Death by Design Screening, August 22 at Champaign Public Library

On Tuesday, August 22, the Illini Gadget Garage will be hosting a screening of the documentary Death by Design at the Champaign Public Library. Doors will open at 6:30 PM and the film will begin at 7:00. The film duration is 73 minutes.

The Illini Gadget Garage is a repair center that helps consumers with “do-it-together” troubleshooting and repair of minor damage and performance issues of electronics and small appliances. The project promotes repair as a means to keep products in service and out of the waste stream. The Illini Gadget Garage is coordinated by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center.

Death by Design explores the environmental and human costs of electronics, particularly considering their impacts in the design and manufacture stages, bearing in mind that many electronic devices are not built to be durable products that we use for many years. Cell phones, for example, are items that consumers change frequently, sometimes using for less than 2 years before replacing with a new model. When we analyze the effort put into, and potential negative impacts of, obtaining materials for devices through efforts like mining, the exposure to potentially harmful substances endured by laborers in manufacturing plants, and the environmental degradation and human health risks associated with informal electronics recycling practices in various parts of the word, the idea that we might see these pieces of technology as “disposable” in any way becomes particularly poignant. For more information on the film, including reviews, see http://deathbydesignfilm.com/about/  and
http://bullfrogfilms.com/catalog/dbd.html. You can also check out the trailer at the end of this post.

After the film, there will be a brief discussion and Q&A session facilitated by Joy Scrogum, Sustainability Specialist from the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) and project coordinator for the Illini Gadget Garage. UI Industrial Design Professor William Bullock will also participate in the panel discussion; other panelists will be announced as they are confirmed. Professor Bullock is also an adviser for the Illini Gadget Garage project; see more about IGG advisers at http://wp.istc.illinois.edu/ilgadgetgarage/meet-the-advisers/.  Check the IGG web site calendar and Facebook page for room details and panelist announcements.

Admission to this public screening is FREE, but donations are suggested and appreciated to support future outreach and educational efforts of the Illini Gadget Garage. See http://wp.istc.illinois.edu/ilgadgetgarage/donate/donation-form/ to make an online donation and http://wp.istc.illinois.edu/ilgadgetgarage/ for more information on the project.

Bullfrog Films presents…DEATH BY DESIGN from Bullfrog Films on Vimeo.

Upcoming Webinar on CRT Recycling, Management Issues

US EPA Region 3, the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC), and the Electronics Recycling Coordination Clearinghouse (ERCC) are sponsoring a webinar on Tuesday, March 29, 2016 at 9:00  to 11:00 AM CDT, entitled ” CRTs: What Can Be Done?” 

CRTs, or cathode ray tubes, are found in older TVs and computer monitors. CRTs contain leaded glass, making discarded CRTs a hazardous waste (lead is a neurotoxin). In the past, the leaded glass could be reused in the production of new CRT monitors, but that technology has been replaced by flat screens, and thus, there is no longer a demand for the problematic components of these monitors. Processing them has become costly rather than profitable for recyclers, and  new uses for the leaded glass and new means of recycling have been considered and debated in recent years.

This webinar will focus on recycling possibilities, the issues companies face, and the potential for various technologies to address the CRT problem. Four knowledgeable panelists will share their expertise and opinions, followed by a short question and answer session.

Presenters include:

  • JJ Santos, Camacho Recycling, Spain
  • Rich Hipp, Kuusakoski, USA
  • Tom Bolon, Novotec, Ohio
  • Simon Greer, NuLife Glass, New York

See https://epawebconferencing-events.acms.com/content/connect/c1/7/en/events/event/shared/default_template/speaker_info.html?sco-id=100343474 for additional information on the presenters. Registration is available at https://epawebconferencing-events.acms.com/content/connect/c1/7/en/events/event/shared/default_template/event_registration.html?sco-id=100343474.

IL EPA Interactive Map Shows Electronics Recycling in Your Area & More

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) has recently redesigned its web site. If you haven’t visited their site lately, be sure to check it out–it’s very clean, easy to navigate, and more intuitive, with information organized for different audiences (citizens, businesses, governments, and educators).

One of the new features of the site is an interactive “Services Locator” map, which allows users to search for services within a range of miles (5-100)  from their vicinity (you can enter either your zip code or the name of your city). One of the services for which you can search is the location of electronics collection/recycling sites in your area. So if you got a new gadget during the holidays and aren’t sure where you could take its predecessor for proper disposal, the IEPA map can help. If maps aren’t your style, there’s also a list of all registered residential e-waste collection sites provided, with contact information (since it’s always a good idea to double check on which items are currently accepted at a recycling center before making a trip).

In addition to electronics collection points, you can also find medication disposal locations, household hazardous waste collection sites, and vehicle emissions testing centers.

For more information on electronics recycling in IL, including the landfill ban, see the IEPA Electronic Waste Recycling program page.

