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  • Old TVs Create Toxic Problem for Recycling Programs Across America
    Low commodities prices around the world are making life difficult for electronics recyclers, especially those struggling to get rid of toxic materials from obsolete television sets. The result: Old TVs being dumped in the trash or on the side of the road and e-recycling companies improperly disposing of them, including a Kentucky company caught last year burying old TVs and other electronics devices in a 10-foot-deep hole in a field. And that is bad news for the environment. Source: NBC News, 4/24/16
  • Phone, Everlasting: What If Your Smartphone Never Got Old?
    Alina Selyukh examines strategies to keep phones in service for longer, from fixing to smarter design, for NPR's "All Tech Considered.' Source: NPR, 4/25/16
  • Choosing to Skip the Upgrade and Care for the Gadget You've Got
    Many tech companies are trying to train people to constantly upgrade their gadgets -- part ways with a device, the argument goes, as soon as something newer and faster comes along. Vincent Lai of the Fixers Collective, and Kyle Wiens of iFixit, propose a different strategy. Source: The New York Times, 4/20/16
  • Researchers cook up new battery anodes with wild mushrooms
    Carbon fibers derived from a sustainable source, a type of wild mushroom, and modified with nanoparticles have been shown to outperform conventional graphite electrodes for lithium-ion batteries.

    Researchers at Purdue University have created electrodes from a species of wild fungus called Tyromyces fissilis. Source: Purdue University, 4/6/16

  • What Apple's reuse robot says about sustainability and tech
    Somewhere in between the technicolor iWatches, cheaper iPhones and revamped iPads, a relatively run-of-the-mill Apple i-device showcase Monday briefly veered into the company's vision for high-tech sustainability. The showstopper was "Liam," a robot capable of deconstructing used iPhones and removing component parts for reuse or recycling. Precious metals such as the silver present in the phone's motherboard, for example, could be stripped and re-purposed for solar panels, said Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives. But the window into Apple's massive product supply chain -- the company had sold 700 million iPhones alone as of last year -- also raises familiar questions about the role that consumer electronics companies play in encouraging a throw-away culture that perpetuates global issues such as e-waste. Getting used electronics back to manufacturers (and their robots) in the first place is no easy task. Liam also won't do anything for consumers who want to fix their iPhones themselves instead of buying a new one, nor the processors handling countless other gadgets on the market today. Source: GreenBiz, 3/21/16
  • IL: Electronics recycling may start costing Kane County residents
    If Kane County residents want convenient means to recycle their electronics, someone is going to pay more. And county officials are trying to position themselves to not be the bearers of that additional cost. It was only about a year ago that county residents had six options for electronics recycling. There were permanent drop-off locations in communities such as West Dundee and St. Charles. And the county hosted a countywide recycling event on the second Saturday of each month from April through November. After April 8, only the one-day, countywide events will remain. That's far less convenient, but it is still far more than most areas of the state offer, according to Jennifer Jarland, Kane County's recycling program coordinator. "We are one of only four Illinois counties with a program of any kind still remaining," she said. "No one will have permanent drop-off left by the end of April, including us." Source: The Daily Herald, 3/30/16
  • IL: Electronics recycling centers may close May 1-- or not
    Lake County residents with clunky TVs and outmoded computers may have only a few weeks left to drop them off at one of SWALCO's electronics recycling sites, including a location in Highland Park. SWALCO, or Solid Waste Agency of Lake County, announced March 4 that it planned to discontinue electronics collection at its five drop-off sites May 1 rather than continue subsidizing a program once fully financed by electronics manufacturers. Since the agency announced its decision, municipal officials in 10 towns have offered to contribute money to keep the program alive through the end of 2016, according to Walter Willis, SWALCO's executive director. The agency's board of directors may vote April 14 to reverse its decision, he said. Most electronics -- including televisions, monitors, computers and video games -- have been banned from Illinois landfills since 2012 under a state law enacted several years earlier. The law required manufacturers to purchase recycled electronics under a formula based on the weight of the products sold in Illinois. Because new electronics tend to be lighter than those consumers are discarding, manufacturers' buy-back requirements haven't been sufficient to cover the amount of electronics collected, according to SWALCO. Source: Chicago Tribune, 3/28/2016
