Illini Gadget Garage Spring 2017 Open Hours, Pop-up Clinics

The Illini Gadget Garage, a collaborative repair center on the UI campus where students, staff, faculty, and community members can receive assistance with troubleshooting and repair of their personally owned electronics and small appliances with electronic components, has established its schedule for the Spring 2017 semester.

The repair shop, located at 1833 S. Oak St. in Champaign (click here for a map), is open from noon to 4 PM on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and from 10 AM to 2 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. No appointment is necessary, but it is recommended that you fill out the online diagnostic form prior to stopping by. This will give staff the opportunity to do some research on your devices and the problem you’re experiencing ahead of time to make your one-on-one session more efficient.

Note that Illini Gadget Garage staff and volunteers do not repair items FOR you, but rather WITH you, guiding you through the process of determining the problem, necessary steps to address it, and providing tools to accomplish the repairs. In this way, consumers can become empowered to take action to extend the useful life of their products without the potentially intimidating task of attempting repair, or determining what parts are needed, where to go for help, etc. all on their own. Working with the Illini Gadget Garage can also eliminate the need for more technically savvy do-it-yourselfers to obtain tools they may only need to use one time.

If you can’t fit a trip to the Oak St. facility into your schedule, consider stopping by Tech Tuesdays on Tuesday evenings from 6-9 PM at the Undergraduate Library Media Commons. Illini Gadget Garage staff will be on hand for assistance with devices, and to provide information on the project, volunteer opportunities, and other opportunities for collaboration. If your group or department is interested in hosting a pop-up repair clinic in your building, please fill out the online form to express interest in hosting a clinic.

Illini Gadget Garage assistance is currently available free of charge, thanks to seed funding from the UI Student Sustainability Committee and other sponsors. Questions about services, open hours, and volunteer opportunities can be addressed to illinigadgetgarage@gmail.com. General questions about the project, educational collaboration, sponsorship opportunities and related issues can be addressed to Joy Scrogum at jscrogum@illinois.edu or 217-333-8948.

circuit board with open hours for repair center listed

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Illini Gadget Garage Closing Physical Location for Renovations, Hosting Pop-Up Clinics

The Illini Gadget Garage, a collaborative repair center for student and staff owned electronic devices, will be closing its physical location (INHS Storage Building 3) for the summer on Monday, July 11, to allow for renovations associated with making the site compliant with ADA requirements. Renovations should be complete prior to the beginning of the Fall 2016 semester, and there will be a grand opening of the site at that time. Be sure to check the new Illini Gadget Garage web site, as well as its Twitter and Facebook accounts for details of the grand opening later in the summer.

We appreciate the ‘test pilots” who have come in this summer to work with us on their devices! To continue to serve the campus community during the renovation process, we will host pop-up clinics at various locations until the physical location is open for the public. Pop-up clinics will continue, even after the physical location is open, to make it more convenient for the campus community to practice sustainability through electronic product stewardship.

Two pop-up clinics are scheduled at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC; 1 Hazelwood Drive in Champaign), in the Stephen J. Warner Conference room:

  • Monday, July 11, from noon to 5 pm
  • Monday, July 18, from noon to 5 pm (Note: a Sustainable Electronics Campus Consortium meeting will occur in the conference room from 1:30-2:30 PM; feel free to come early or stay after the meeting to work on your devices!)

If you plan to come to either of these clinics, we suggest you fill out our online diagnostic form ahead of time. This will allow volunteers to do some preliminary research on the problem you’re facing, and make use of your one-on-one time more efficient.

If your department, residence hall, or student organization would like to host a pop-up repair clinic, please fill out the “Host a Pop-Up Clinic” form to express your interest. We’ll be in touch to work out the details.

Students, faculty, and staff with any degree of technical skill–including none whatsoever–are invited to sign up as Illini Gadget Garage volunteers. We want to empower everyone to feel comfortable with the idea of troubleshooting and repairing the electronics they own, to keep them in service longer and thus, out of the waste stream. Even if you’ve never fixed anything before, you can be part of our process of coming together to solve problems. We also could use help with marketing, social media, arranging pop-up clinics, developing educational programs, and other tasks, so if this project intrigues you, come be part of it! Stop by one of the pop-up clinics, or fill out our contact form and we’ll be in touch.