 

Pollution Prevention Week: E-waste and the World’s Most Polluted Places

Happy P2 Week, Everyone! If you’ve never heard of this celebration, P2 stands for Pollution Prevention, and P2 Week is celebrated from September 15-21, 2014. P2 Week is in fact celebrated annually during the third week in September, and according to the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR), it’s “an opportunity for individuals, businesses, and government to emphasize and highlight their pollution prevention and sustainability activities and achievements, expand current pollution prevention efforts, and commit to new actions.” Check out their site and P2 Week Tool Kit, as well as the US EPA’s Pollution Prevention Week page for tips on preventing pollution at home and work.

Top Ten Toxic Threats Report CoverPreventing pollution is of particular importance when it comes to considerations of sustainable electronics design, manufacture, use, and disposal, given that an annual report by the Blacksmith Institute and Green Cross Switzerland included for the first time in 2013, Agbogbloshie, in Accra, Ghana, as one of the ten most polluted places on Earth.  The Top Ten Toxic Threats: Cleanup, Progress, and Ongoing Challenges 2013 edition “presents a new list of the top ten polluted places and provides updates on sites previously published by Blacksmith and Green Cross. A range of pollution sources and contaminants are cited, including hexavalent chromium from tanneries and heavy metals released from smelting operations. The report estimates that sites like those listed in the top ten pose a health risk to more than 200 million people in low- and medium-income countries.” Other notoriously contaminated sites on the list include Chernobyl in the Ukraine, the Citarum River in Indonesia, and the heavy concentration of tanneries in Hazaribagh, Bangladesh.

The Agbogbloshie site has been the focus of a lot of recent media attention due to the extensive environmental degradation caused there by informal electronics recycling; it is the second largest electronic waste processing site in West Africa. If you would like to see the extent of the pollution, and get a feel for the lives of the people who work in the area, some of whom are children, I recommend the film Terra Blight. (See my previous post on this film’s inclusion in a sustainability film festival on campus, and the LibGuide that accompanies the films from the festival. The film can be checked out from the Prairie Research Institute Library by those on the UI campus or via interlibrary loan.) A number of striking photo essays have also been published, including one earlier this year in the Guardian by photographer Kevin McElvaney. The film and photos show us the stark consequences of endless manufacturing advances and consumer quests for upgrades. Gadgets that aren’t responsibly recycled may end up in landfills, or worse–in places like Agbogbloshie where the poor try to earn an honest living processing the waste to salvage precious materials using whatever means are available, including fire or rocks to hammer open lead-laden monitors.

It is the lead spilled into the environment through informal recycling that earns Agbogbloshie its place on the Top Ten Toxic Threats list, though certainly other toxins are released from the electronics processed there. From the report’s highlights: “Agbogbloshie is a vibrant informal settlement with considerable overlap between industrial, commercial, and residential zones. Heavy metals released in the burning process easily migrate into homes, food markets, and other public areas. Samples taken around the perimeter of Agbogbloshie, for instance, found a presence of lead levels as high as 18,125 ppm in soil. The US EPA standard for lead in soil is 400 ppm. Another set of samples taken from five workers on the site found aluminum, copper, iron, and lead levels above ACGIH TLV guidelines. For instance, it was found that one volunteer had aluminum exposure levels of 17 mg/m3 compared with the ACGIH TLV guideline of 1.0 mg/m3.”

Lest you think the answer to this tragedy lies exclusively in preventing export of unwanted electronics from the first world to the third, increasingly developing countries are becoming sources of e-waste themselves. Indeed, the Top Ten Toxic Threats report notes “Ghana annually imports around 215,000 tons of secondhand consumer electronics from abroad, primarily from Western Europe, and generates another 129,000 tons of e-waste every year.” Even if it weren’t true that developing countries are also sources of e-waste, cutting off certain flows of such waste ultimately shifts problems from one place to another, resulting in different, yet still complicated issues. The leaded glass in CRTs, for example, is becoming increasingly difficult to process, as the demand for its reuse in the creation of new CRT monitors is dwindling. Currently only one manufacturer of CRT monitors remains, in India. Within the US states struggle to find ways to deal with massive amounts of CRT glass from obsolete TVs and computer monitors, leading to controversy over proposed uses (such as alternative daily cover material in landfills) and nightmarish stories of CRT glass stockpiles being left for authorities to manage after recycling operations go out of business.