  • What Apple's reuse robot says about sustainability and tech
    A robot that can take apart an iPhone is good for the visibility of green design, but it won't fix environmental ills such as e-waste. Source: GreenBiz, 3/21/16
  • Apple is first U.S. tech company to issue green bonds
    Apple frequently uses debt rather than its flush cash coffers to finance corporate initiatives, such as stock repurchase programs -- it makes sense to do so for tax reasons. But, the company's latest appeal to the public debt markets includes another "first" for Apple and the tech industry at large: Apple is issuing $1.5 billion in green bonds to pay for a wide range of environmental initiatives. The issue is the largest ever to be undertaken by a U.S. company. Broadly speaking, green bonds are specifically designated for projects that mitigate the effects of climate change. That rather vague description could cover anything from green building projects to renewable energy investments. Source: GreenBiz, 2/22/16
  • Learning the Alphabet: How schools around the country are turning dead Microsoft PCs into speedy Chromebooks
    Schools on a tight budget are giving new life to old devices with Neverware's Cloud Ready version of Chromium, the open-source version of Google's Chrome operating system. Source: The Verge, 2/17/16
  • EPA Study Finds Electronics Recycling Standards are Well Implemented and Makes Recommendations for Further Improvement
    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a study assessing the implementation of the two third-party certification programs for electronic waste recyclers in the United States. EPA's study found that the certification standards are being implemented by auditors with thorough knowledge of the standards. The study identified a number of strengths in implementation of the standards, such as clear and effective roles and responsibilities among the key implementers, and opportunities for constructive feedback integrated throughout the system. The study also offers recommendations for improving the overall effectiveness of implementation, including providing additional training and guidance materials in key topic areas, providing regular updates to the standards and increasing audit times to allow for more thorough audits. Source: US EPA, 2/4/16
  • How we got Fairtrade certified gold in the Fairphone 2 supply chain
    Smartphones contain dozens of minerals sourced from every corner of the globe, including gold, which is commonly used in printed circuit boards (PCBs) as well as other wiring and components due to its excellent conductivity. And of course, it's not only found in phones. Gold is an essential material in many of today's consumer electronics, and the electronics industry is the third largest consumer of gold worldwide, after the jewelry industry and financial sector. But the path that gold travels from the mine to your phone or other devices is often problematic, to put it mildly. To start, gold is one of the four conflict minerals identified by the Dodd-Frank Act. This means that gold has been known to finance rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Because tiny amounts of gold are extremely valuable, this mineral is also very prone to smuggling. Even outside of conflict and high-risk regions, gold mining poses a wide variety of social and environmental challenges, such as land disputes, sub-standard wages, unsafe working conditions, child labor and mercury pollution. However for many mining communities worldwide, it provides their main source of income and livelihood. For all of these reasons and more, Fairphone is extremely pleased to announce that it has reached a major milestone: Together with its partners, it has achieved the first-ever Fairtrade gold supply chain for the consumer electronics industry. Source: Fairphone Blog, 1/27/16
  • The Body Shop to turn greenhouse gases into plastic packaging
    The Body Shop packaging could soon be made from greenhouse gases that would otherwise pollute the atmosphere, thanks to a new research partnership between the retailer and cleantech firm Newlight Technologies. California-based Newlight is the proprietor of AirCarbon -- a thermoplastic that behaves the same as normal plastics but uses methane and carbon dioxide as its foundation rather than oil. The 'development partnership' between the two firms will see The Body Shop become the first company to try and industrialise AirCarbon in the beauty industry. Aircarbon is currently used by Dell in its laptop packaging. Carbon emissions are captured from farms, landfills and energy facilities and then fed into a reactor, where the fumes are catalysed by enzymes and turned into a substance called AirCarbon. This is then cooled and sliced into plastic pellets which can be moulded into almost anything. Source: Edie.net, 2/2/16
  • Why Best Buy Changed its E-Waste Recycling Program
