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”

New Website Section – SEI Resources!

Education of a Higher DegreeThe Sustainable Electronics Initiative has added an exciting section to our website – SEI Resources (http://www.sustainelectronics.illinois.edu/resources/index.cfm)! This page has been under construction for quite some time, and we are very happy to say that it is now running in full swing!

SEI Resources are collections of records for both online and hard copy material grouped by subject. This is much like an online filing cabinet of information related to greening the design, manufacture, reuse or recycling of electronic products. Relevant events, funding opportunities and archived questions and answers from the “Ask an Expert” service are also included. Within each broad subject are more specific, sub-categorized lists (for example, within the “Education” Resource section, you may select more specific resource lists related on “Case Studies,” “Consumer Education,” “Continuing Education,” etc.) to make browsing through the included information easier.

Each item listed within a Resource has a full record containing the item’s title, a brief abstract, a link to the item (if it is available online), date of publication, source and resource type. Price and ordering information are listed for hard copy items where available.

You may further customize your browsing experience by choosing to filter the information within each subject or sub-category by one or more “audience” types, which indicate the groups that might find a particular item of interest. For example, filtering by “Consumer Information” will pull up information on health risks, statistics, tips for prolonging the life of your electronics, how to recycle or donate used electronic products, information on greener product choices, etc. Filtering by “Manufacturing & Design” will narrow the list of results to items related to best practices, case studies, resources and research on various topics related to the manufacturing and sustainable design of electronic products. If you do not filter the items within a particular category by audience, you will see a list of all the references related to the subject. Filtering by audience is simply a way to narrow your results and make browsing through the items in our database easier.

The resources are updated with news and new resources on a regular basis, and our goal is to make this one of the most comprehensive resource sections regarding electronics design, manufacture, materials, distribution, collection, regulations, and much more. Be sure to check out the resources for recent news and reports. Happy researching!

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.

30% of use still means there is 70% waste

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

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

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

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

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

E-Waste Competition Winners Announced

poster2010

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

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

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

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

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

Technical/Geek Category Winners

First Place

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

Second Place

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

Third Place

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

Artist/Designer Category Winners

First Place

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

Second Place

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

Third Place

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

Honorable Mention

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

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

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

Continuing the Conversation

Last week we announced some highlights from our symposium held in February. Electronics & Sustainability: Design for Energy and the Environment elicited a frenzy of information and thought provoking ideas. An extensive amount of topics were covered through a variety of perspectives.

In hopes of continuing the discussion I plan on posting a multi-part series addressing different topics raised at the symposium.

The first of this series will continue the topic from a recent post: export.

Continue reading “Continuing the Conversation”

SEI Symposium

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

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

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”

Helping two great causes at once!

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

Continue reading “Helping two great causes at once!”

Watch Willie Cade's lecture: "The Truth, Tragedy, and Transformation of E-Waste"

On November 11th, 2009, at the I-Hotel and Conference Center in Champaign, IL, Willie Cade gave a lecture titled, “The Truth, Tragedy, and Transformation of E-Waste”.

Continue reading “Watch Willie Cade's lecture: "The Truth, Tragedy, and Transformation of E-Waste"”