The point is that the only long-term solution to stopping environmental degradation in places like Agbogbloshie, and the struggles to find safe and widely accepted end-of-life management options for electronics and all their components is to practice true pollution prevention–through source reduction, modification of production processes, promotion of non-toxic or less toxic materials, conservation of natural resources, and reuse of materials to prevent their inclusion in waste streams. This will by no means be easy, nor will the changes necessary happen overnight. But it’s work that must be done, and done by ALL of us, in whatever way we interact with the electronics product lifecycle. Designers and manufacturers must learn and practice green chemistry and green engineering. Consumers must become aware of the sustainability issues surrounding electronics and make more informed choices–including buying less by extending the useful lives of devices as much as possible. And recyclers, policy makers, entrepreneurs, manufacturers, and consumers must all work to ensure that materials from products that have reached the end of their first intended life be collected and reclaimed for use in new processes. Electronics are something we all use, at home and at work, in one form or another. And through images and statistics like those from Agbogbloshie, we understand that environmental and social impacts of our industrial world do not truly go “away” any more than waste itself does.

To learn more about pollution prevention, visit the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR) web site. GLRPPR is posting P2 week information all week on its blog, including two posts contributed by SEI related to electronics. Check out the GLRPPR blog on Tuesday (9/16/14) for source reduction tips for electronics consumers, and on Thursday (9/18/14) for information on flame retardants and electronics.

Webinar: Recycling and Upcycling of Electronic Waste

Join us for a webinar on Thursday, September 26, 2013, 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM CDT. This webinar will be broadcast live from Toronto, Canada. It may be viewed at your computer by registering at https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/198927695, or you can watch the webinar in the Stephen J. Warner Conference Room at ISTC (One Hazelwood Dr., Champaign) or in Room  218 Mechanical Engineering Building at UIUC (1206 W Green St. in Urbana).

Jeff Mendez, Global Communications Director, ERS International, will discuss “Recycling and Upcycling of Electronic Waste.”

Abstract: Electronic waste is a growing problem nationally and globally.  As a leader in environmentally responsible electronics recycling, ERS International develops and utilizes new technologies which allow them to obtain maximum recovery value of electronics via electrostatic separation & particle classification.  They also are very focused on upcycling e-waste materials into innovative products.  Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials into new products of better quality or for better environmental value.  ERS has made significant headway in this untapped field of upcycling.  They have discovered how to conjunctionally reuse waste materials from other industries as well – such as natural stone waste.  This webinar will discuss their electronic waste handling, processing, and upcycling activities.

This webinar will also archived on the ISTC website for later viewing (see http://www.istc.illinois.edu/about/sustainability_seminars.cfm for more information and additional webinar archives).

HDTVs Now Meet EPEAT Standards

As of April 2, 2013 high definition televisions are part of the greener electronics family of EPEAT. LG and Samsung, who contribute to one third of the global shipments and revenues, are  major participating companies.  Televisions must meet 24 performance evaluation criteria to be included in the EPEAT registry. Some of the criteria include life cycle basis, elimination of toxic substances, use of recycled and recyclable materials, design for recycling, product longevity, energy efficiency, corporate performance and packaging. The inclusion of TVs comes shortly after the approval of imaging equipment like scanners or copiers.

According to the EPEAT blog, “Since 2006, purchasers choosing EPEAT-registered electronics over products that don’t meet the system’s criteria have eliminated greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 11 million U.S. vehicles’ annual impact, avoided more than 394,000 metric tons of hazardous waste and reduced solid waste by nearly 167,000 metric tons – equivalent to  nearly 86,000 U.S. households’ annual waste.”

For more information, visit the the EPEAT blogGreen Tech Advocates, and Environmental Leader

Crimes in Electronics Waste Industry now being Prosecuted

As more and more legislation passes related to landfill bans on electronics and electronics recycling and collection, one can certainly imagine an increase in crimes related to that legislation.

Recently, British Columbia officials charged electronics recycling company, Electronics Recycling Canada, for illegal exports of cathode ray tube monitors to China.

In the U.S., the State of Colorado has already prosecuted Executive Recycling for allegedly exporting cathode ray tubes to foreign countries, including China.

The State of California  received a plea agreement from the Tung Tai Group Inc. for 13 felony charges including forgery, false documents, filing false payment claims with the State, and illegal storage of hazardous electronic and residual waste. They collected over $1 million dollars from the State and their return punishment was to withdraw as certified recyclers and collectors, stop all recycling activities, perform 100 hours of community service, and pay $125,000.

According to Andrea Warren of Alston & Bird LLP,  “over 70 U.S. companies called the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling has pushed for legislation with stricter controls for e-waste exports, calling for e-waste recycling with better security protections and sustainability practices.”

Federal legislation known as The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act, HR2284 and companion bill S1270 were introduced and died with the 112th Congress. Will these bills be revived and passed in the 113th Congress? Only time and action will tell.

Champaign County (IL) Residential Electronics Collection – April 20th

The first of two 2013 Countywide Residential Electronics Collections will take place in Champaign, IL on Saturday, April 20.