    Best Buy this week changed its in-store e-waste recycling program, charging customers $25 for each TV and computer monitor they recycle at its stores, because it is losing money on the program.In Illinois and Pennsylvania, Best Buy says it no longer recycles TVs and computer monitors because of state laws preventing the retailer from collecting fees to help run the recycling program. Best Buy says consumers can continue to recycle all other products -- such as batteries, ink cartridges, computers and printers -- for free at all of its stores. Source: Environmental Leader, 2/3/16
  • OH: Proposed Medina Waste Mall could rejuvenate recycling efforts in the county
    Officials from Medina County's three cities are intrigued by a proposal that would turn the former Central Processing Facility into a one-stop shop for mixed-waste recycling and upcycling. The Optiva Group presented its plan to create the Medina Waste Mall at a joint meeting of the Medina, Brunswick and Wadsworth city councils at Medina City Hall last night. Edmund Kwiecien, president and CEO of Optiva, explained that the waste mall would take residential garbage and transform it into recyclable materials, energy and new products -- all at the former CPF site. Kwiecien said the waste mall would be the first of its kind in the United States. "The recycling market is volatile. And the handling of waste is expensive," he said. That's why Optiva wants to keep its operations all under one roof, so that it can move the waste once, process it, make useful products out of it, then sell those products. Source: Cleveland.com, 2/2/16
  • IL: Burdened by electronics, St. Charles eyes ending recycling program
    ST. CHARLES -- The last of the Tri-Cities is on the verge of ending its electronics recycling site for Kane County due to an inundation of materials, which staff said is not only creating a burden on employees but is also posing safety concerns. Source: Kane County Chronicle, 1/27/16
  • Epson Develops the World's First Office Papermaking System that Turns Waste Paper into New Paper
    Seiko Epson Corporation has developed what it believes to be the world's first compact office papermaking system capable of producing new paper from securely shredded waste paper without the use of water. Epson plans to put the new "PaperLab" into commercial production in Japan in 2016, with sales in other regions to be decided at a later date. Businesses and government offices that install a PaperLab in a backyard area will be able to produce paper of various sizes, thicknesses, and types, from office paper and business card paper to paper that is colored and scented. Source: Seiko Epson Corporation, 12/1/15
  • Testing their metal: The new tech sector focus on conflict minerals
    Intel made tremendous strides over the past seven years in eliminating so-called conflict -- aka "blood" -- minerals from much of its product line. But even though it has pretty much met its own commitment, don't expect the microprocessor giant to back off its awareness campaign. Now, Intel is encouraging other tech organizations to become far more aggressive about shunning tin, tantalum, gold and tungsten mined from unverified sources in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Source: GreenBiz, 1/20/16
  • How HP and Dell are reducing the toxics in their electronics
    Around the world, electronics companies are working to reduce their use of chemicals that are known to be hazardous to human health, the environment or both. Source: GreenBiz, 1/20/16
  • Children as young as seven mining cobalt used in smartphones, says Amnesty
    Children as young as seven are working in perilous conditions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to mine cobalt that ends up in smartphones, cars and computers sold to millions across the world, by household brands including Apple, Microsoft and Vodafone, according to a new investigation by Amnesty International. The human rights group claims to have traced cobalt used in lithium batteries sold to 16 multinational brands to mines where young children and adults are being paid a dollar a day, working in life-threatening conditions and subjected to violence, extortion and intimidation. More than half the world's supply of cobalt comes from the DRC, with 20% of cobalt exported coming from artisanal mines in the southern part of the country. In 2012, Unicef estimated that there were 40,000 children working in all the mines across the south, many involved in mining cobalt. Source: The Guardian, 1/19/16
  • The Burning Truth Behind an E-Waste Dump in Africa
    During the last decade, some of the world's most respected media organizations have transformed Agbogbloshie into a symbol of what's believed to be a growing crisis: the export--or dumping--of electronic waste from rich, developed countries into Africa. It's a concise narrative that resonates strongly in a technology-obsessed world. There's just one problem: The story is not that simple. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, 85 percent of the e-waste dumped in Ghana and other parts of West Africa is produced in Ghana and West Africa. In other words, ending the export of used electronics from the wealthy developed world won't end the burning in Agbogbloshie. The solution must come from West Africa itself and the people who depend upon e-waste to make a living. Source: Smithsonian Magazine, 1/13/16
