ElectroniCycle increases e-waste recycling efficiency by creating an accessible digital electronic waste recycling collaborative platform.
Electronic equipment waste (e-waste) processing has a large environmental footprint and climate effect that has not yet been well quantified. There are normally two ways to deal with non-recycled e-waste. In the U.S., it often ends up in the landfill. In Asia, incinerators are commonly used to process e-waste. Neither solution is ideal. E-waste buried in the landfill contributes to greenhouse gases (GHGs) especially methane. Moreover, E-waste incineration could be extremely damaging to the environment because of toxins and GHGs fume emissions. Since the recycling rates for e-waste has been low and the volume of electronics has been increasing, facilitating an efficient way to recycle is critical in shaping a sustainable future and helping with the climate change conundrum. We believe the increasing efficiency of e-waste can contribute to a significant proportion of the tracked and non-tracked emission reductions.
We hope to integrate the following four features in our comprehensive solution:
Establish an open and accessible platform leveraging the current social media and professional networks. Different from the conventional models, we would like to be the facilitator that links consumers to the supplier and recycling communities.
Collaborate with manufacturers and retailers and hold them accountable for product supply chain transparency. We hope to work with the Office of Sustainability or Corporate Social Responsibility program to provide financial incentives and media support.
Mobilize people in taking actions and change their behavior through community involvement. Our volunteers and community representatives will organize ElectroniCycle competition, games, and local events.
We work with agencies that could make e-recycling the most efficient, including designing take back programs in conjunction with shipping companies and existing take back programs such as Reconnect.
Category of the action
Reducing emissions from waste management
What actions do you propose?
With the technical expertise of our core team members, we hope to establish a set of digital products as backbones for the platform. These include an interactive website that connects to social media, a location based mobile app that visualizes the recycling activities, and an online-gaming system that allows people to interact with peers and the broader e-waste recycling community.
There are several key actions we propose to support this cause:
1. Community Involvement
ElectroniCycle builds a bridge between consumers and local electronics recycling stations as well as established e-recycling programs such as Reconnect. Our platform helps consumers identify the most convenient and efficient e-waste recycling option. This is a crucial step for the project because we can learn how the existing program operates, identify opportunities and problems from current processes, and make improvements for the future.
2. Initiate/strengthen E-waste Programs
We believe electronics producers and retailers should actively take responsibilities for their supply chain environmental impact and product end-of-life (EOL) processing. Our partners include companies that produce greener digital products and are responsible for their product life cycle. We would like to initiate or engage with e-waste programs within the major technology companies such as Microsoft and Apple, and partner with the key mobile servers and electronics retailers, like AT&T and Best Buy.
3. Consumer Engagement
In order to encourage consumers’ behaviors on e-waste recycling, we propose to create a rewarding program in collaboration with e-waste advocacy groups and electronics recycling stations. The vendors will offer various types of discount and coupon for every product consumers recycle. This incentive program can vary based on the best interest of each store.
4. Leverage Mobile Technology Advancement
Mobile technology has been changing rapidly nowadays and provided services that are more convenient and interactive. We hope to shift consumer behaviors in e-waste recycling by leveraging mobile technology advancement. Our last action combines the three actions above and creates a mobile platform where consumers can easily identify electronics recycle station nearby and redeem the coupon and discount for their recycled electronics.
Who will take these actions?
These actions will be taken from our ElectroniCycle core team, our partners, and the local community.
The Team Portfolio
Lin Shi is a master candidate at Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies specializing in Energy and Environment. She is a passionate environmental professional aiming to develop open communication and integrative solutions to environmental problems. She is responsible for the strategic planning and market research of the project.
Roy Rao is an operation consultant for CGN & Associates. He has extensive experience in supply chain and operations management with leading manufacturing companies. He is responsible for public relations and community development for ElectroniCycle, including making connections for the national e-waste program and working with local vendors and communities.
Chris Johnson is a PhD Candidate in Computer Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has extensive experience in mobile app and website development. He is responsible for the design and technical support of the application and website.
We would like to create a partner network that involves existing e-recycling program, technology companies, shipping companies, and institutions. Supportive actions will be taken by our partners to maximize the e-waste recycling effort.
The local community will be a major action taker in this project. We want to help connect them to the national e-waste programs and encourage e-waste recycling behavior.
Where will these actions be taken?
The program will be initiated in the U.S. first. Ideally we hope to spread the program internationally.
What are other key benefits?
Help increase low metal recycling rates
There are over 40 metal elements in commonly used electronics such as computers and cell phones. The current end-of-life recycling rates of 32 out of 37 specialty metals (a group of metals that are increasingly used in electronics applications) have recycling rates lower than 1%.
Help with local environmental concerns
E-waste makes up 5% of all municipal solid waste worldwide. If the recycling process is poorly managed, there could be significant environmental and health risks, such as leachates and particular matter from dismantling activities, ashes and greenhouse gases from burning, and water contamination.
Help address social concerns related to outsourcing
Of all the e-waste in developed countries sent for recycling, a large percentage of e-waste has been sent to developing countries. The shipping process is often illegal and the wastes are often shipped to poor areas. Many of the places are lack of work standards and worker’s rights protection.
How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?
In 2010, the estimated carbon dioxide equivalent emissions reduction from Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) recycling has reached 186 million metric tons. We believe the increasing efficiency of e-waste can contribute a significant proportion of the tracked and non-tracked emission reductions.
What are the proposal’s costs?
The costs are associated with the timeline and specified as below.
The digital platform establishement of EletroniCycle is a 6-8 months long project. There are three phases: business planning with technology companies and local vendors, e-waste research and design, mobile app implementation.
Phase 1 (2-3 months): Business planning with technology companies and local vendors ($ 1500-2000)
In this phase, we hope to introduce ourself and establish partnerships with major technology companies and digital vendors. At the same time, we want to interview the local electronics stations, identify mutual interests and linkages between the local community and the national e-waste programs.
Phase 2 (1-2 months): e-waste research and design ($1,500 -2,000)
In this phase, we want to compile our interviews and research results. We would like to accomplish the digital and program design for ElectroniCycle.
Phase 3 (1-2 months): mobile app implementation ($1,000-1,500)
In this phase, we plan to build the beta version mobile app and collect the feedbacks from users and our partners.
U.S. EPA, Cleaning Up Electronic Waste (E-Waste), http://www.epa.gov/international/toxics/ewaste/index.html
U.S. EPA, Overview of Greenhouse Gases
U.S. EPA, Statistics on the Management of Used and End-of-life Electronics
Dell Reconnect Program, http://dellreconnect.com/
UNEP and The Global Metals Flows Group, “Assessing Mineral Resource in Society: Metal Stocks & Recycling Rates”, http://www.unep.org/resourcepanel/Portals/24102/PDFs/Metals_Recycling_Rates_Summary.pdf
Eric Williams, “International activities on e-waste and guidelines for future work”, United Nations University
Karin Lundgren, “The global impact of e-waste: addressing the challenge”, International Labor Organization
UNEP, “Waste and Climate Change: Global trends and strategy framework”
Electronics Takeback Coalition, “Facts and Figures on E-waste and Recycling”