the National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington, DC to compete for the P3 Award and a grant of $90,000 to take their design to real world application.” Teams are meant to be interdisciplinary and composed of undergraduates and/or graduates, and the main goals of the program are to engage future scientists and members of industry in innovation for sustainability, while fostering the demonstration and development of sustainable technologies.

The current solicitation closes December 17, 2013. EPA anticipates funding approximately 40 grants for Phase I under this RFA. The projected EPA award amount for each Phase I grant is up to $15,000 for its one year duration. The current Request for Applications is available here, and guidance on how to apply is available at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/p3/apply/index.html. Application materials and a list of EPA contacts are available at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/2014/2014_p3.html#Materials.

The program has been around for several years (see the archive of past P3 projects on the program website), but few P3 projects have focused specifically on sustainable electronics issues. Some notable examples include a New Jersey Institute of Technology proposal for development of a “National Electronics Product Reuse and Recycling System,” and the recent Purdue University project related to “Recycling of Liquid Crystal Displays for Maximum Resource Recovery.” (Dr. Fu Zhao recently visited the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) to present a seminar/webinar on the LCD monitor recycling project; the archived presentation, slides and abstract are available in the ISTC Sustainability Seminars archive.) Other projects have focused on creating more energy efficient electronic devices, such as the East Central University project on “Making a Solid State Organic Photovoltaic Cell More Efficient and Economically Viable.” Still others are tangentially relevant to a more sustainable system for electronics because they focus on issues like consumer awareness (e.g. the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor “AWARE” concept for informing purchasing decisions) or using electronics to help solve real world sustainability problems (e.g. concepts for LED lighting applications in developing countries, like those proposed by student teams from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign or the Rochester Institute of Technology).

As Dr. Zhao pointed out in his presentation on the Purdue LCD monitor recycling project, there is great potential for more P3 teams to focus on sustainable electronics issues. In fact, if you read the current P3 Request for Applications closely, a list of research areas is listed and applications are expected to address one or more of these areas. See Part E under Section I: Funding Opportunity Description at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/2014/2014_p3.html#Synopsis. One of these areas is “Materials and Chemicals” and examples of areas of interest listed within this overall research area include “Projects that may reduce electronics waste or promote substitution and/or recovery of rare earth rare earth elements,” “Less toxic flame retardants,” and in general the redesign of products to use less resources in production and consumption, use more environmentally benign materials, etc. So there is a current desire from the EPA to see applications focusing on more sustainable electronic product design, manufacture, consumption, and end-of-life management. Faculty researchers and students interested in these issues should consider applying for the current P3 Awards cycle, or planning to submit applications in future cycles.

If you apply and receive an award, tell us about your project in the “Comments” section of this post. SEI would love to follow your progress.

Sponsor Spotlight: Arrow Electronics

Arrow Electronics logoThe Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is grateful to the sponsors who make it possible to award cash prizes as part of the International Sustainable Electronics Competition.

Arrow Electronics is one of our Silver level sponsors for the 2013 competition. SEI spoke with Carol Baroudi, Global Sustainability & Compliance for Arrow Electronics, recently about what the company does and their thoughts on sustainable electronics issues.

SEI: Arrow’s corporate web site states that your company “provides specialized services and expertise across the product lifecycle.” Can you explain the services Arrow provides that relate to different stages of electronic product lifecycles, and how this relates to sustainability?

Carol Baroudi: Arrow provides specialized services and expertise throughout the product lifecycle beginning with product design all the way through to a products end of life, and everywhere in between. Throughout the product lifecycle, Arrow takes our role of “guiding innovation forward” seriously.

Starting at the very beginning of product life, Arrow ethically sources electronic components for major manufacturers. We also influence product design and work to improve efficiencies in production and logistics. Our ethical supply due diligence includes reporting to the UN Global Compact and Carbon Disclosure Project as well as adherence to Dodd-Frank for Conflict Mineral reporting.

In the aftermarket space, our Value Recovery group focuses on what might be considered a product’s end of life. We do our best to extend the usable life of electronics through repair and refurbishment, returning them for use as “redeployed,” sold or donated assets. When electronics are no longer serviceable, we harvest usable parts. Before sending non usable assets to be recycled, we de-manufacture them, breaking devices down as closely as possible to commodity materials that are in turn send to specialized downstream partners. We reclaim all materials to the extent possible and return the commodities to the manufacturing stream. No electronics are landfilled. No non-functioning equipment is exported. No child or prison labor is used. No electronics are incinerated except certain media where mandated by security policy. We maintain complete transparency of all materials. Arrow facilities are compliant with both the e-Stewards and R2/Rios standards.