State Electronics Challenge Recognizes the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) as a 2016 Gold Winner

ISTC Logo[Champaign, Illinois April 4, 2016]The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) today received a Gold award for its achievements in the State Electronics Challenge; a comprehensive nationwide environmental sustainability initiative that currently reaches more than 220,000 employees in 47 states. ISTC was recognized for its accomplishments in green procurement, energy and paper conservation, and responsible recycling of electronic office equipment in 2015.

“ISTC’s program is a truly outstanding example of a commitment to environmental leadership,” commented Lynn Rubinstein, State Electronics Challenge Program Manager. “This is the second year in a row that the program has earned a Gold Award.” She added that “ISTC is one of only 12 organizations nationally being recognized this year and the only one in Illinois.”

“We’re really pleased to have received recognition again. Participating in the State Electronics Challenge has provided a great framework for our organization to ensure that we’re making better choices in purchasing as well as continuing efforts to limit impacts in the use and end-of-life management phases,” said Joy Scrogum, Emerging Technologies Resource Specialist and coordinator of ISTC’s Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI).

As a result of these environmental initiatives, in 2015 ISTC saved enough energy to power 6 households per year, avoided greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing 8 cars from the road per year, as well as avoiding the generation of more than 50 pounds of hazardous waste – equivalent to the weight of a refrigerator.

ISTC has committed to purchasing computer and imaging equipment that is qualified by the Electronic Procurement Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT®) standard.  EPEAT is an internationally recognized system that identifies office equipment that meets specified environmental performance criteria.  It also uses power management and requires double-sided printing to decrease energy and paper usage, and ensures that at the end-of-life, equipment is recycled by a third-party certified electronics recycler – Secure Recycling Services & Secure Processors.

“ISTC was the first Illinois organization to participate in the State Electronics Challenge, joining back in 2011. We only began applying for recognition in recent years, after we took the time to write a specific policy that captured what we were already doing to make our electronics-related operations more sustainable, as well as setting forth purchasing standards. The written policy will help us stay on target and continuously improve in the coming years, through revisions as our goals change. ISTC provides technical assistance to organizations and businesses throughout the state, and we’ve been able to point clients and other University of Illinois departments to the SEC checklist and resources as a way of helping them tackle sustainable electronics issues in simple, manageable ways,” Ms. Scrogum stated.

The State Electronics Challenge offers its participants annual opportunities to document their achievements and receive recognition for those accomplishments.  In 2015, the reported actions of 31 participants in green purchasing of electronic office equipment, power management, and responsible recycling resulted in a total of more than 1,250 tons of electronics being recycled, which, along with power management and green procurement:

  • Prevented the release of almost 12,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2E). This reduction in greenhouse gases is equivalent to the annual emissions from 8,612 passenger cars.
  • Saved enough energy to supply 7,845 homes per year
  • Avoided the disposal of hazardous waste equivalent to the weight of 2,120 refrigerators
  • Avoided the disposal of solid waste – garbage – equivalent to the amount generated by 388 households/year.

A full list of winners and their environmental accomplishments can be found on the State Electronics Challenge website (www.stateelectronicschallenge.net).

“The State Electronics Challenge provides state, tribal, regional and local agencies, as well as schools, colleges and universities and non-profit organizations with a great opportunity to integrate concepts of sustainability and waste reduction into their operations,” added Ms. Rubinstein.  “It’s inspiring to see programs such as the one developed and implement by the ISTC to ensure that the highest environmental practices are met through the lifecycle of office equipment.“

The State Electronics Challenge awards were made possible through donations from Samsung, Panasonic, and the R2/RIOS Program.

About ISTC

ISTC is a division of the Prairie Research Institute on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 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. It promotes more sustainable technologies, processes, and practices through an integrated program of research, demonstration projects, technical assistance, and outreach. Learn more at www.istc.illinois.edu.

