Folks in the Champaign-Urbana, IL area, please note that the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore no longer accepts cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions and monitors. According to a ReStore representative:
“As of October 15, we no longer accept Televisions and Computer monitors (non-working) for recycling. At our discretion, we may accept fully-functioning television sets larger than 32 inches in diagonal screen measure, depending mostly on the space we have available to display and show the working condition of those units. We do not accept Console (cabinet) televisions or rear-projection units of any size. We continue to accept all non-CRT electronics such as keyboards, printers, fax machines and the like, working or not, for recycling.”
Happy P2 Week, from the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI), GLRPPR’s partner in creating a sustainable future! P2, or pollution prevention, is defined by the U.S. EPA as “reducing or eliminating waste at the source by modifying production processes, promoting the use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances, implementing conservation techniques, and re-using materials rather than putting them into the waste stream.” Source reduction is a key element in P2.
So let’s talk about source reduction as it relates to electronics, and more specifically, electronics consumers. Not everyone reading this post is an electronics manufacturer, electrical engineer, computer scientist, electronics recycler, or someone else who might be involved the design, production, or end-of-life management of electronic devices. But you are all certainly electronics consumers, scanning these words on the screen of your smartphone, desktop, laptop, tablet, or other device. Given that, the following are five ways we can all practice source reduction in one way or another as we choose and use the gadgets that support our work and play.
1. Buy EPEAT registered products. Originally funded by the US EPA, Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool, or EPEAT, is a searchable database of electronics products in certain categories, which is administered currently by the Green Electronics Council. EPEAT criteria are developed collaboratively by a range of stakeholders, including manufacturers, environmental groups, academia, trade associations, government agencies, and recycling entities. Criteria for current product categories are based upon the IEEE 1680 family of Environmental Assessment Standards (IEEE is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, also known primarily by its acronym). The criteria include attributes from throughout the product life cycle–i.e. throughout the stages of design, manufacture, use, and disposal, including such relevant issues as reduction/elimination of environmentally sensitive materials, and product longevity/life extension. The EPEAT registry currently includes desktops, laptops/notebooks, workstations, thin clients, displays (computer monitors), televisions, printers, copiers, scanners, multifunction devices, fax machines, digital duplicators and mailing machines. New products may be added to the registry in the future as criteria are developed for them.
2. Buy refurbished devices. Maybe you’re concerned about the environmental and social impacts of manufacturing electronics, such as mining, use of potentially hazardous materials, labor issues, energy use (did you know that most of the energy consumption in the life cycle of a computer is in its manufacture, not its use?). You might also worry about the ever growing mountains of e-waste that society is generating. The surest way to reduce all of those negative impacts is to reduce the number of new devices that are produced to meet our consumer demand. No, I’m not suggesting that we must all turn our backs on technology and join a commune. But if you genuinely need another device, or a replacement for one that finally gave up the ghost, remember you don’t have to buy something grand spanking new. And that doesn’t mean you have to take your chances shopping for used electronics, which may or may not end up functioning correctly, from some anonymous source on an online marketplace. Refurbished electronics differ from “used” electronics in a key way–they’ve been tested and verified to function properly. Often these are items that have been returned to a manufacturer or retailer because someone had a change of heart, or there was some defect found while the item was under warranty. In that case, the item could be like new, or is easily repaired, but it can’t legally be resold as new. So, once it has been checked for proper functioning and repaired if necessary, the item is designated “refurbished”–and sold at a discount. Refurbished items may also have been used as display units or even sent to an electronics recycler who determined that the device still functioned, or who returned it to full functionality through repair. Finding refurbished items is pretty easy. Ask the clerks at the electronics retail outlet if there are any refurbished items in stock. If you’re shopping online, most big electronics retailer web sites allow you to search for refurbished items in their catalogs, and may even designate them as “certified refurbished” devices, granting their personal assurance that they’ve thoroughly tested those items. And some independent electronics recyclers and asset management firms have their own online stores for selling items they refurbish. If you decide to go that route, start at the US EPA’s list of certified electronics recyclers to find responsible recyclers in your area, and check their web sites. You’ll rest easy knowing you extended the useful life of a device AND saved yourself some money compared to a brand new device.
