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

This post was written by ISTC staff member Kirsten Walker.

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  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, 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 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 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

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.

State and Local Legislation Chart Updated

The “U.S. State & Local Legislation” chart, available within the Sustainable Electronics Initiative Law & Policy section, has recently been updated. The chart provides a list of U.S. states and municipalities where some form of legislation related to electronic waste (e-waste) exists, or has been proposed.

You may click on the name of each location to visit the site for the relevant environmental agency (e.g. the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality). Each entry includes the type of legislation (e.g. “e-waste” for e-waste recycling, collection, and/or disposal ban, or “disposal ban” if the legislation merely states that certain electronics may not be landfilled); whether or not the legislation is proposed and when it did or will take effect; when the bill was passed (if appropriate); and the devices covered.

If you click on “Download the Chart” right above the table, you will be taken to a printable PDF version of the chart, which further indicates for what types of entities the legislation provides free recycling and what entities pay for this recycling.

If you are aware of any updates that should be included on this chart, or on the “Federal,” “International,” or “Voluntary Initiatives” pages, please send your suggestions to Joy Scrogum.

2011 International E-Waste Design Competition Winners

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.

College students and recent graduates from around the world were encouraged to submit their ideas for products or services.  The entries were ideas that prevent e-waste generation through life-cycle considerations (E-Waste Prevention Category) or that incorporate e-waste components into a new and useful item (E-Waste Reuse Category).  The competition is designed to prompt dialogue about product designs for environmentally responsible computing and entertainment.

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

A total of 29 entries were submitted; 12 in the Reuse category and 17 in the Prevention category.  Jurors awarded monetary prizes to the top three projects within each category, along with three honorable mention awards. The first place winners will receive $5000, second place is $3000, and third place receives $1000. A total of $20,000 was awarded, which has been made possible through generous contributions by several sponsors, including Dell and Wal-mart.

Reuse Category Winners

  • Platinum ($5000): CardioReach. This project involved an electrocardiograph (ECG) device composed of components found in e-waste. From the project description: “Our plan is to acquire smart phones through donation programs and re-purpose them to become the CardioReach. The costs of developing our device will be minimal and significantly less than alternative ECG devices in developing countries. CardioReach will utilize the cellphone hardware for processing and transmission, while using some additional components for signal input and isolation. The software will include an open-source code and the ECG leads and tabs can be obtained from a separate source. The price of the CardioReach will be adjusted so that it can cover business expenses and be less than competitive products such as the GE Mac 400, which costs $1400 as ‘used’ and is popular in Brazil, Russia, India, and China. The CardioReach technology is currently in early stage development, and a functional prototype is expected to be made by August 2011.” This team was comprised of a group of biomedical engineering students from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
  • Gold ($3000): SparkDrive by Team eWasteX. The idea behind this project is the reuse of discarded hard-drives in a micro-energy generator which “functions as a technology platform for multiple applications including harnessing wind energy, powering small electronics such as cell phone chargers and desk lamps.” The goal is provide “a platform for innovators in the developing world in communities specifically facing chronic lack of electrification.” This project was submitted by a multinational group of graduate students, three of whom attend the University of Cape Town in South Africa and two who attend the Indian Institute of Technology.
  • Silver ($1000): s:i. “s:i” stands for “sound:illumination,” and this concept involves a recycled laptop, iPod, call and smart phone parts to create a portable audio and projection device. This entry was submitted by a student from New York University.

Prevention Category

  • Platinum ($5000): Edentify. This is a smart phone app used to scan the barcodes of electronic products and present the user with information on various aspects of product life cycle, from the manufacturing to post consumer phases. Recycling information would be included, and consumers could see point values for different products. The idea incorporates games and rewards into the point system in an effort to “create awareness and inspire e-waste prevention in a fun and immersive way.” This project was submitted by three industrial design students from California State University at Long Beach.
  • Gold ($3000): Dismantle. By replacing screws with “drafted embossed fasteners” and employing a “master-lock” pin to hold the circuit board in place, this team has developed a laptop with can be fully disassembled in about 90 seconds.  This compares to a case study of a Dell Inspiron 15 inch laptop, which takes about 12 minutes to disassemble. This allows for easier replacement of components and disassembly for recycling/reuse at the product’s end of life. This team was comprised of two industrial design students from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
  • Silver ($1000): Laptop Design for the future. This group of students has formed a company with a business model using lease-based sales for new and used laptops and a goal of zero waste. They have proposed a laptop designed around modularity with a durable, lightweight aluminum unibody. Online services would be provided for sales, returns, support, upgrades and backup. This undergraduate team consists of four electronic engineering students and one student in product design and technology, all from the University of Limerick in Ireland.