About the State Electronics Challenge

The State Electronics Challenge assists state, regional, tribal, and local governments to reduce the environmental impact of their office equipment.  It annually recognizes the accomplishments of Partner organizations. The Challenge is administered by the Northeast Recycling Council (www.nerc.org). Currently, 157 state, tribal, regional, colleges, schools, universities, and local government agencies, and non-profit organizations, representing more than 212,600 employees, have joined the SEC as Partners.  For more information on the SEC, including a list of current Partner organizations, visit www.stateelectronicschallenge.net.

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Illini Gadget Garage Hosts Pop-up Clinics

The Illini Gadget Garage is a collaborative repair program for student and staff owned electronic devices, funded by the UI Student Sustainability Committee (SSC), and administered by the Sustainable Electronics Initiative at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), the UI School of Art and Design, and the UI Graduate School of Library and Information Science. In a previous post, we discussed the fact that renovations are necessary to bring the Gadget Garage’s planned permanent home into ADA compliance. We’re still working with “test pilot” clients, who don’t require ADA accommodations, at the permanent location (INHS Storage Building 3). In case you haven’t check the Gadget Garage Facebook page or web page recently, Spring 2016 hours are Thursdays from 3:30 PM to 6:00 PM and Fridays from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

In the meantime, to help ensure that we’re serving all members of our campus community, we’re hosting “pop-up” clinics at various locations across campus. Gadget Garage staff have established a partnership with the residence hall libraries and last week (on March 30 & 31) the first pop-up clinics were held at the PAR and Allen Hall residence hall libraries. Those two residence hall libraries are once again hosting pop-up repair clinics on Wednesday, April 6 and Thursday, April 7th, respectively. Hours for the PAR clinic (Wed.) are 6-8 PM; Allen Hall clinics are 7-9 PM. Stop by for assistance with troubleshooting, diagnosing issues, and minor repair. We’re hoping to have clinics in these two residence hall libraries fairly regularly (not necessarily weekly); ask at the libraries for more information, or monitor the Gadget Garage Facebook page for announcements.

In the meantime, if your campus organization or department is interested in hosting a pop-up clinic, please fill out our form to indicate your interest and provide a bit of basic information. Gadget Garage staff will then follow-up with you for scheduling.

If you’re planning to either attend a pop-up clinic or to stop by the permanent location during open hours, consider filling out our Diagnostic Form to provide information on the device and problem you’re wanting to address. This will give Gadget Garage volunteers some information to help them do a bit of research before you come so they’re better prepared to assist you and use your time efficiently.

If you have other general questions, or would like to become involved with the project as a volunteer, send an email to illinigadgetgarage@gmail.com. You don’t have to be a tinkerer or technologically inclined to assist in the collaborative repair process, plus there are other project tasks to which your skills could be applied (e.g. social media, marketing, recruitment of volunteers, scheduling clinics, writing iFixit repair guides, creating resource guides for common questions/problems, etc.). Plus, although this is primarily a student project, staff and faculty who enjoy repair are also welcome to volunteer and become part of the “fixer” community here on campus! Everyone has their own expertise and strengths, and we’ll all learn from each other as we come together to keep devices in service for as long as possible.

Tentative Illini Gadget Garage identifying mark

 

 

Best Buy Ends Free Recycling of Televisions and Monitors

Best Buy Logo.svgLast week, Best Buy announced that it would no longer be offering free recycling of televisions and monitors through its in-store collection program. The retailer is now charging a fee of $25 for each TV or monitor–whether they are flat screen or the older, bulky CRT monitors that contain leaded glass–in most states.

According to the announcement, in Illinois and Pennsylvania, “we are no longer recycling these particular products because of laws that prevent us from collecting fees to help run our program. All other products – such as batteries, ink cartridges, computers, printers and hundreds of other items – continue to be recycled for free at all of our stores.” However, there is an exception to this complete discontinuation of the company’s recycling service for these products in IL, as noted in the latest version of the Electronics Recycling Guide for Residents of or nearby Champaign, County, IL“If a Best Buy customer purchases a 55″ or larger TV from Best Buy and has it delivered to their home, then Best Buy will take back one TV for recycling. Or, a person may sign up at Best Buy’s home theater section, pay $100 for a television pick-up, and then Best Buy would arrange to pick-up and recycle a TV from a residence.” (Thanks to Susan Monte of the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission and Courtney Kwong of the City of Urbana for this information. It should also be noted that the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission is also seeking approval and authorization of funds to host county electronics collection events in the spring. Decisions regarding such funding will be made later this month, and if county collection events are scheduled, information on those collections will be shared on the Sustainable Electronics Initiative web site.)