3. Use multifunction devices. Another great way to reduce the number of devices you or your organization buy, and thus ultimately have to dispose of, is to use devices that can serve more than one purpose. Classic examples are devices that can perform various combinations of the following tasks: printing, copying, scanning, faxing, and emailing. Now “2-in-1″ computers are also popular–converting between laptop and tablet configurations through detachable keyboards or screen flipping and folding gymnastics. Besides reducing the number of devices being used, there’s also potential space saving, power saving, and cost savings to consider in favor of multifunction devices.
4. Use networking to reduce the number of printers in your home or office. Odds are your office already uses networking to connect multiple devices to one printer, but at home you might still have separate printers for the kids’ bedroom and the office space the adults use downstairs, for example. You can set up networking at home too, and you don’t have to be “technologically inclined” to do it. Check out Microsoft’s guide to setting up a network printer or this guide from About.com that can address non-Windows devices as well. And at work, even if you have to print confidential information, you can still use a network printer and not have your own machine by your desk, by using confidential printing options available on modern printers. See the University of Illinois guide to confidential printing, or this guide from Office to learn how. If these don’t exactly address the make and model of printer you have, search the Internet for “confidential printing” plus the brand of printer you have, and you’ll probably find the help you need.
5. Repair instead of replace. Again, this is not something only the “technologically inclined” can accomplish. We’ve been trained to think of our devices as both literal and figurative “black boxes” which run on magic by the grace of fickle technological gods, never to be understood by mere mortals. Nonsense. Not only can you likely find plenty of computer/technology repair services in your area (which is great for your local economy), you can actually perform repair yourself–I know you can. Check out the iFixit web site for example. They provide an online community for sharing photo-filled, easy to follow repair guides, not just for electronics, but for all sorts of things. Did your smartphone screen crack? Search for it on the iFixit site before you replace it. You might not only find the guide to show you how to fix the problem, but the new screen and the tools you’ll need to do the work as well, which will likely be cheaper than the new device you might buy otherwise. The folks at iFixit also like to assign “repairability scores” to devices, which can help you purchase items that are easier to repair, and thus keep around longer. Of course tinkering with your device might affect the warranty, if one still applies. Be sure you understand the terms of your warranties first. There are some discussions on the iFixit site related to warranties, and you might also be interested in their commentary on some of the controversy surrounding what is known as “the right to repair.”
Do you have other source reduction suggestions related to electronics? Feel free to share them in the comments section.
Residents of Champaign County, IL are lucky to have multiple options for recycling of unwanted electronics. See the Champaign County Electronics Recycling Guidefor the names and locations of local businesses that offer electronics recycling year-round, complete with contact information and any restrictions that apply.
Note that there are two local businesses, Best Buy at 2117 N. Prospect and Habitat ReStore at 119 E. University Avenue, which accept old cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions and computer monitors. Best Buy accepts up to 3 TVs per household per day in store for free, provided screens are less than 32 inches in diameter. For CRT TVs over 32 inches and flat panels over 60 inches, Best Buy will haul the devices away from a customer’s home for free, only if they purchase a new TV from Best Buy. If a purchase from Best Buy is not made, the recycling service is still available, but for a $100 fee. Habitat ReStore accepts televisions or CRT monitors if a voucher is purchased for in-store use at a cost ranging from $10 to $50 per television or CRT monitor recycled, depending on size. (Goodwill will accept only flat screen TVs that are in good working order.) See the Champaign County Electronics Recycling Guide for complete details. Recycling of CRT TVs and computer monitors is becoming more difficult. Susan Monte, Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, explains some of the reasons that electronics recyclers have stopped accepting TVs or tube monitors. “In Illinois, the statewide system for recycling and/or reuse of electronics items discarded from residences requires electronic manufacturers doing business in Illinois to participate in ‘end-of-life’ management of these electronic products. At this time, electronics manufacturers have met their pre-established quotas for pounds of electronics to recycle/reuse for the fiscal year, and they have stopped paying electronics recycling companies to recycle electronics items.” Televisions and cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors comprise nearly half of the electronics items brought to the residential collections. Expenses incurred by electronics recycling contractors to responsibly recycle televisions and CRT monitors far outweigh revenue. In fact, Champaign County had planned to host an electronics recycling collection events for residents on October 11, 2014, but that event has been canceled because of the cost issue for the recycling contractor now that the manufacturer quota has been met. Monte says, “If electronics manufacturers doing business in Illinois continue to meet early quotas for pounds of electronics items collected, we may potentially plan for one or two Countywide Residential Electronics Collections to take place in the Champaign-Urbana area next spring.” Be sure to check the county recycling guide to see if dates of upcoming events have been added (if so, they’ll be featured at the top of the document); alternatively you can always call the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission at 217-328-3313.