Honorable Mentions

  • $1000, Boombottle. This design brings together reused speaker components, discarded plastic bottles and LED lights to create portable, rugged, waterproof, illuminated audio systems. The jurors felt that although it was entered in the Prevention category, this project was really more about the reuse of old electronic components than the prevention of e-waste generation. However, they appreciated the creativity, simplicity and effective presentation of the concept, as well as the fact that the products are already in production and in limited distribution. This design was submitted by a recent graduate in industrial and product design from Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
  • $500, re:use. This concept is a community-level approach to e-waste management described as “an organization of designers, engineers, construction managers, and urban planners that communicates with city officials and with the regional community to safely recycle consumer electronic excess and waste for use in public projects. This system creates a closed cycle that allows for the proper disposal, awareness, and discussion of e-waste as well as solutions to community needs.” The idea includes the placement of e-waste collection bins throughout the city of Long Beach, California. Collected e-waste would be sent to a local recycling facility, separated, accumulated and eventually reprocessed and remanufactured for public project. An online forum would educate, increase awareness and allow citizens to submit suggestions for city improvements that could implement using feedstock from the collection infrastructure. The example provided was a suggestion for a park bench repair that might lead to the creation of a new bench made from recycled plastic from used printers. This idea was submitted by a group of three industrial design students from California State University at Long Beach.
  • $500, CircuitBreaker, the E-Waste Recycler. This is a proposed industrial recycling machine that incorporates the use of nanotechnology to break chemical bonds in toxic molecules such as flame retardants, to render them inert and to reclaim rare earth metals. This idea was submitted by a team of four undergraduates from Arizona State University.

The competition was started at UIUC in the fall of 2009. In 2010, the competition was expanded so students from all over the globe were able to submit their projects and an online video. Each project was judged on the project description and video. The international scope was evident through students who submitted entries from six U.S. states as well as India, Hong Kong, England, Ireland, South Korea, and South Africa. The jury was comprised of a variety of experts, including:

  • Roger Franz, Senior Research Engineer, UL Environment
  • Susan Kingsley, Artist/Metalsmith/Activist
  • Ki-Chol Nam, Associate Professor, Department of Industrial Design, College of Design and Art, Yeungnam University
  • Bill Olson, Director, Office of Sustainability and Stewardship, Mobile Devices Business, Motorola, Inc.
  • John Pflueger, Principal Environmental Strategist, Dell, Inc.
  • Clive Roux, CEO, Industrial Designers Society of America

The videos of the winning entries will be shown on the websites of the e-waste competition,,, as well as SEI’s YouTube Channel.

For more information on the International E-Waste Design Competition, contact Joy Scrogum.

Don’t Forget Electronics on America Recycles Day

Happy America Recycles Day! Celebrated annually on November 15, America Recycles Day is a program of Keep America Beautiful, Inc. Those of us who were alive in the 1970s will remember Keep America Beautiful, or KAB, as the folks who brought us one the most successful public service campaigns ever, in the form of a Native American man weeping while bearing witness to thoughtless pollution. (You can watch a clip of that famous public service announcement featuring Iron Eyes Cody, and read more about KAB’s history on the organization’s web site. Incidentally, it’s interesting to consider how that PSA might look today if it focused on e-waste instead of some of the more obvious forms of pollution like air pollution, litter, etc.)

Celebrated since 1997, America Recycle’s Day 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.

So take the opportunity today to educate yourself, friends, family and colleagues about how you can responsibly dispose of your electronic devices. Visit the KAB website, and use the recycling location tool available there through KAB’s partnership with Earth911 to find electronics recycling locations in your community.  Just type “electronics” into the “What?” field (or a specific type of item, such as “television” or “batteries”) and then enter you zip code into the “Where?” field to call up a list of area businesses or organizations that accept such items for proper recycling.

Also, read the SEI fact sheet on Electronics Take-Back and Donation Programs to learn other options if there are not local resources available to you, or if you’re interested in selling devices for some extra cash or donating your electronics for a good cause. SEI also provides an extensive Summary of U.S. State Laws on Electronic Waste and Disposal Bans so you can learn what laws, if any, apply in your area. The Law & Policy section of the SEI web site will also help you learn about regulations on the local, federal and international levels, as well as providing more information on voluntary initiatives.

And take some time to think about what is involved in the responsible recycling of electronic devices. Read about the existing Certification programs on the SEI site.