  • A Brilliant MIT Invention Makes Incandescent Bulbs As Efficient As LEDs
    An energy-saving light bulb containing LEDs uses up to 80% less energy and lasts up to 25 times as long as a traditional incandescent bulb. There's just one problem: many people think that the quality of light coming from an LED bulb feels less natural. A new innovation from MIT might help consumers get the best of both worlds, bringing the incandescent bulb closer in line with the energy efficiency of LED lights while maintaining its homey glow. Source: Fast Company, 1/13/16
  • The Conflict-Free Effect: Better for Society, Better for Business
    At the Consumer Electronics Show, the CEO of Intel announced that the company is moving beyond microprocessors to validate its broader product base as conflict-free in 2016. Carolyn Duran, supply chain director and conflict minerals program manager for Intel, explains. Source: Triple Pundit, 1/7/16
  • Millions of people being contaminated with toxic mercury used in mines
    The largely unregulated use of mercury has created a major worldwide environmental hazard. Source: CBC, 12/30/15
  • China's Notorious E-Waste Village Disappears Almost Overnight
    Just days after the Dec. 1 order for all 3,000 remaining unregulated electronic-waste workshops to move to a newly built industrial park or face power cuts, the smell of burning plastic from the few waste fires smoldering on the roadside still hangs heavy in the air around Guiyu. Yet the visual reminders of the notorious village are largely absent. Source: Bloomberg BNA, 12/16/15
  • Colorado State Chemists Develop Recyclable, Biodegradable, Petroleum-Free Plastic
    Chemists at Colorado State University (CSU) have developed a new biodegradable polymer. The plastic is made from the bio-renewable monomer Gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) and it converts back to GBL when heated -- ready for reuse. The new material, called poly(GBL), could represent a fully recyclable and biodegradable alternative to petroleum-based materials. Source: Sustainable Brands, 12/15/15
  • California reaches $26-million settlement with Comcast over electronic waste
    Cable television giant Comcast Corp. has agreed to pay the state of California $25.95 million to resolve allegations that the company unlawfully disposed of electronics, including remote controls, modems, splitters and routers. California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris and Alameda County Dist. Atty. Nancy E. O'Malley on Tuesday announced the settlement with Comcast. The company, based in Philadelphia, had been "careless" in disposing materials that are considered hazardous waste, Harris said in a statement. The state's investigation showed that, since 2005, Comcast warehouse and dispatch workers in Northern California had unlawfully disposed of electronic equipment by sending it to local landfills. The investigation began four years ago. The probe also found that Comcast had not taken proper steps to shield private information about customers when it destroyed some subscriber records. Source: Los Angeles Times, 12/17/15
  • The Killer App for 3D Printing? The Circular Economy
    3D printing is currently a niche technology -- but it has the potential to help us completely alter how we use and reuse materials to make custom goods. As a technology, it offers three factors that define sustainable systems: (1) materials parsimony, (2) power autonomy, and (3) value cycling. Guest editor Gregory Unruh explains how 3D printing represents a sustainability game-changer. Source: MIT Sloan Management Review, 12/8/15
  • How Do We Define 'Electronics' for Recycling?
    When we in the United States think about electronics recycling programs, we usually consider "electronics" to include common household devices like TVs, computers, monitors and printers. But other jurisdictions have a broader understanding of what "electronics" or used electronic equipment should be, and the other products that encompasses may be more common for programs in the future. Source: Waste 360, 11/25/15
  • Apple, Adidas have 'greenest' supply chains in China
    Apple, Adidas and H&M have the "greenest" supply chains among the 167 brands evaluated by the Corporate Information Transparency Index (CITI) (PDF), a system for assessing companies' sustainable sourcing practices. Jointly developed by Chinese nonprofit Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), CITI analyzes companies' supply chain environmental management in China based on government-issued and public data on suppliers contracted by evaluated brands over the past year. Communication records from 1,607 suppliers that expressed relationships to 86 brands also were evaluated. Source: GreenBiz, 11/18/15