So be on the look out for county electronics collection events in the future, and in the meantime, check out the local business in the county recycling guide to avoid the lines. And if your device is unwanted rather than broken, or only slightly damaged, consider giving it a new home or repairing it before it’s sent for recycling. If you aren’t sure where or if you can recycle a device, you can also contact me at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center. I’ll help steer you in the right direction.
Many thanks to Susan Monte for the update on the county collection event and for the county’s press release, from which her quotes are taken. Mentions of businesses in this post are for information only and should not be construed as endorsements.
I’ve added information on the two current State laws requiring cell phone kill switches to the U.S. State & Local Legislation page. Minnesota was the first to pass such a law, in May 2014, and California just became the second a few days ago. Both laws will go into effect on July 1, 2015.
A kill switch is a means to render a device inoperable if stolen, the idea being that such a function would reduce the rising problem of cell phone theft. Pressure for such legislation has been on the rise as reports of violence tied to cell phone theft have increased and received media attention. Similar, voluntarily implemented functions have been previously made available by some manufacturers, leading some to say that legislation is unnecessary. Concern has also been expressed by opponents about whether such disabling technology could be used with ill intent with the manipulation of hackers, the example of law enforcement officers having their phones rendered inoperable in a crisis being offered as a worst case scenario.
As I point out on SEI’s federal legislation page, one potential outcome of proposed kill switch technology often ignored by the media and general public is the exacerbation of the growing e-waste problem. Kill switches are meant to render a device completely inoperable so that thieves could not reinstate the device’s capabilities. This means a perfectly functioning phone would be rendered useless, except as fodder for recycling and materials reclamation. That in itself has lead some to argue that kill switch legislation won’t work to thwart crime–as long as there’s some value, however minimal, for the materials included in what would then be an expensive paperweight, someone will be willing to steal the device, those with this viewpoint claim. For me, however, the broader issue has been the discouragement of reuse. Lots of materials and energy go into creation of our electronics–much more energy, for example, is expended in the manufacturing of electronics than is expended in their use. From a lifecycle perspective, it’s particularly important to extend the useful life of these devices. Would kill switch legislation, which may or may not end up discouraging crime, end up making it more difficult for useful products to be used to the full extent possible, I’ve wondered? What if someone misplaced their phone, had it deactivated, and then found it or had it returned by a Good Samaritan–only to find it useless? What if the authorities apprehended a thief and were able to retrieve and return a phone, again, only to leave the owner to the task of responsibly recycling and replacing it?
The encouraging thing about California’s legislation is that it requires that the “technological solution” to rendering the device inoperable upon theft be reversible, “so that if an authorized user obtains possession of the smartphone after the essential features of the smartphone have been rendered inoperable, the operation of those essential features can be restored by an authorized user.” How all of that will work, and work smoothly, remains to be seen. But this shows that legislators have heard concerns like the ones I expressed above from others, as well as arguments regarding hackers and terrorism, no matter how far fetched those might actually be, and have put some thought into countering unintended consequences.
At the end of the day, that’s what sustainability is really all about–trying to avoid and mitigate the unintended consequences of our actions and choices.
Extending the useful life of electronic products through reuse is an important step to take before recycling, if possible, because so much energy and resources (both natural and human) go into the production of electronics in the first place. You might immediately think of donating computers to schools, letting your child inherit your old smartphone, or replacing the cracked screen on your iPhone as ways to extend electronic product life. Those are all excellent examples, but Jackson and his fellow Makers have found a more creative way to give even the most obsolete electronics a new lease on life, turning them into fantastic looking musical instruments that create haunting sounds through truly ingenious interfaces. For example, in the following YouTube video, Jackson demonstrates the use of old hard drives cobbled together in a shape reminiscent of a keytar, hooked through an Arduino to sound generation software. The instrument has an old number pad for manipulating pitch.
I can’t help but think this project could encourage lots of people to both overcome their phobia of tinkering with electronics (thereby teaching them they really do have the power to repair) and consider, perhaps for the first time, the tragedy of sending sophisticated electronics to the landfill or recycling center before their time. And even those who aren’t technically inclined could enjoy brainstorming on such projects, because who doesn’t like music? Bravo, Makerspace Urbana! Maybe a new electronic music genre will emerge (Junktronica, perhaps?).