SEI: What is Arrow doing to incorporate sustainability into its own operations?

Carol Baroudi: Arrow has a strong culture of ethical and responsible business practices. Our director of Corporate Social Responsibility oversees all aspects of our corporate responsibility strategy, including sustainability. And, our global green team is actively working to propagate best practices across the corporation in 56 countries.

For example, most of Arrow’s distribution centers have already incorporated low-energy lighting. We aggressively recycle materials that come into our distribution centers and carefully scrutinize our packaging to determine the most sustainable options.

Arrow’s Value Recovery centers maintain the highest environmental and data security standards for the processing of electronics. We repair and refurbish equipment that can be reused, including redeployment, resale or donation. Devices that cannot be repaired are harvested for usable parts before going through our Recycle IT Right® process, which de-manufactures equipment down to as close to commodity material as possible. These separated commodities are sent to certified downstream processors specializing in specific materials such as plastic, leaded glass, copper, etc.

SEI: In your company’s business experiences, have any issues emerged which clearly require further research, education, infrastructure, or policy to improve the sustainability of the end-of-life management of electronics?

Carol Baroudi: Currently, in the U.S. there is no federal regulation regarding the handling of end of life electronics. The inconsistencies between state regulations sometimes result in landfill dumping.  Also, there’s evidence of illegal exporting of electronic waste and abuse of trust from unregulated recyclers that claim to be properly disposing of electronic devices. Europe has more broadly applied e-waste regulations, but these directives can be subject to interpretation. Around the world, emerging economies generally lack appropriate infrastructure for the reclamation of electronics, as well as the appropriate regulations. Overall, we need education, infrastructure and global policy to reverse the expanding tide of electronic waste.

SEI: Is there anything that electronics manufacturers could do to make your job easier? What about legislators?

Carol Baroudi: We encourage manufacturers to design with reuse in mind – using reclaimable materials, ease of separation, and reusable parts. We would welcome guidelines that make electronics easy to repair and repurpose.

SEI: What do you think is an example of an important fact about electronics management and distribution that consumers in general don’t realize?

Carol Baroudi: The biggest gaps lie in education. There is a lack of understanding of why it’s important to handle electronics properly – along with the environmental and data security implications.

SEI: What do you hope participants in the International Sustainable Electronics Competition will take away from the experience of entering the competition?

Carol Baroudi: We hope that tomorrow’s electronics and sustainability innovators will see opportunities to develop more sustainable electronics, from the design cradle to the end-of-life de-manufacturing process.

Thanks, Carol! See http://www.ewaste.illinois.edu/sponsors.cfm for a list of this year’s competition sponsors. Note that logos, links, and descriptions of services provided above are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as endorsements by the competition, the Sustainable Electronics Initiative, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, the Prairie Research Institute, or the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Sponsor Spotlight: Professional Field Services (PFS)

PFSLogoThe Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is grateful to the sponsors who make it possible to award cash prizes as part of the International Sustainable Electronics Competition.

Professional Field Services (PFS) is one of our Silver level sponsors for the 2013 competition. SEI spoke with Erin Elmiger, PFS Director of Business Development and Client Relations, recently about what the company does and their thoughts on sustainable electronics issues.

SEI: What does Professional Field Services do, and how does that relate to sustainable electronics?

Erin Elmiger: PFS (www.professionalfieldservices.net) is passionate about efficiency and helping organizations work smarter. We connect with consumers directly to provide personalized service to retrieve obsolete, EOL electronics. We then deliver these items to organizations that can properly and securely dispose, refurbish and recycle. PFS retrieves the end-of-life (EOL) products directly from the consumer’s home and delivers to those organizations that design, produce, reuse, remanufacture and recycle electronic devices etc.

SEI: Can you explain what the term “reverse logistics” means?

Erin Elmiger:  Employing 1100 representatives in 200 cities nationwide and serving over 15 years in the end user returns business, PFS are experts at deploying retrieval specialists to a consumer’s home in partnership with our service provider clients. We understand how to help our clients recover outstanding delinquent returns (payments and/or consumer leased equipment) directly from their customer base. Based on our extensive reverse logistics (RL) experience, PFS can apply our resources & operations infrastructure to recover other end of life equipment residentially or commercially, for the purpose of final disposition. We can also support the timely return of other delinquent assets for a variety of service provider organizations (aging warranty parts and replacements, e-commerce returns, etc.).

