Three suggestions have won a $10,000 InnoCentive challenge to design a cutting-edge solution for tracking electronic waste in an environmentally sustainable way.
Of the more than 60 submissions, the following three will share the cash prize for helping develop a process or device that would allow electronics manufacturers to follow what happens to their products (e-waste) as they make their way through the waste stream.
- The use of a unique 12-digit code printed directly onto each subsystem component using passive radio-frequency identification ink
- The use of an electronic tag that combines identification codes printed on components with an online crowd-sourcing platform that together yield a holistic picture of where electronic components end up
- A tracking system that leverages a sheet of labels printed with unique, encrypted codes for each major component in the system. Similar to those used in the food industry, the labels would be applied to and follow subsystem components as they move through the disposal process.
InnoCentive says, “Using current processes and technologies, it is simply too difficult to measure the true destination of e-waste as it passes through the hands of downstream contractors who handle disposal and recycling. This Challenge seeks ideas for a scalable system (may include processes, devices, etc.) that will allow EMC to follow e-waste to final destination. EMC’s systems are large and complicated pieces of equipment made of sub-systems; this Challenge seeks a way to track individual parts and subsystems.”
The contest was made possible through the non-profit advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and data storage company EMC Corporation.
"Proper disposal of e-waste has been an ongoing issue for the IT industry with serious environmental and business impacts, such as public health, waste reduction and data security," said Namrita Kapur, director of strategy for EDF's Corporate Partnerships Program, in a statement to media. "The solutions discovered through this Eco-Challenge are another example of how we can use proven tools such as crowdsourcing to help unlock innovative ideas that lead to game-changing solutions for problems like e-waste."
EMC plans to share the winning ideas with its peers in the industry in order to help spur the adoption of more environmentally-sustainable management of e-waste .