Then take the America Recycles Day pledge today, and be sure to check the box on the pledge form that applies to electronics: “I pledge to recycle my used batteries, cell phones and other electronic waste through a take-back program or e-waste facility near me.”

And then live by that pledge–365 days a year.

Future of electronics after 2012

Note: This post was written by SEI staff, Aida Sefic Williams.

Whenever electronics are discussed, the conversation always involves the argument that electronics are environmentally damaging. In order to make electronics, we need materials that have to be mined out of the ground, be highly processed, and manufactured in astronomically high quantities. Electronics also require energy to function, and many electronic components are often discarded with little or no consideration about the materials, energy, and time that went into making the product.

rareearthIf all of the previous points were not enough, I unfortunately have yet another thing to add: the consumption of rare earth materials. The phrase “rare earth materials” has been used frequently when discussing many technologically advanced designs, but what exactly does this phrase mean? Rare earth materials are 17 metallic elements, all of which have similar properties, as they reside in the same families within the periodic table of elements. The elements are: lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, lutetium, scandium, and yttrium [1].

While the general consumer may not hear about many of these individual elements, one thing is certain: They are vital to our current technologically-charged world. These materials are used in fiber optics, hybrid car batteries, x-ray units, magnets used in computer hard drives, and many other applications [2]. While many of us enjoy the applications of rare earth materials (REM), we may not be able to enjoy them for much longer. Since these materials are rare, it seems that we have currently depleted 95% to 97%, depending on which article you read, of the Earth’s REMs [3]. The rapid depletion of these materials becomes alarmingly more critical, since China controls most of the materials. More significantly, some reports have stated that China has been decreasing their REM exports and will completely stop them in 2012. (If you believe that the world will end in 2012, I am sure this news rings a very loud and alarming bell.)

While one may easily dismiss articles published by The Economic Collapse as pure paranoia, it is much harder to dismiss several claims by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). In April of 2010, the GAO gave a presentation, which is publicly available, titled “Rare Earth Materials in the Defense Supply Chain“. The report explains further information and details about rare earth materials, their applications, as well as possible solutions to the REM depletion.

Slide 16 of the GAO report lists other countries with rare earth material deposits. The list of countries includes the U.S., China, Australia, Brazil, India, Malaysia, and others. Furthermore, the report mentions that work new rare earth material mines needs to be begin. IndustryWeek reports of a mine in California that was previously used to mine REMs within the United States, but the mine’s Chinese competitors successfully drove the mine out of business. Naturally, an option under consideration is the re-opening of this new mine, which would take at least 3-5 years to become fully operational. In order to create a completely new mine, significant capital investment is needed in order to get the mine 100% operational in 7-15 years, according to the GAO. In the best case scenario, that leaves the U.S. and remainder of the world without REMs 1-3 years, or in the worst case scenario, this would be 5-13 years.

Some sources, such as the Natural News, suggest that we (the global, societal “we”) should recycle rare earth materials. After all, there is a significant market for recycling common metals such as lead, copper, and aluminum. The UN Environmental Programme has stated the importance of metals recycling. In fact, the UNEP has published a report stating current metal recycling rates and also explains the need for increased recycling of specific materials of interest. A press release from May 13, 2010, offers a brief summary as well as a link to the full text of the report.

If you read this post and all of its related links, you may start believing in the Mayan prediction for the year 2012. But the goal of this blog post is not to scare or stir people into a frenzy. Instead, the goal of this post is to inform and brainstorm! Because of this, I want to involve you, the reader. I want your input and feedback. What do you think can be done? Is increased mining the answer? Do we need to find new technologies for recycling these precious materials? Can the world’s brilliant scientists create new materials which would have the desired properties of rare earth materials? What other options can you offer?

While the technical questions are important, it is vital to also ask several social questions. For example, if you do believe in being eco-conscious, how much are you willing to give up in order to save these precious metals? Will you hold on to your computer, cell phone, or other device for 2-3 instead of 1.5 years, if it will save some rare earth materials which could be used in medical equipment that can save someone’s life? What are you willing to give up? And how much of it?

There are many more questions that I could ask, but I think these brain teasers should be enough. What do you think? I would love to enter a dialogue, not of “The world is ending!” but, “This is a problem, and here is what we can do”. Please, I invite you all, scientists, engineers, designers, environmentalists, students, consumers and everyone else to humor me for a few minutes. Let me know what you think about this subject!

Where do I recycle my old electronics?

Note: This post was written by SEI staff, Aida Sefic Williams.

During 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

Continuing the Conversation

Note: This post was written by SEI staff member, Amy Cade.

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

Note: This post was written by SEI staff member, Amy Cade.

The 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”