Best Buy has been a leader in offering electronics recycling for many years–it has collected more than a billion pounds of electronics and appliances since 2009. The company’s leadership will continue in terms of recycling other consumer electronics, but recycling is driven by commodity prices. Old cathode-ray tube (CRT) monitors were surely a large part of the TV and monitor recycling stream coming into Best Buy stores, and since these monitors aren’t really manufactured any more, there’s less demand for the leaded glass they contain. This makes handling these hazardous materials a costly prospect for recyclers, and as time goes on, more and more recycling programs are ceasing the acceptance of monitors and TVs, or adding restrictions.

However, CRTs aren’t the only issue here, as Resa Dimino, Senior Advisor for the Product Stewardship Institute, pointed out in an opinion piece for Resource Recycling this week. Best Buy is charging for flat screens as well, so its clear that costs associated with recycling those types of devices are also proving too much for the retailer to continue to offer for free nationally. This counters the argument made by some that once the problematic CRTs have been cleared from the system, electronics related Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws that hold manufacturers responsible for safe and proper disposal of their products, will no  longer be needed as the value of other materials in the recycling stream covers the costs of collection and processing. Dimino further notes that EPR laws are only effective when they’re fair and equitable–flaws in current legislation allow some manufacturers to step back while a few manufacturers and retailers (like Best Buy) take up the slack, shouldering more than their fair share of financial responsibility for sustainable management of materials. Also, local governments cannot afford to pay for provision of electronics recycling to residents. All of this suggests, according to Scott Cassel of the Product Stewardship Institute, “it’s time to revisit the nation’s 25 state e-scrap laws to ensure that all manufacturers are equally responsible for electronics recycling.”

Barbara Kyle of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition suggested the following in her blog post on Best Buy’s recycling policy change: “The solution here would be for the manufacturers – particularly the TV companies – to visibly partner with Best Buy to cover some of the recycling costs, and to make sure that responsible recycling occurs. The TV companies, who are always challenged by finding collection sites, could take advantage of the chain’s huge network of stores, which are very convenient collection points for most consumers. This would be an ongoing national partnership program, in every state, in every store, co-marketed by the retailer and the industry. This could also be established with Walmart and their huge network of stores. While Amazon doesn’t have stores, there are many ways in which they could help to be part of the solution.”  Perhaps if there is pressure from consumers on electronics manufacturers and other big retailers, this sort of scenario could happen.

For more information on the stewardship of electronics and other consumer products in our state, see the Illinois Product Stewardship Council web site. Also see the IL EPA site for information on our current state electronics recycling law.

Free Champaign County (IL) Electronics Collection Scheduled for October 10

thumb1A free countywide residential electronics collection event will be held on Saturday, October 10, 2015 from 8 AM to noon at Parkland College, 2400 W. Bradley Ave., Champaign, IL. The collection will be in Parking Lot M; enter from Duncan Rd.

Residents may bring the following electronics items (working or non-working) to the collection event. The limit is 10 items per household.

Computer components:

  • Computers, printers, copiers, monitors*, keyboards, speakers, mice, cables, PDAs
  • Software, CDROM/floppy disks, UPS, tablet computers
  • Computer parts including but not limited to: circuit boards, hard drives, optical drives, power supplies, ribbon cables, RAM
  • Networking equipment, hubs, switches, routers, cables, modems, scanners
  • Ink cartridges

Entertainment:

  • Televisions*, VCRs, radios, stereo equipment, tape recorders, record players, remote controls, MP3 players, compact disc players, e-readers
  • Electronic toys, amplifiers, electronic keyboards
  • Hand-held gaming devices, game consoles, Walkmans, sewing machines
  • Digital cameras, camcorders

Communication Devices and Other Electronics:

  • Cash registers, typewriters, adding machines, calculators
  • Copiers, duplicators, voice recorders
  • Label makers
  • Portable power banks and coin counters
  • Telephones, PBX systems, answering machines, fax machines
  • CB radios, ham radios, cell phones, pagers, Black Berry/Palm Units, GPS units, Bluetooth serial port adapter
  • Rechargeable batteries, battery chargers and adapters, surge strips
  • Video recorders, video monitors, security systems, walki-talkies

Miscellaneous: cables/cords/wire

*not accepted: broken glass cathode-ray-tube televisions or broke glass cathode-ray-tube monitors. For a complete listing of items not accepted, please visit the Champaign County RRR webpage at www.co.champaign.il.us/rrr.

