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Farmers' Market "(e)waste not" Booth

"(e)waste not" is a booth at farmers' markets where people can learn about the hazards of e-waste and electronics production, how to responsibly dispose of their electronics, and how to reuse, repair or repurpose them.

Photo of Carol Shu
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Introduction

A significant hurdle to overcome is educating people about e-waste and its environmental and human health-related issues. If people are well informed they’re better equipped to make thoughtful decisions regarding the use (hopefully extended use), disposal, and reuse of unwanted electronics.


Proposal

My school, UC Davis, has electronic waste recycling bins for batteries, cd’s, and cell phones but the bins don’t provide any information about e-waste hazards. Out of sight, out of mind! They keep e-waste out of landfills but they aren't a comprehensive enough solution. The town of Davis has a beloved farmers’ market two times a week and the crowd is extremely culturally and socially diverse. Given the popularity of farmers’ markets, they’d be great places to set up an interactive and informative booth where people could learn about electronics recycling and reusing, as well as reducing their electronics consumption. As Sabine pointed out in her Battery Collection inspiration post, it's easier for people to drop off e-waste at a location that they already regularly visit - therefore the booth would also serve as a drop-off spot for unwanted electronics. A fun, quick, and easy activity for people to repurpose old electronics would engage people and give them something to take away as a reminder of responsible e-waste usage, disposal, and re-usage. The booth would be transportable, easily put up and taken down, and also replicable so volunteers could host one at any farmers’ market.


Logistics

The booth would be part of regular weekly farmers' markets. Some cities have farmers' markets twice a week; Davis has them on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings but during the late fall and winter the Wednesday crowd isn't as robust. Saturdays are popular all-year round so the booth would be part of the Saturday markets but we could host occasional special events on the other market days.

The general schedule would be:

1st Saturday of the month - swap party: people bring electronics that they want to exchange or donate. They fill out a little form stating the condition of the item and the form is taped to the item so people know if it’s useable. Any leftover items will be disposed of appropriately. >> building on Paul's comments about making a Repair/Swap/Trade/Recycle community and Guilherme’s Electronics Trade Club (making it physical and not just online-based); inspired by Thao Vo's inspiration post, Swap-O-Rama-Rama, for a different challenge (http://tinyurl.com/968ed5z)

2nd Saturday of the month - repair party: volunteers teach people how to repair their electronics. We’ll supply the tools! We’ll recruit skilled volunteers by teaming up with repair organizations (like the Fixit Clinic - http://www.facebook.com/FixitClinic) and seeking out volunteers from the community. In Davis, for example, UCD students in engineering or other tech majors could volunteer at the repair parties. Repair services would be free of charge and people will learn how to diagnose and fix their own electronics. >> building on Janet’s wonderful comment about pop-up repair parties & her suggestion to team up with the Fixit Clinic; also building on Kelly Hering’s DIY Recycling Community concept and teaching people how to fix/repair/modify their electronics safely.

3rd Saturday of the month – reuse workshop: volunteers will lead DIY reuse workshops and show people how they can repurpose their broken electronics into fun new things. We’ll supply the tools needed and the repurposing materials. We’ll recruit creative volunteers by teaming up with reuse organizations (like Aggie ReStore in Davis, or East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse in Oakland) and seeking out volunteers from the community. The workshops would be free of charge and the materials would be donated by the local reuse organizations or purchased at thrift stores. >> building on Kelly’s idea of teaching people how to modify their electronics safely to avoid exposure to hazardous materials.

Last Saturday of the month: We will co-host a special large e-waste collection with the local waste removal service. People can drop off items such as microwaves or fax machines and the waste removal service will pick everything up afterward for responsible disposal.

Every Saturday: People can recycle their unwanted electronics*, learn about e-waste, see clever and creative examples of repurposed electronics, ask volunteers questions, and get information about local repair services and our partner organizations. The booth would also have an educational toolkit people can pick up and a list of useful online websites like the Story of Stuff, the Good Guide, and iFixit. >> building on Guilherme Negri's The Life of your Phone concept (http://tinyurl.com/9gp254s) and the need to educate people on how to shop more wisely when purchasing electronics. Also building on Meena Kadri’sNeighbourhood E-waste Champion concept (http://tinyurl.com/9axd6jw).

*Important note: The size limit for electronics at the swap and repair events would be something manageable for a small space - nothing bigger than 2' x 2' x 2' and nothing heavier than 30lbs. After visiting the Cool Davis booth (Davis’ community sustainability initiative) at the Farmers' Market and getting feedback from them (they advised against weekly large e-waste collection because it would require a large vehicle for pick-up), I've updated the size and weight limits for regular e-waste recycling to also be 2' x 2' x 2 and under 30 lbs.


