UI Sustainable Electronics Campus Consortium: BC Green Initiative Recycles Printer Cartridges

e_recycleThe Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) coordinates a consortium on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign of faculty, staff, and students involved with sustainable electronics research, educational opportunities, and operations. See the Campus Consortium page of the SEI web site for further information. For September we had hoped to arrange a presentation by a student group to update us on a printer cartridge recycling program in the College of Business, but this was not possible due to scheduling conflicts. In lieu of giving an update at a meeting, the students have graciously provided information for us to share via the SEI Blog.

At the foundational meeting of our campus consortium late last year, T.J. Draper, a student in the College of Business, described setting up a recycling program for the cartridges in the College, through a company called Funding Factory. These efforts were part of the “Green Initiative” of a registered student organization called the Illinois Business Council, otherwise known as the BC. Although T.J. is no longer leading the BC Green Initiative, the current student leaders confirmed that the printer cartridge recycling program is ongoing. They provided the following summary of their efforts, along with information for other offices or RSOs interested in setting up a similar program:

“The Green Initiative collects electronic waste and ships it to an EPA verified remanufacturer in Pennsylvania, Funding Factory. Electronic waste consists of printer cartridges, cell phones, and other small electronics. The program primarily collects printer cartridges and toners as these are what our College of Business offices use the most. These cartridges are mostly remanufactured and sold to third parties such as Staples, to be sold again to consumers. Any materials that are not remanufactured are recycled. The data on the amount of materials remanufactured vs recycled can be found on the online sustainability report.

We currently have have 6 offices in the college of Business we collect from on a biweekly basis. On average we raise between $90 to $125 per semester, however our goal for this semester is $150. Last academic year we collected $222.70 total. All of the funds go to a charity of the New Member Class’s choice. Last semester we donated $97.90 to the Illini Service Dogs, a organization on campus.

Funding Factory was chosen because it is an organization that pays for the recycled material as well as provides free shipping, free packages to ship in, and incentives throughout the year. It is an easy to use system that allows for a greater return. Funding Factory also tracts the amount you have collected and reports the impact that was made on the environment as mentioned above. For example, in total of the materials we have collected 552.31 lbs have been remanufactured and 79.74 lbs have been recycled.

A great incentive Funding Factory also has is the ability to promote to other organizations. For every non-profit we recommend we will receive $50. With that being said, if you do find other organizations interested we would love it if you told them they were recommended by us and to follow these steps when signing up.
1. When they are registering, they should select Referred by Participant.
2. They should enter our code: 336843
3. They must send a package within 6 months of registering. ”

Thanks so much to Meagan and Joe of the BC Green Initiative for  providing this overview of their printer cartridge recycling efforts! The code provided in their summary above would be the “Referral ID” for the BC Green Initiative when registering for a Funding Factory account at their web site.

Of course, other programs besides Funding Factory exist for entities interested in recycling electronic waste as a fundraising activity. ECO-CELL, TerraCycle, and EcoPhones are just a few other examples of such programs. If your RSO or office sets up an electronics recycling fundraiser, please contact me to share the information with our campus consortium. NOTE: Only personally owned electronics, or items not tagged as part of University inventory (such as printer cartridges) should be considered for such programs. University owned electronic devices must disposed of in accordance with established policies; see the Campus Consortium page and scroll down to “2/19/14: Campus Electronics Recycling Procedures” for more information. Also, if you’re aware of other such fundraising programs, contact me and I’ll consider them for inclusion on our Take Back and Donation Programs fact sheet (I’m working on revisions currently).

Names of businesses are provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as endorsements.

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.

IL EPA Offers Grants to Promote Awareness of Landfill Ban and Electronics Recycling

November 15 is America Recycles Day. Celebrated since 1997, this event is about educating the public about how and what to recycle, while encouraging people to do so as part of their daily routine.  When most people take part in America Recycles Day events, they focus on the typical items you might place in the nearest blue bin or on the curb for weekly collection–paper, plastics, aluminum cans, etc. However, if you’re reading this blog, you already know that it’s just as important to consider recycling or reusing electronics when they are no longer of use to you. To learn more about America Recycles Day and resources available on the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) web site regarding how to recycle or donate your electronics, as well as legislation related to electronics disposal and recycling, see my previous blog post on America Recycles Day.

If you are a recycling coordinator in the state of Illinois, America Recycles Day is the perfect time to check out the Illinois EPA’s new grant program offering up to $2000 to recycling coordinators in each county in Illinois. The grants are for the purpose of educating the public about the state landfill ban, and providing information on opportunities available for electronics recycling. To apply for a grant, visit http://www.epa.state.il.us/land/electronic-waste-recycling/index.html and click on the “Grants” tab. The application deadline is February 1, 2013, and recipients must expend the $2000 before December 31 in the program year in which the grant is received. For more information or questions related to the application process, contact Michelle Bentley at 217-524-6713.