Illini Gadget Garage Discussion, Wednesday, August 5th

laptop and stethoscope
Photo by jfcherry on flickr. CC by 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

Members of the UI sustainable electronics campus consortium and other interested parties are invited to attend a meeting at 11:30 AM on Wednesday, Aug. 5th at ISTC to learn more about and discuss the Illini Gadget Garage project. The project team will be meeting to discuss current progress (location, classes to be associated with the project, etc.) and next steps.  Anyone interested in learning more or providing feedback is welcome to attend. Feel free to bring lunch along with you. Because this meeting will involve a group discussion, rather than formal presentations, it will not be simultaneously broadcast as a webinar.

Funded by the Student Sustainability Committee, this project involves the establishment of a collaborative repair center on campus for student and staff-owned electronic devices. See http://wp.istc.illinois.edu/blog/2015/06/30/illini-gadget-garage-project-will-extend-useful-life-of-student-and-staff-electronics/ for further information. For those unable to attend, minutes will be posted to the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) web site. At any time, please feel free to contact Joy Scrogum with any questions about the project, or to discuss ways to become involved. A page devoted to the project will be added to the SEI web site in the near future.

Illini Gadget Garage Project Will Extend Useful Life of Student and Staff Owned Electronics

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and SEI are pleased to announce that a team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign consisting of SEI coordinator Joy Scrogum (ISTC), William Bullock (Art + Design), Martin Wolske, and Jon Gant (both of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science) has recently received funding from the Student Sustainability Committee for a project entitled “Illini Gadget Garage: Education through Electronic Product Life Extension.” This seed funding will be used to launch a center where UI students and staff will bring their personal electronic devices for assistance with assessment and repair. The center will be called the Illini Gadget Garage. Using the same “collaborative repair” model employed at the campus bike shop and MakerSpace Urbana’s computer Help Desk, clients with devices in need of repair/troubleshooting will work together with Gadget Garage student staff and volunteers to perform the necessary device assessment and maintenance activities. Depending upon the situation, activities may range from guidance on how to make your computer/device run faster to actual repair and replacement of components. Continue reading “Illini Gadget Garage Project Will Extend Useful Life of Student and Staff Owned Electronics”

New on the SEI Website: Spring 2015

Check out the following updates and resources added this spring on the Sustainable Electronics Initiative web site. If you have any questions, or would like to make suggestions for additions to the SEI site, please contact Joy Scrogum. Don’t forget to subscribe to the SEI Blog and follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay current with sustainable electronics issues!

New “Lessons” Page:

We’ve added a “Lessons” page to the “Education” section of our site for interactive lessons on various sustainable electronics topics. Check out “The Secret Life of Electronics” to explore some of the environmental and social impacts of electronic products.

SEI Publications:

Teaching Sustainability with Electronics. January 2015.

Updates to Law & Policy pages:

A link to the controversial Executive Order 13693 (Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade) has been added to the U.S. Federal Legislation page. Effective March 19, 2015, this executive order is notable in its lack of any mention of the EPEAT registry tied to federal procurement preferences. For nearly a decade prior, 95% of electronics purchased by federal agencies were required to be EPEAT registered. The omission was met with criticism and concern from environmental and sustainability advocates, but the Green Electronics Council, which administers the EPEAT registry, has expressed confidence that federal agencies will continue to use the registry as a purchasing tool, since doing so is not precluded by the new executive order. UPDATE, 6/18/15: Implementation instructions for this Executive Order, dated June 10, 2015, make it clear that EPEAT is the only existing tool to achieve the electronic stewardship mandates of the order. This allays the fears of those who thought the omission of direct mention of EPEAT in the order would lead to weakening or failure as a tool for environmentally preferable purchasing. For more information, see the Resource Recycling article Federal government sticks with EPEAT after all.