Got an old TV, computer monitor, or other electronic items not being used anymore?  Area residents are invited to bring old or unwanted electronic items to the upcoming Countywide Residential Electronics Collection to have these items responsibly recycled or refurbished.  Several teams of community service volunteers will be on hand to unload electronic items from residents’ vehicles.  No fees will be collected from persons dropping off items.

The collection will occur, rain or shine, on Saturday, April 20, from 8:00 am to noon at The News-Gazette Distribution Center located at 3202 Apollo Drive in Champaign.  Access to the Distribution Center is at the intersection of North Market Street and East Olympian Drive.

Electronics to be accepted at the April 20 collection include:  televisions, computers, laptops, computer monitors, printers, scanners, keyboards, mice, cables, zip drives, fax machines, PDA’s, video game consoles, mobile phones, microwave ovens, and VCR/DVD/ MP3 players.

Most electronic items contain metals such as lead, cadmium, and mercury that are harmful to the environment unless responsibly managed.  As of January 1, 2012, televisions, monitors, computers, printers and several other electronic items have been banned from Illinois landfills.

Area governments and private sponsors including The News Gazette, support the 2013 Countywide Residential Electronics Collection as a public service to area residents now that the Illinois landfill ban on electronics is in effect. The Collection also provides a means to educate the public about the local options available to recycle or refurbish electronic items.  “We get the word out that convenient and no cost local options are available to residents to responsibly recycle electronics such as TV’s, computers, and monitors,” said Susan Monte, Champaign County Recycling Coordinator.

Information about the upcoming collection on April 20 is available on the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC) website at www.ccrpc.org.  Persons may also contact CCRPC at 217-328-3313 with questions about the collection.

Call for Papers: “Electronic Waste–Impact, Policy and Green Design”

Challenges logoSEI’s Professor William Bullock and Joy Scrogum will guest edit a special issue of the journal Challenges, entitled “Electronic Waste–Impact, Policy and Green Design.”  From the issue’s rationale:

“Electronics are at the heart of an economic system that has brought many out of poverty and enhanced quality of life. In Western society in particular, our livelihoods, health, safety, and well being are positively impacted by electronics. However, there is growing evidence that our disposal of electronics is causing irreparable damage to the planet and to human health, as well as fueling social conflict and violence.

While global demand for these modern gadgets is increasing, policy to handle the increased volumes of electronic waste has not kept pace. International policy governing safe transfer, disposal, reclamation, and reuse of electronic waste is nonexistent or woefully lacking. Where laws do exist about exporting and importing hazardous waste, they are routinely circumvented and enforcement is spotty at best. While European Union countries lead the way in responsible recycling of electronic and electrical devices under various EU directives, most industrialized nations do not have such policies. In the U.S., for example, most electronic waste is still discarded in landfills or ground up for scrap.

It is imperative that we consider how green design practices can address the growing electronic waste problem. This special issue is meant to do just that and spur discussions on how electronic products can become greener and more sustainable.”

If you are interested in submitting a paper for this special issue, please send a title and short abstract (about 100 words) to the Challenges Editorial Office at challenges@mdpi.com, indicating the special issue for which it is to be considered. If the proposal is considered appropriate for the issue, you will be asked to submit a full paper. Complete instructions for authors and an online submission form for the completed manuscripts are available on the Challenges web site at http://www.mdpi.com/journal/challenges/special_issues/electronic-waste. The deadline for manuscript submissions is June 1, 2013.

Webinar: Electronics Recycling in Will County 2012

Join us for a webinar on Wednesday, November 28, 2012, 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM CDT. This seminar will be hosted at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) in Champaign, IL, and simultaneously broadcast online. The presentation will be archived on the ISTC web site (see http://www.istc.illinois.edu/about/sustainability_seminars.cfm for more information and additional webinar archives).

Marta Keane, Recycling Program Specialist & Green Business Relations Coordinator for the Will County (IL) Land Use Department Resource Recovery & Energy Division, will present “Electronics Recycling in Will County 2012.” Register online for this webinar at https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/792822047.

Abstract: Effective January 1, 2012, Illinois banned disposal of electronics in landfills. This presentation will describe Will County’s collection efforts before the mandatory ban, the county’s Front Door Electronic Service Program (a 3-year pilot program started April 2011), and steps taken to prepare for the ban. Results of these efforts thus far will be discussed as well as some remaining issues yet to be resolved. Examples of additional sustainability programs being conducted by Will County will also be described, including: efforts that resulted in receiving the Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Award in 2012; household hazardous waste service; tire collection events; book reuse & recycling events; shoe collection/textile collection; medication collection; green building improvements; and the Landfill Gas-to-Energy project.

SEI, the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR), and ISTC are hosting a series of seminars this fall focused on sustainable electronics research and issues. Watch the SEI calendar for upcoming seminar dates. You may contact Nancy Holm, SEI Research Coordinator, to be added to the mailing list to receive email notifications of upcoming seminars.