SEI Receives National Award

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) has received a pair of national environmental awards. Awards were received for the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) and by Dr. Tim Lindsey.

MVP2 Awards

The 2010 Most Valuable Pollution Prevention (MVP2) awards presented by the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR) celebrate the successes of innovators in the areas of pollution prevention and sustainability. These prestigious awards were presented recently at a ceremony in Washington, DC. ISTC is a unit of the Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Continue reading “SEI Receives National Award”

Where do I recycle my old electronics?

e_recycleDuring the last few weeks, I have received an increasing number of emails asking where people can recycle their old electronics. If you search for this answer online, you will probably be bombarded with various possibilities to return the electronics to manufacturers, sell your electronics for some extra cash, recycle your old electronics for a charitable cause, or simply bring the electronics to a national retailer. Another option, of course, is to bring your old electronics to a state-run or -approved collection event. Sometimes, going through pages and pages of information is not only time consuming, but it is also overwhelming.

To save you a headache, I took on the task of finding various e-waste collection and recycling methods. You can view various Electronic Take-Back and Donation Programs in a neat, easy-to understand format. This spreadsheet groups various electronic collection and recycling organizations in the following categories: Retailer Recycling Programs, Manufacturer Take-Back Programs, Electronics Trade-In Programs, Electronic Donation/Charity Programs, and State Collection Programs.

Rather than only providing you with links, the spreadsheet also tells you if you can simply drop off your equipment at a location, or if the electronics can be simply mailed to a facility. In addition, you can also find out simply which electronics are accepted by the various organizations. More importantly, I have also included links to various data-erasure methods. A common concern many consumers have is the security of their data before they turn in their old electronics.

In order to erase personal information from cell phones, feel free to visit the following websites:

To remove personal information from computers, the following services are available:

The Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) does not endorse any specific data-erasing programs. The stated programs were listed for general consumer data and do not signify endorsement.

Did we leave anyone off? If we missed any electronic take-back organizations or charities, please let us know at sei@istc.illinois.edu.

E-Waste Competition Winners Announced

poster2010

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

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

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

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

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

Technical/Geek Category Winners

First Place

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

Second Place

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

Third Place

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

Artist/Designer Category Winners

First Place

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

Second Place

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

Third Place

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

Honorable Mention

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

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

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

Electronics and Sustainability: Design for Energy and the Environment

greenearthThe Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI), part of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and the Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), is hosting their first electronics and sustainability symposium. The event will be he held on February 23 and 24, 2010 at the I-Hotel and Conference Center.

Continue reading “Electronics and Sustainability: Design for Energy and the Environment”

How to Hold an E-Waste Collection Event:

Paul at collection eventIt is no secret that the climate is not in the best shape right now, to say the least; polar bears are almost endangered, CO2 levels are 35% higher than preindustrial times, and waste is collecting at ever increasing rates. If you’re not already helping, I’m sure you have wondered at least once how you can aid in mitigating this problem. Hosting an e-waste collection event might not be the first thing that pops into your head, but might I suggest that you consider it. E-waste events can be incredibly beneficial to the environment because they can help keep toxic chemicals from going where they are not supposed to and they can also help your neighbors get rid of some old stuff and maybe even some guilt from holding onto that old stuff.
There are a couple aspects to an e-waste collection event that you should consider to help ensure success. The first thing to do, and probably one of the most important aspects of the event, is making a connection with a credible recycling company. Things to look for in a good recycling company are that they first try to reuse as much equipment as possible before they scrap it. Also make sure they can ensure the absolute safety and protection of information in computers they receive. The recycler should be able to give you some sort of written confirmation saying that every hard drive received at the event will be wiped or taken apart in some way. It is important that you find out exactly what the recycler does with the equipment they receive, so ask questions. Even if the recycler has the equipment to disassemble the electronics on site, they probably still have to ship certain things away (like CRTs) so be sure to ask where that equipment goes. As I have mentioned in a previous post, certified “e-stewards” are companies that have committed to being responsible according to the “e-steward” criteria, so that could be a good place to start when you need a recycler, but there are also a number of other responsible recyclers not on that list.

As for the rest of the event, there are a few other things to consider. One is making sure that the police and town know what you are up to so that you can get their advice on traffic control and ask them what kind of a presence they wish to contribute. Another is picking a location. Of course you want to have something central and easy to get to but also factor in that there might be a lot of traffic backup so make sure there is enough space so cars can line up. Churches, parks, or school parking lots are usually a good option. Also make sure you have a truck to move the equipment and enough volunteers to help you manage the equipment. I suggest at least ten volunteers.

Another thing to consider is advertisement. Radio announcements, posters, ads, or telling a friend to tell their friends are all great ways to get the word out about your event. I suggest that you start a couple weeks in advance but really buckle down the week leading up to the event and advertise as much as possible. The demand to get rid of the equipment is out there, you just have to make your cause known.

Hilary Nixon, of the University of California, Irvine, has been studying the best ways to conduct a recycling event. She has performed surveys all around the state of California to look at how much people would pay to responsibly get rid of their e-waste, how far they would travel, and their willingness to give away their e-waste in general. According to her and her colleague’s findings, 63% of the people surveyed were willing to drop off their e-waste. So as long as you advertise sufficiently you should not have too much trouble getting the traffic you need to make the event worthwhile.

In your advertising make it clear what you are accepting or not accepting. For instance, some recyclers do not have the equipment to manage certain electronics like batteries or refrigerators, so you need to let people know what to bring or not bring ahead of time. Also make it very clear where, what day, and from what hours you will be hosting the event and sometimes it helps to let people know what you are doing with the equipment.

At the actual event you will need most of your volunteers taking the electronics out of cars so that people can get in and out of the event as quickly as possible. At a collection event I was recently involved in we also had about 4 or 5 people taking items from people in cars and about 2 others talking to the people dropping off their equipment. We asked them a couple simple questions to learn more about the problem of e-waste, like how far they came, what they had, and the reason they were getting rid of it. You cannot require that people answer these questions, but any information you get can be very helpful to recyclers or others in the field of e-waste management. At that past event we also performed on site hard drive erasing. I felt that this was especially reassuring to the people donating and it was helpful to have that completed early on.

Finally, the last piece of advice I have to give is that I think the difference between just a smooth event and a hugely successful event is food. In my experience, happy volunteers that are not hungry make for happy events overall.

Good luck with your endeavors and feel free to comment with any differences of opinion, questions, or experiences you care to share.