Publicity & Outreach

We'll have a Google Calendar (see image) and Facebook page to keep people updated on events. We would post relevant links to news stories, other e-waste and repair events, and DIY projects on our Facebook page, all helping to establish the "(e)waste not" booth/organization as an important part of the local community. Pairing with Meena's Neighbourhood E-waste Champion concept, we would create an educational toolkit with a summary of the information at the booth. It would be posted online and we would also have print copies at the booth that people can take to share with their friends, clubs, organizations, offices, etc.


Potential Funding

1. Apply for grants - in the US, one good opportunity is the EPA's Environmental Education Regional Model Grant (http://epa.gov/education/grants/)

2. Donations from repair services - From my previous experiences tabling at community events, I've noticed that people who attend are pretty open to contributing to causes that directly benefit the community. After the initial financial investment in tools and workshop materials, booth maintenance costs would be low (basically just replenishing supplies & buying materials for workshops) so even a small number of donations would make a big difference.

3. Donations from reuse workshops

4. Local waste removal services, local city governments, or recyclers - Mutually beneficial partnerships; they may provide a little bit of funding for the booth.


Reuse Project Credits

January: Ryan McFarland of www.zieak.com; http://www.instructables.com/id/Wallet-made-from-a-computer-keyboard/

March: Nidhi Sinha; http://www.styleguru.com/entry/bracelet-telephone-wire/

April: Diaphane; http://www.instructables.com/id/Notebook-from-old-Floppy-Disks

May: Jayefuu; http://www.instructables.com/id/Magnetic-Mouse-Whiteboard-Wiper

June: brucedamose16; www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Recycle-an-old-dead-cable/

August: happy_mac; www.instructables.com/id/IDE-Bookmarks-New-life-for-old-cables/

September: Scrapdash; http://scrapdash.blogspot.com/2008/03/cd-coasters-tutorial.html

October: inspired by Diane Gilleland's project - http://www.craftstylish.com/item/43650/crafting-with-vhs-tapes/page/all

November: inspired by imanalchemist's project - http://www.instructables.com/id/E86165FIENERIE2PV6/


Some excellent resources:
http://science.kqed.org/quest/2011/07/05/giving-old-electronics-a-new-life/
http://inhabitat.com/electronics-recycling-101-tips-to-repurpose-old-electronics/
http://www.electronicstakeback.com/home/

How does your concept safeguard human health and protect our environment?

The goal of the booth is to empower people to make better decisions about e-waste – people would learn the hidden environmental and social costs of electronics and the benefits of extending the lifetimes of their current electronics. During repair parties and reuse workshops people would learn how to fix and repurpose broken electronics safely. During swap parties people would exchange electronics instead of throwing them away, thereby extending the life of the items. Lastly, the “(e)waste not” booth would have a collection box to keep electronics out of landfills.

Where does your concept fit into the lifecycle of electronic devices?

My concept gives people information about the true lifecycle of electronic devices – from hazardous and exploitative manufacturing practices to toxic chemical leaching when the products end up in landfills. In addition to telling the story of e-waste, my concept also provides people with approachable solutions that they can use in their everyday lives, from ways to repair products to eliminating the idea of “disposable” and trendy electronic products.

What steps could be taken today to start implementing your concept?

1. Contacting farmers’ markets and cities would be the first step! Websites like the CA Federation of Certified Farmers' Markets let you find markets by city, county, region, or or operator (http://www.cafarmersmarkets.com/index.cfm). 2. The next step would be contacting the local waste collection agency (like Waste Management) or other responsible recycling organizations (like Green Citizen - http://www.greencitizen.com/) to work together on disposing of the collected electronics. 3. We would then need to make the booth displays. Everything could be made of found or repurposed materials, making them extremely low cost (and more fun to create). 4. The basic booth model can be used at any farmers' market so setting up the repair parties and reuse workshops would just be a matter of establishing relationships with local resources and collaborating with local community organizations.

What kinds of resources will be needed to fully implement and scale your concept?