A link to IL HB 1455 was added under “Pending State & Local Legislation” on the U.S. State & Local Legislation page. This bill has passed the state House and Senate and is awaiting the signature of Governor Bruce Rauner. Synopsis As Introduced: “Amends the Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act. Provides that a manufacturer may count the total weight of a cathode ray tube device, prior to processing, towards its goal under this Section if all recyclable components are removed from the device and the cathode ray tube glass is managed in a manner that complies with all Illinois Environmental Protection Agency regulations for handling, treatment, and disposition of cathode ray tubes. Provides that, for specified categories of electronic devices, each manufacturer shall recycle or reuse at least 80% (was at least 50%) of the total weight of the electronic devices that the manufacturer sold in that category in Illinois during the calendar year 2 years before the applicable program year. Provides that a registered recycler or a refurbisher of CEDs and EEDs for a manufacturer obligated to meet goals may not charge individual consumers or units of local government acting as collectors a fee to recycle or refurbish CEDs and EEDs, unless the recycler or refurbisher provides (i) a financial incentive, such as a coupon, that is of greater or equal value to the fee being charged or (ii) premium service, such as curbside collection, home pick-up, drop-off locations, or a similar methods of collection. Provides that, in program year 2015, and each year thereafter, if the total weight of CEDs and EEDs recycled or processed for reuse by the manufacturer is less than 100% of the manufacturer’s individual recycling or reuse goal set forth in a specified provision of the Act, the manufacturer shall pay a penalty equal to the product of (i) $0.70 per pound; multiplied by (ii) the difference between the manufacturer’s individual recycling or reuse goal and the total weight of CEDs and EEDs recycled or processed for reuse by the manufacturer during the program year. Effective immediately.”

A link to the text of the Minnesota bill HF 1412 was also added under “Pending State & Local Legislation” on the U.S. State & Local Legislation page. This bill, introduced by Rep. Frank Hornstein on March 4, 2015, would change the determination of e-scrap collection requirements for manufacturers. Currently, manufacturers fund the MN electronics recycling program with contributions based on volume of equipment sold in the state annually. According to the Product Stewardship Institute, the new bill would ‘change the state’s reuse and recycling goals every year in response to changing weights and quantities of electronic products sold and recycled. [Minnesota Pollution Control Agency] will publish a new recycling goal each year based on the sum of the average weight of the electronic devices collected for recycling in the preceding two years.’ The bill additionally proposes to broaden the state’s electronics disposal ban, which currently only bans CRTs from landfills. If passed, the amended disposal ban would include products such as cellphones, video game consoles and computers and computer peripherals.

A few of the new items in the SEI Resource Compilations. (Items are added all the time, so check the web site often.):

Redefining scope: the true environmental impact of smartphones: The aim of this study is to explore the literature surrounding the environmental impact of mobile phones and the implications of moving from the current business model of selling, using and discarding phones to a product service system based upon a cloud service. The exploration of the impacts relating to this shift and subsequent change in scope is explored in relation to the life cycle profile of a typical smartphone.

MeterHero: MeterHero is a sustainability exchange where you can offset your water and energy use by purchasing savings from local homes, schools, and buildings. People who conserve earn income and help save the planet. The MeterHero dashboard allows users to track their water, electric and gas usage, and money earned by reducing usage.

Carbon Nanotubes in Electronics: Background and Discussion for Waste-Handling Strategies: Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are increasingly being used in electronics products. CNTs have unique chemical and nanotoxicological properties, which are potentially dangerous to public health and the environment. This report presents the most recent findings of CNTs’ toxicity and discusses aspects related to incineration, recycling and potential remediation strategies including chemical and biological remediation possibilities. Our analysis shows that recycling CNTs may be challenging given their physiochemical properties and that available strategies such as power-gasification methods, biological degradation and chemical degradation may need to be combined with pre-handling routines for hazardous materials. The discussion provides the background knowledge for legislative measures concerning specialized waste handling and recycling procedures/facilities for electronics products containing CNTs.