For those who are neither musically nor technically inclined, Makerspace Urbana also hosts another project than can extend the useful life of electronics. On Sundays from 2-4 PM, their Computer Help Desk provides “free personal computer diagnostic and repair services to the community.” Through “collaborative repair” folks learn to troubleshoot and fix their computer problems alongside an more experienced volunteer.
But Makerspace Urbana certainly isn’t all about electronic device-related DIY. Check out their web site for full information on all their projects and services.
In a previous post, I described a special topics course (ENG/TE 498) offered in collaboration with the College of Engineering and the Technology Entrepreneur Center this past spring at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, developed and taught by IL Sustainable Technology Center/Sustainable Electronics Initiative staff members. Entitled Sustainable Technology: Environmental and Social Impacts of Innovations, the class introduced impacts associated with technology at each stage of the product life cycle (design, manufacture, consumption, and disposal/recovery). Electronic products were used as a case study and to provide the framework for discussion of complex legal, economic, social, and environmental considerations.
Students in the course ranged from undergraduates to PhD students, and represented a variety of disciplines, including industrial design, materials science, electrical and computer engineering, civil and environmental engineering, industrial and enterprise systems engineering, agricultural and biological engineering, and accountancy. We were fortunate to have some distinguished guest lecturers join us for some of our classes, including:
Craig Boswell, President, HOBI International, Inc.
Wayne Rifer, Director of Research and Solutions , EPEAT & Green Electronics Council
Kyle Wiens, CEO, iFixit & Dozuki
Emily Knox, UI professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (speaking on Makerspace Urbana)
Lynn Rubinstein, Executive Director, Northeast Recycling Council and Program Manager, State Electronics Challenge
Carol Baroudi, Global Sustainability and Compliance, Arrow Value Recovery
Jason Linnell, Executive Director, National Center for Electronics Recycling (NCER)
Sriraam Chandrasekaran, Visiting Research and Development Engineer, Illinois Sustainable Technology Center
This is the first post in a series highlighting student projects that were completed in the course. Biplab Deka (graduate student in Electrical and Computer Engineering), Kevin Lehtiniitty (undergraduate in Electrical and Computer Engineering), and Elizabeth Reuter (graduate in Industrial Design) worked together on the “ISEC project option” and came up with NEO, a concept for a computer powered by discarded smartphones, for teaching computer programming to kids. Their project abstract is as follows:
“NEO is a recycled computer powered by a discarded mobile phone that can be connected to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard in order to create a low cost desktop computer with an operating system designed to introduce computer programming to novices. We have decided to aim it toward children and teens, seeing as the age at which Americans start to use computers is getting younger. It comes in a durable and translucent case made out of recycled plastic, allowing kids to interact with NEO and see electronics reuse at work. It comes preloaded with a simple to use operating system that can have kids coding in just minutes as well as sample programs, games, and challenges that gradually become more difficult to guide them in the world of software engineering. In addition to the physical product, NEO also connects to our web based education center that can be accessed through any browser. The center provides additional tutorials, in depth explanations of software engineering, help forums, and user submitted content and competitions that gamify the entire experience.”
Check out their video below. (Note: If you’re receiving this post in your email inbox and don’t see an embedded video below, click on the permalink title of the post at the top of the email message to view the post on the SEI blog site.) It’s a pretty impressive idea, if I do say so (as their instructor, I’m admittedly a bit biased). The three plan to develop the concept, so hopefully NEO will be available sometime in the future for use in your community. If you’re interested in contacting these students to learn more, or to provide support for their product development, email me, and I will connect you with them. Or if you just like the idea, or have suggestions or questions, leave some comments for them on YouTube.
See the previous post for the press release announcing the winners of the 2013 International Sustainable Electronics Competition, including project descriptions. The winning videos are featured on the competition web site and the SEI YouTube Channel. For your convenience, see the embedded player below. Congratulations to the winners and to all this year’s participants. You are all winners for considering the environmental and social impacts of electronic devices and for considering possible solutions to green various aspects of their product life cycles. Keep monitoring the competition and SEI web sites for information on future competitions or similar educational initiatives.