For PFS, reverse logistics is the return process for delinquent, EOL or obsolete electronics. PFS helps organizations who desire EOL products by interacting directly with the consumer and expediting the return process quicker and more efficiently than engaging huge shipping vendors. Organizations can outsource this entire process to PFS and feel confident that the job is getting done.

SEI: In your company’s business experiences, have any issues emerged which clearly require further research, education, infrastructure, or policy to improve the sustainability of the end-of-life management of electronics?

Erin Elmiger:

  • Education for consumers (e.g. not to throw items out).
  • A larger network of recyclers would, of course, help.
  • Government or other incentives (or regulations) which would result in higher recycling or return rates.
  • Provide financial incentives for companies and service providers to focus on the value of residential recycling vs. the more dominant business of large scale business-to-business (B2B) recycling

SEI: Is there anything that electronics manufacturers could do to make your job easier?

Erin Elmiger:

  • Educate consumers
  • Provide incentives to consumers to recycle the right way
  • Partner with PFS directly or with local agencies in conjunction with PFS, to provide a direct residential recycling solution

SEI: What do you think is an example of an important fact about electronics management and distribution that consumers in general, or your customers more specifically, don’t realize?

Erin Elmiger:  Consumers may not realize how important it is to properly dispose of unused electronics in a secure and safe way. Important data that may still be in disk storage, pose a serious data security risk to consumers if not disposed of correctly and safely.

Consumers must learn to properly recycle dangerous materials found in most electronics and to be diligent about keeping these items out of our community landfills, and preventing the improper disposal by other 3rd party service providers that could be shipping these electronics out of the country, posing a global risk.

It is the duty and responsibility of consumers to recycle e-waste responsibly as there is recurring value in reclaiming, re-using or re-purposing the non-renewable materials found in these electronics.

Safely and properly recovered EOL assets could mean the sustainability of many electronics. This helps to support an important “after market” industry for our local, national and global economies.

PFS can make it easy and convenient for the consumer and service provider to dispose of EOL electronics by offering a home retrieval and disposal service. In addition to end consumers, PFS is also able to save local and regional agencies and larger industry service organizations, time, money and resources spent on aggregating valuable assets from their local communities. For some companies, it may mean a financially viable residential recovery program versus an exclusive B2B recycling business strategy.

SEI: What do you hope participants in the International Sustainable Electronics Competition will take away from the experience of entering the competition?

Erin Elmiger:  Participants in the competition have the ability to influence many aspects of electronics usage and disposition of products in the future. Students can provide valuable insight and advice for all steps in the electronics supply chain. We hope to make this process more visible to all of the key stakeholders and work to increase recycling and return rates across the country.

Thanks, Erin! See http://www.ewaste.illinois.edu/sponsors.cfm for a list of this year’s competition sponsors. Note that logos, links, and descriptions of services provided above are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as endorsements by the competition, the Sustainable Electronics Initiative, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, the Prairie Research Institute, or the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Juror Spotlight – Bill Olson

We are grateful to Bill Olson, Director of Sustainability and Stewardship for Motorola Mobile Devices for his long-term commitment to the International Sustainable Electronics Competition. Bill has been with us since the beginning, serving as a juror four times since the competition began as a local event on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign back in 2009. He has been a juror more than any other individual, sitting out only for the 2010 competition (for more information on past competitions, see our online competition archives). Despite his busy schedule, he has provided valuable feedback on numerous competition entries over the years, and has presented at two past SEI symposia on his work at Motorola.

In his role at Motorola, Bill drives go-to-market strategy for green mobile device products and technologies, and has championed the adoption of ECOMOTO principles across several Motorola business units. ECOMOTO focuses on the realization of environmentally sound, seamless Motorola mobile products and seeks to deliver sustained business impact through green materials and innovative ecodesign practices as can be found in the world’s first carbon free phones built with post consumer recycled plastic: W233 RENEW and MOTOCUBO A45 ECO and the world’s first “green” android phones introduced in 2010 – CITRUS and SPICE.

Bill started the ECOMOTO initiative during his previous role in Motorola Corporate Research, where he headed labs dedicated to International and Environmental Research. Bill’s team in Europe conducted testing on hundreds of Motorola products to ensure they met environmental regulatory requirements of the EU (WEEE/RoHS), American and Asian markets. His lab in China worked closely with manufacturing, engineering and the supply chain to achieve improvements in factory productivity, yield and product reliability.

We value Bill’s input because he is directly involved with innovation everyday and understands what it takes to get a great concept to market in today’s world.  With 23 U.S. patents and more than 40 publications, Bill is a guru in his field. Thanks, Bill, for all of your support!