Precarious Promise: A Case Study of Engineered Carbon NanotubesIn just over two decades since the discovery of carbon nanotubes, technologies relying on engineered CNTs have developed at warp speed. Current and anticipated uses of engineered CNTs are numerous and diverse: sporting equipment, solar cells, wind turbines, disk drives, batteries, antifouling paints for boats, flame retardants, life-saving medical devices, drug delivery technologies, and many more. Some have suggested that every  feature of life as we know it is or will be impacted by the discovery and use of CNTs. Despite uncertainty about how these entirely new materials may affect living systems, CNTs have largely been a case of “forget precaution, get to production.” Concern for human health and the environment has been overwhelmed by the promise of profits and progress. Financial support for nanomaterial research and commercial development has vastly outpaced funding of environmental health and safety and sustainable design research on these materials. And with limited understanding of how these structures — small enough to penetrate cells — will interact with humans and other life forms, use of CNTs is proliferating with few systems in place to protect people or the environment. Warning signs have emerged, however. CNTs share important physical characteristics with ultrafine air pollution particles as well as with asbestos fibers — both recognized as seriously toxic. Mounting numbers of toxicological studies now demonstrate irreversible health effects in laboratory animals, but it is unclear whether similar effects have occurred in humans exposed at work or through environmental releases. The growing literature on toxic effects of CNTs also make clear that the environmental and human health impacts may vary radically, depending on specific chemical and physical characteristics of the engineered nanomaterial. While some CNTs appear to be highly hazardous, it remains possible that others may pose little threat. Is it possible to gain the benefits of CNTs with minimal risk by ensuring the use of the safest alternatives for a particular application?  (PDF Format; Length: 36 pages)

 

ISTC Receives Gold Level Recognition from the State Electronics Challenge

SEIgold The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), the parent organization for the Sustainable Electronics Initative (SEI), has received Gold Level recognition from the State Electronics Challenge for activities in 2014. The State Electronics Challenge (SEC) is a free, voluntary program for non-federal public sector organizations (e.g. schools, local governments, universities, libraries, etc.) and non-profit organizations, which encourages responsible management of office equipment via more sustainable purchasing, reducing the impacts of devices during use, and managing obsolete electronics in an environmentally safe way. Participants, or “partners” as they’re referred to in the program, can elect to focus efforts on one or more life cycle phases: purchasing, use, and end-of-life management. Guidance on addressing impacts in these life cycle phases is provided via the SEC web site, partners-only webinars, and direct assistance from SEC staff members. Partners are not required to perform any given activity, but if they wish to apply to the optional recognition program, there is a checklist of activities that must be completed to achieve different recognition levels.

Partners are eligible for recognition for their accomplishments as follows:

  • Gold recognition: completed General Requirements & all activities in 3 lifecycle phases
  • Silver recognition: completed General Requirements & completed all activities in 2 lifecycle phases
  • Bronze recognition: completed General Requirements & all activities in 1 lifecycle phase

ISTC was in fact the first organization in IL to become a SEC partner, back in 2011, but 2014 was the first year for which it sought recognition for its activities, after having developed a written policy for purchase, use, and disposal of its IT equipment as part of its internal sustainability committee’s efforts. Of SEC’s 150 current partners, only nine are from Illinois, and, of those, just two earned recognition at any level in 2014. See the complete list of 2014 Partner Award recipients on the SEC web site. As you can see from the picture included in this post, the recognition plaque is appropriately made out of recycled circuit boards.

One of the benefits of being an SEC partner is the receipt of an “environmental sustainability report” for the year, with a summary of the environmental benefits of your organization’s efforts, in easy to understand equivalencies. For example, in ISTC’s 2014 report, we can see that the reduction in energy use resulting from our purchasing, use, and reuse and recycling efforts was equivalent to the amount of electricity to power 25 homes/year. To see an example of the report partners receive, see ISTC’s full Environmental Sustainability Report from SEC for calendar year 2014.

If you wish to learn more about the State Electronics Challenge, don’t miss the upcoming free SEC webinar, “Introduction to the State Electronics Challenge” Tuesday, May 19, 2015 from 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM CDT. You can register for the webinar online at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4400751674919799810.