Contact: Joy Scrogum, Co-coordinator, Sustainable Electronics Initiative, ISTC, Champaign IL (217) 333-8948
NINE STUDENTS HONORED FOR FRESH IDEAS IN SUSTAINABLE ELECTRONICS
International Sustainable Electronics Competition Awards 2013 Winners
CHAMPAIGN, IL – (Dec. 6, 2013) Old smart phones don’t have to be doomed to silence in a drawer or a landfill. According to two winners of the 2013 International Sustainable Electronics Competition the phones can keep track of your cattle, or be tiled together to form large-scale electronic displays.
The Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) at ISTC has held the annual competition since 2009 to prompt dialogue about the environmental and social impacts of electronics and to contribute to the body of knowledge that advances the practice of environmentally responsible product design, manufacture, use, and disposal for electronics. The competition is open to college and university students and recent graduates.
E-waste Meets Farming, smart phones remanufactured as cow collars (Platinum, $3,000) Michael Van Dord, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia;
Mion, a multi-purpose dynamo lighting system (Gold, $2,000) Mikenna Tansley, Jiayi Li, Fren Mah, Russell Davidson, and Kapil Vachhar from the University of Alberta, Canada;
Cellscreen, a large scale display system made from old phone displays (Silver, $1,000) Sam Johnston, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia.
One platinum level ($3,000) winner was named in the Non-product Category (concepts valuable for artistic, educational, policy, or similar content):
ENERGENCIA, an educational program based on a children’s game kit encouraging the use of recycled materials and renewable energy concepts by Stephanie Vázquez and Pedro Baños of Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey Campus Puebla, Mexico.
“The world must find ways to end the tide of e-waste in the environment,” said Craig Boswell, U of I graduate and president of HOBI International, an ISO 14001 certified electronics recycling and asset management company. “This competition, and these brilliant young winners, help us advance the dialog about environmentally responsible product design, manufacture, use, and disposal of electronics,” he added.
Boswell was one of an expert panel of six judges consisting of industry professionals, recycling experts, and the competition founder, William Bullock, professor of Industrial Design, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The cash prizes were funded by donations from Arrow Electronics, Professional Field Services, and ISTC.
Other jurors were: Jason Linnell, executive director, National Center of Electronics Recycling; Bill Olson, director, Office of Sustainability and Stewardship, Motorola Mobility, LLC; Lynn Rubinstein, executive director, Northeast Recycling Council; and Kyle Wiens, CEO, iFixt and Dozuki.
Joe Verrengia, director of Corporate Social Responsibility for Arrow Electronics, participated in the ceremony, noting “We understand more than ever now that the end of life of all of those electronics is often very short. We need to come up with something better to deal with that. Competitions and incubators can develop those ideas that hopefully help the world, help Arrow, and maybe be a source of really smart new workers in the future.”
See below for a more complete description of the winners and their entries.
Platinum ($3,000): E-waste Meets Farming. This project tackles e-waste through the reuse of discarded but internally (circuit board and CPU) functioning smart phones in the manufacture of cow collars. A cow collar is a device worn by cattle on dairy farms which can store information about the individual animal wearing it. It can also send that information to a central hub to be backed up, and communicate with machinery on the farm so that the cow is fed correctly and milked for the correct amount of time, etc. Cow collars can warn farmers of sickness or other health concerns for individual animals by monitoring activity and conditions through the inclusion of a GPS and accelerometers. The advantage of reusing smart phones in cow collars is that all the necessary components are assembled in a very compact and highly functional way. The phone has GPS, accelerometers, wireless technology, printed circuit boards, and software compatibility. Furthermore phones damaged beyond the point of being internally functional can also be used for the manufacture of cow collars, by being recycled via normal streams. The resulting materials, such as plastics, can be used in the construction of casing and external collar components. This concept was submitted by an undergraduate in product design engineering, Michael Van Dord, from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia.