Booth display: We would need the materials - a large table (could be found used), some sort of sturdy but lightweight board to post information on, the graphics/information posters, and something to collect the e-waste (an old bucket, a used wine crate, etc). The board could be reclaimed from many sources, it could even be a slightly damaged piece of plywood that a hardware store can't sell. Repair parties: We would need the tools - a drill, screw drivers, etc. - which could be found used. We would need to build partnerships with local repair organizations and/or solicit skilled volunteers. Reuse workshops: We would need the tools - scissors, glue, etc., and the used materials (which could be donated from a local thrift store or reuse organization). We could also use the broken electronics that people drop off! We would need to build partnerships with local reuse organizations and/or solicit crafty DIY'ers to volunteer to teach the workshops. Farmers' Markets application fees: Some markets charge a small application fee (Davis Farmers' Market is $20 for 1 yr) and other markets do not allow non-food organizations to participate in the market but do allow them to set up in designated "Free Speech" areas for free. We would also need to build partnerships with the local, regional, or state farmers' market organizations (for example, the CA Federation of Certified Farmers' Markets or the Federation of Massachusetts Farmers' Markets), the local city government, and the local waste removal company in order to coordinate efforts and develop the e-waste program together. We would need volunteers to set up and take down the booth and monitor the once-a-month large e-waste collections. Volunteers would also prep for the regular monthly events - advertising them on various social media outlets and prepping materials for reuse workshops. Since each event (swap, repair, reuse, large collection) only happens once a month, it's much more manageable as a volunteer-run operation. Since the booths are low cost & low risk initiatives with low barriers to operation I think it would be extremely feasible to start some pilot booths in select cities and refine/rework from there!

My Virtual Team

Meena Kadri Paul Reader Janet Gunter

25 comments

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Photo of Janet Gunter

We are having pop-up repair parties in London - we've tried pubs and community libraries, but we are seriously considering popping up in farmers markets. Those who attend are mostly transition towners and freecyclers, both groups probably frequent the farmers market. Good idea.

You could link with the Fixit Clinic in California https://www.facebook.com/FixitClinic

Photo of Carol Shu

Pop-up repair parties are a great idea! I think they'd be really successful at farmers' markets too. There's a popular repair cafe in Amsterdam - another great example of local & community-based efforts (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/09/world/europe/amsterdam-tries-to-change-culture-with-repair-cafes.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all). Thank you so much for the link to the Fixit Clinic!

Photo of Paul Reader

I love the conceptual linkages here that could translate into a great network, not only for repair but linked into the general recycling process for non-repairable/re-usable items and also into things like Guilherme's Electronics Trade Club ( http://www.openideo.com/open/e-waste/concepting/electronics-trade-club/ ) in fact that might become a
Repair/Swap/Trade/Recycle community both physical and networked with an online presence - perhaps a morph between these and Kelly Hering's DIY Recycling Community ( http://www.openideo.com/open/e-waste/concepting/build-a-diy-community-to-recycle-e-waste/ )

Photo of Carol Shu

Yes, reuse/repair/trade (how about bartering too)/recycle community that's both physical and online would reach the most people!

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Love this idea about the secondary market but also the community around it. It has the immense participatory energy of fevered clothing swaps and revenge of the nerd hack-a-thons. For consumers, it makes re-use cool and stylizes re-use with the antihesis of lame: social cache. Thanks!

Photo of Carol Shu

Thanks, Jenny! I agree, I think it's really important to get rid of the negativity around reusing and repurposing and to make people see that buying used & using used is creative, cool, and hip :) Targeting e-waste is especially important because new electronics are so hyper-advertised.

You've given me another idea, clothing swaps at Farmers' Markets..off topic from e-waste but so much potential for greatness!!

Photo of Paul Reader

Hi Carol,
You might like to see what Sims Recycling in Sacramento
( http://us.simsrecycling.com/ ) could offer by way of recycling collection - they might even provide some transport (like an E-Cycle truck) and some information about what will happen to products that are collected. I only suggest them because they operate world-wide so they were easy to find but I guess partnering with any recycling company that is R2 compliant would be suitable - possibly different firms in different locations.

Photo of Carol Shu

Hey Paul, thanks so much for the Sims Recycling rec! I've never heard of them but they sound awesome - they'll send trucks out for recycling events! Strategically, if a good partnership was formed it'd be great to set up farmers' market booths near each of their recycling facilities for a lower transportation carbon footprint.
Another way to find responsible recyclers is searching B Corporation's website (http://www.bcorporation.net/).

Photo of Paul Reader

Thanks for B Corporation link - here is a link to R2 Solutions with an interesting EPA anecdote. R2 is an internationally sponsored standard and R2 Solutions maintains a list of R2 Certified recyclers too. I notice Sims is included but not Sacramento - I suspect their involvement may be with other materials Sims grew from a metal/foundry recycling base.

Photo of Paul Reader

Oops - here is the link LOL - http://www.r2solutions.org/news/2012/08/10/articles/epa-challenges-oems-and-retailers/

Photo of Meena Kadri

Great discussion guys – digging all the knowledge being shared amongst our switched-on, global community!

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