OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign up, Login or Learn more

SAFETY is important too!

A dual function recycling bin for cellphone and battery to be placed in city buildings, and local stores. This concept is designed specifically for Champaign Urbana community to solve the safety problems of the current cellphone and battery recycling

Photo of DFA UIUC
6 16

Written by

Issues and opportunities:

City of Champaign doesn't not offer battery recycling program due to multiple reasons, including labour and cost, while City of Urbana has only 5 battery drop off locations.

After talking to the recycling coordinator, Courtney, at Urbana, our team discovered some issues with the current recycling bins that are used in Urbana, along with some design opportunities. "Even though I go pick up the batteries twice a week, I still see the batteries overflow. It is very dangerous when younger kids are around," said Courtney. She also expressed her worries in their cellphone recycling box at the city e-waste recycling events- "The box we are using now is just a cardboard box and I have to keep an eye on it to prevent people from stealing it getting very important personal information." Wiping out hard-drive is very time consuming and some people might not pay much attention before discarding their phones. With people out there trying to steal those information, she thinks that if the recycling bin can be more secure then it won't require as much attention, therefore they can increase the number of the drop-off locations.


DFA-UIUC came up with this idea to solve the safety problems by having a special-designed opening for dropping off (see image 2) to prevent anyone from reaching in to the bin. With the better security of the design, we can place these bins at more locations, including city buildings and local stores to reduce the chance of batteries overflowing. The screen on top of the bins are made out of old computers that are not able to perform complicated tasks. To make the behavior more interactive the screen indicated the volume of the items are currently in the bins. After looking at the current battery recycling bin in Urbana (see image 1), we think the transparent tube wasted the space to advertise the local e-waste recycling event and information (according to our survey, people who do not know about the program are more than 50%). In this design, we utilize the space on the bin to advertise the local recycling program allowing the residents to recycle other items properly. We also think that each bin can be sponsor by different company to reduce the cost of collecting, and advertise the company at the mean time.

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

Batteries and cellphone contain many chemicals that are harmful to human health and environment. However, in illinois state these two items are not included in the 17 electronics that are banned from our landfill. This concept not only prevents the chances of these items ended up in our landfill and makes recycling easier by increasing the drop off locations, but also creates a platform for the city to advertise and educate their residents about e-waste.

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

This concept is specifically designed to change the recycling behavior of the residents by bringing up the awareness of e-waste recycling. If we can make the information about e-waste easier to access (avoid the hassle searching online about recycling locations for different items, especially about batteries recycling) and educate people about e-waste using the advertising space on the bin, we believe we can bring up the awareness of e-waste recycling in the community.

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

We think that combining a very valuable item, cellphone, to the item with the least value, battery, makes it easier to convince companies to sponsor the bins. It can also help the companies to build up their reputation by going green. Our next step will be writing proposal to the city of champaign and Urbana to see how this concept can be taken to the next level as well as contacting local stores regarding sponsoring.
We will consider the possibility of using recycled material for the bins and how to actually implement old monitors/computers in this project.

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

Money will be the biggest issue regarding this concept because the cost of recycling batteries is very high. It depends on if the city of Champaign and Urbana will have enough funding for this program. The three solutions now include sponsorship from local companies, city government, or the University.

We also need labour to collect items from each locations and having companies sponsor each bin can easily solve this problem. If we are sponsored by the city government we can give out volunteers hours for those who need them to collect items.

For the technology aspect, we will need to have a computer science major student from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to program the old monitors on the bins.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Paul Reader

Another great initiative!
As mentioned in your exchange box concept you might need to include some of your ideas from here in that too.
I notice you think the transparent tube is a waste of advertising space. You could compromise on this by using two slim transparent areas on either side that would allow light into the space which of course would only be reflected out again from the empty volume (like kettle level indicators).
Utilising recycled e-waste in the bin manufacture would be a plus and a way for recycling firms to put goodwill back into the community. Generally I would think ABS would be suitable and might not have to be quite so highly refined. Alternatively they could be constructed from down-cycled plastic product from a range of sources.
Keep up the good design initiatives.

Photo of Paul Reader

Just an afterthought - there is a firm here that manufactures traffic bollards from ABS. Generally they are light weight but when necessary they can be filled or part filled with water for stability and to make them more difficult to steal. Some advertising flags use a similar principle. You might consider incorporating something like this.

Photo of DFA UIUC

Great thoughts, Paul! We really appreciate your feedback to our concepts. You always give us things to think about.

View all comments