Gold ($2,000): Mion. Mion is a multi-purpose, dynamo-powered bike light for people living in disadvantaged communities. Their lack of an adequate source of lighting makes it difficult to perform evening tasks, including children’s studies, resulting in a significant barrier to human development. Mion is designed with consideration for the people living in these communities and who are lacking traditional furniture. Its organic form provides multiple lighting angles when placed on a flat surface, one focused and one ambient. This allows for optimal lighting, giving the user an option between more open or focused coverage. Mion uses the energy provided by a dynamo: a small motor that generates electricity using the propulsion of a bicycle wheel. The dynamo uses rotating coils of wire and magnetic fields to convert mechanical rotation into a pulsing direct electric current through Michael Faraday’s law of induction. In the long term, a dynamo is both cheaper and more ecological than a battery-powered system. When Mion is clamped onto the bike frame, it uses a direct energy source from the dynamo, charging its reserve AA batteries while also having the ability to provide light during the evening hours. Its detachable clamp allows the user to bring the lighting fixture wherever needed. In addition, the reserve, rechargeable AA batteries, may be removed and used within other products. These batteries become a significant object in themselves as the lack of reliable electricity can lead to other issues with day-to-day activities. Each part of Mion is made from recycled electronic waste. The internal components of the light and dynamo are repurposed parts from old electronics such as desktop computers, cameras, and cell phones (including LEDs, magnets, copper wire, and gears in the dynamo). Both the housing unit for the light and the dynamo casing are made of recycled plastics which can be reclaimed from electronic devices. Mion was submitted by a group of design students (Mikenna Tansley, Jiayi Li, Fren Mah, Russell Davidson, and Kapil Vachhar) from the University of Alberta in Canada.
Silver ($1,000): Cellscreen. The Cellscreen is a large-scale, coarse display intended to function as an advertisement or public display. The Cellscreen itself can be thought of as a tile which forms the base unit from which many different configurations can be made. Each tile is comprised of disused cell phone displays which form the display matrix. The premise is that a run of tiles can be produced from one set of screens at a time due to the large volume of cell phones that are disposed of. For example, there might be a range of tiles comprised entirely of iPhone 3g screens. Grouping screens by type is intended to circumvent any issues that might arise from display quality when mixing and matching screens from different manufactures and for compatibility. Cellscreen tiles comprised from older devices, such as early color screens, might be well suited to large scale advertising whereas those from newer devices with high pixel density and touch functions might be suited to other applications, such as information kiosks. Cellscreen is targeted toward manufacturers and suppliers of cell phones encouraging them to reclaim their obsolete products for reuse in a new product. Cellscreen was submitted by Sam Johnston, an undergraduate in product design from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia.
Platinum ($3,000): ENERGENCIA. ENERGENCIA is an educational program based on a game kit in which children can build their own toys using recyclable materials, reusable electronic devices, and renewable energy concepts to create projects that can move, turn lights on, etc. These projects employ reusable, reclaimed electronic components like small engines supplied in the game kit. The other recyclable materials like cardboard, cans, and plastic bottles can be obtained by children themselves to complete a project. Through the projects made possible by the game kit children learn about alternative energy sources and develop environmental awareness and positive environmental behaviors. The students who submitted this concept developed theories related to the ideal age range of children for which this kit would be effective, and they investigated these ideas through a hands-on workshop for children conducted in cooperation with teachers from schools at the American School of Puebla. This concept was submitted by undergraduates Stephanie Vázquez and Pedro Baños of Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey Campus Puebla in Mexico.
The Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the home of the State Scientific Surveys: Illinois Natural History Survey, Illinois State Archaeological Survey, Illinois State Geological Survey, Illinois State Water Survey, and Illinois Sustainable Technology Center. For over 160 years the Surveys have applied cutting-edge science and expertise to keep Illinois’ economy, environment and people prosperous and secure. www.prairie.illinois.edu
The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) was established in 1985 and joined the Prairie Research Institute with the other surveys in 2008. 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. www.istc.illinois.edu
Arrow Electronics is one of our Silver level sponsors for the 2013 competition. SEI spoke with Carol Baroudi, Global Sustainability & Compliance for Arrow Electronics, recently about what the company does and their thoughts on sustainable electronics issues.
SEI: Arrow’s corporate web site states that your company “provides specialized services and expertise across the product lifecycle.” Can you explain the services Arrow provides that relate to different stages of electronic product lifecycles, and how this relates to sustainability?
Carol Baroudi: Arrow provides specialized services and expertise throughout the product lifecycle beginning with product design all the way through to a products end of life, and everywhere in between. Throughout the product lifecycle, Arrow takes our role of “guiding innovation forward” seriously.
Starting at the very beginning of product life, Arrow ethically sources electronic components for major manufacturers. We also influence product design and work to improve efficiencies in production and logistics. Our ethical supply due diligence includes reporting to the UN Global Compact and Carbon Disclosure Project as well as adherence to Dodd-Frank for Conflict Mineral reporting.
