Replacing your iPhone? Think again before trashing it

With the unveiling of a new iPhone today, many of us are wondering what to do with the device we bought last year. But old cell phones aren’t the only problem. From Apple laptops to Zenith televisions, 20-50 million tons of electronic products are discarded annually, be they buried in landfills, burned in incinerators or recycled. Ensuring that they’re disposed of properly requires tracking items through the waste stream, which isn’t currently happening.

This problem inspired a recent Eco-Challenge: Working with IT leader EMC and online crowdsourcing portal InnoCentive, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) asked participants to help develop a scalable process or device that would allow organizations that produce electronic devices to follow the flow of discarded items through the waste stream to final disposal. Nearly 800 “Solvers” considered the problem, and more than 60 solutions were submitted. Three solutions were selected as winners and the Solvers split a $10,000 prize.

"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, and thanks to this contest we’re closer to a practical solution than ever before.

EMC plans to host brainstorming sessions with the winning Solvers to explore the synergies among their ideas, outline a potential proof-of-concept and ideally partner with them to move forward. The ultimate goal is to develop new solutions to improve e-waste tracking industry wide. EMC intends to share the winning ideas with its peers in the industry to help accelerate the adoption of more environmentally sustainable and innovative e-waste practices.

Learn more in our press release.