In the aftermarket space, our Value Recovery group focuses on what might be considered a product’s end of life. We do our best to extend the usable life of electronics through repair and refurbishment, returning them for use as “redeployed,” sold or donated assets. When electronics are no longer serviceable, we harvest usable parts. Before sending non usable assets to be recycled, we de-manufacture them, breaking devices down as closely as possible to commodity materials that are in turn send to specialized downstream partners. We reclaim all materials to the extent possible and return the commodities to the manufacturing stream. No electronics are landfilled. No non-functioning equipment is exported. No child or prison labor is used. No electronics are incinerated except certain media where mandated by security policy. We maintain complete transparency of all materials. Arrow facilities are compliant with both the e-Stewards and R2/Rios standards.
SEI: What is Arrow doing to incorporate sustainability into its own operations?
Carol Baroudi: Arrow has a strong culture of ethical and responsible business practices. Our director of Corporate Social Responsibility oversees all aspects of our corporate responsibility strategy, including sustainability. And, our global green team is actively working to propagate best practices across the corporation in 56 countries.
For example, most of Arrow’s distribution centers have already incorporated low-energy lighting. We aggressively recycle materials that come into our distribution centers and carefully scrutinize our packaging to determine the most sustainable options.
Arrow’s Value Recovery centers maintain the highest environmental and data security standards for the processing of electronics. We repair and refurbish equipment that can be reused, including redeployment, resale or donation. Devices that cannot be repaired are harvested for usable parts before going through our Recycle IT Right® process, which de-manufactures equipment down to as close to commodity material as possible. These separated commodities are sent to certified downstream processors specializing in specific materials such as plastic, leaded glass, copper, etc.
SEI: In your company’s business experiences, have any issues emerged which clearly require further research, education, infrastructure, or policy to improve the sustainability of the end-of-life management of electronics?
Carol Baroudi: Currently, in the U.S. there is no federal regulation regarding the handling of end of life electronics. The inconsistencies between state regulations sometimes result in landfill dumping. Also, there’s evidence of illegal exporting of electronic waste and abuse of trust from unregulated recyclers that claim to be properly disposing of electronic devices. Europe has more broadly applied e-waste regulations, but these directives can be subject to interpretation. Around the world, emerging economies generally lack appropriate infrastructure for the reclamation of electronics, as well as the appropriate regulations. Overall, we need education, infrastructure and global policy to reverse the expanding tide of electronic waste.
SEI: Is there anything that electronics manufacturers could do to make your job easier? What about legislators?
Carol Baroudi: We encourage manufacturers to design with reuse in mind – using reclaimable materials, ease of separation, and reusable parts. We would welcome guidelines that make electronics easy to repair and repurpose.
SEI: What do you think is an example of an important fact about electronics management and distribution that consumers in general don’t realize?
Carol Baroudi: The biggest gaps lie in education. There is a lack of understanding of why it’s important to handle electronics properly – along with the environmental and data security implications.
SEI: What do you hope participants in the International Sustainable Electronics Competition will take away from the experience of entering the competition?
Carol Baroudi: We hope that tomorrow’s electronics and sustainability innovators will see opportunities to develop more sustainable electronics, from the design cradle to the end-of-life de-manufacturing process.
Thanks, Carol! See http://www.ewaste.illinois.edu/sponsors.cfm for a list of this year’s competition sponsors. Note that logos, links, and descriptions of services provided above are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as endorsements by the competition, the Sustainable Electronics Initiative, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, the Prairie Research Institute, or the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The Sustainable Electronics Initiative at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center is pleased to announce that registration is open for the 2013 International Sustainable Electronics Competition. Participants will explore ideas to address the social and environmental impacts of electronics, and contribute to the body of knowledge that advances the practice of environmentally responsible product design for current and future technology products. Entries can be made in one of two categories—“Product” and “Non-product”–with criteria that incorporate the ideas of reuse and prevention throughout. This allows for students of all disciplines to participate in ways to reduce the generation of electronic waste and extend electronic product life cycles.
Teamwork across disciplines, backgrounds, and ages is encouraged. One entry per person or team (5 person maximum) is allowed. The competition is open to current college and university students as well as recent graduates from universities around the world. Registration is free. Expert jurors award cash prizes to the top three projects in each category. The submission deadline is November 1, 2013 at 4:59 Central time. Winners will be announced on December 5th.
Entries must include an original video composition uploaded to YouTube, along with supporting materials uploaded to the registration page of the competition web site. See the competition web site, www.ewaste.illinois.edu for details on registration requirements.