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Mint for e-waste management - What's my electronic footprint?

Empowering responsible e-waste management on an individual level through transparent reporting and clear assessment of disposal options.

Photo of DeletedUser
19 18

Written by DeletedUser


CUSTOMER PROBLEM
From a customer perspective, these are problems / issues that could be addressed by this concept:

    A)  Help me reach overall sustainability in my individual footprint

    B)  I wish I could easily maximize the value of my old electronics - through salvage, donation, tax breaks, etc


PROPOSED SOLUTION
What if there were a Mint.com style dashboard where users have a view to their entire electronic inventory, what that inventory means in terms of sustainability (each smartphone has an LCD, lithium-ion battery, circuit board), and multiple options for managing/discarding their old electronics.

This is a bit of a spinoff from "Gaming for E-Waste Behavior Change", based on the premise that giving users information about their actions and the effect of their actions can help them change their behavior.


USER SCENARIO
Roberta has a collection of old laptops and phones that she would love to get rid of, but she's hesitating because she's heard that some parts of the laptop can be harmful.  She's not sure, but she has a discomforting feeling that simply tossing them out would be wasteful and perhaps irresponsible.

She's heard from a friend that there exists a website that can help her find disposal options quickly and easily. 

Roberta finds the website, registers, and finds that she first needs to add her electronics information to the site.  To her delight, she sees that she can simply take a picture of her electronics pile, and the site will automatically identify and catalog the items for her.

The site takes a moment to compile the information, then shows her a listing of all her devices.  She's also intrigued by a "sustainability score".  As she clicks for more detail, she gets an overview of the e-waste components in her inventory, their impact on the environment, how she compares to the average person in her area.

Roberta also sees that she can actually add all of her current electronics and when she does this, she is taken aback by the sheer volume of electronic components owned by her and her family, and the potentially harmful impact it can create.  

What she really likes about the site however, is that for each device she is able to retrieve multiple options for getting rid of them.  When she looks at the details for her old laptop, she sees the resale value, tax break for donation, or a micro-donation site where she can choose the recipient of her laptop - a village school seeking wireless computers for their remote classroom.

Each of these options raises her sustainability score, provides a responsible way to recycle her device, and provides some monetary value.  As she is about to logout, the site also offers to post her sustainability score online, and an option to encourage her friends to join the site, find out their sustainability scores, and how to maximize the disposal of their old electronics.


PRODUCT DETAIL

    INPUT - What would be a seamless way for users to input their devices?
        -  Type in model numbers
        -  Take a picture, upload, and let the system recognize
        -  Allow the system to automatically read credit card and receipt information to                     collect devices purchased
        -  Devices have QR codes on them, scan the QR code with phone to upload device to the system
        -  Others?

    INFORM - What information would be useful for people to know?
        -  Types of raw or dangerous materials found in devices
        -  Impact of materials on environment (length of time to dissolve, CO2 amount)
        -  E-device diary, trends, goals
        -  Personalized sustainability score or metric
        -  Average scores of peers

    ACT - What actions can I take to optimize my individual e-footprint?
        -  Recycle - nearest recycling center; one-click pick-up
        -  Reuse - donations, peer-to-peer lending/donating
        -  Resell - resale values and integrated retailers
        -  Tax break information for taking any of these actions
        -  Recommended types of devices for future purchase


ISSUES ADDRESSED
    -  What are the different disposal options available to me? Are electronics really that harmful, should I just throw them out?
  -  What is my e-waste score or footprint?
  -  How does my ewaste footprint compare with neighbors?
  -  How long until I achieve sustainability?
  -  How are my purchase and discard choices affecting the environment?
  -  What is the location of the nearest recycling center
  -  What is the value of the device in the secondhand market
  -  Others?

(Apologies, I know Mint.com is a US-centric reference. For those that may not know, a brief description - "Get a handle on your finances the free and fast way. Mint does all the work of organizing and categorizingyour spending for you. See where every dime goes and make money decisions you feel good about.")


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

Transparency, clarity, accountability - The objective would be to allow users to gain insight into their e-waste, the effect it can have, and have a choice on how to manage their overall e-waste footprint. In the short term, consumers will gain increasing awareness about the impact of their immediate e-waste choices, and offer responsible methods on how to dispose of their devices. Ultimately, however, the increased understanding and more holistic view of the individual footprint has the potential to guide consumers into making wiser choices about the amount of devices, types of components, and impact on the environment. If we can make the problem clear and personal on an individual level, we can perhaps begin to positively affect the behavior around future decisions. In addition, by understanding the impact of their own individual choices, people are better prepared to demand change and sustainability from manufacturers. This essentially empowers users to effective gain control over their own micro-footprint, trusting consumers to make better choices regarding human health and protecting the environment once they have the individual information to do so.

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

If we consider a simplified device lifecycle... - Raw materials mining and processing - Design and manufacturing - Distribution, marketing, and sales - Purchase and usage - Disposal (Trash, Reuse/refurbish, Recycle) DISPOSAL: I believe this service would have a direct and primary impact on the Disposal stage of the lifecycle. By using this service, customers would have a view on their overall sustainability, but also an understanding of the components and impact of the individual devices, prompting action toward more responsible disposal. Further, by providing multiple outlets for disposal (recycling pick-up, tax breaks, donation services, resale value) we provide different types of incentives for electronics to be reused or recycled. Moving further up the lifecycle... PURCHASE: As users become more familiar with the service, they will implicitly gain an understanding and greater awareness about the products they are purchasing and the components it contains. This could influence users purchase decisions as they seek to buy more environmentally-responsible products. Particularly, as contributors have mentioned, if a standardized labeling system can be put into place to alert consumers to sustainability ratings. DESIGN AND MANUFACTURING: Ultimately, consumers will perhaps be motivated to modify their purchase behavior and equipped to demand greater sustainability on the part of manufacturers. By doing so, we can begin to create a virtuous cycle of supply and demand for improved products to safeguard human health an protect our environment.

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

1) Build a minimal prototype Work with either a dedicated non-profit, NGO, social business, or for-profit entity in creating a simple prototype that allows users to easily enter a few common devices, view their overall e-footprint, and choose among a selection of disposal options. The input step can be as simple as a checklist of common devices that consumers can select from, a graphic representation of their footprint, and a few options for disposal (nearest recycling center, resale value, options for donating, etc) Alex Finnamore in the comments below suggests an "online dashboard with some generic products (some smart phones, laptops, tvs etc). It could show their makeup (highlighting dangerous metals), cost to recycle and energy cost while in use". As well as a general site for future purchases in the early stages - "People wouldn't even need a personalised dashboard, but rather a page where they can compare the device they have and the ones they are considering buying." 2) Test the value proposition Start with a group of target users. Ideally this group should be those that have a collection of old electronics they are interested in disposing. Did the service raise awareness about electronic components and e-waste? Was the service useful in providing ways to dispose? Did it meet user expectations regarding the benefits of disposal? What did they like / dislike about the service? Let people use it for a couple weeks - afterwards, how many continued to input into the system? How many people let their friends know about the service? 3) Experiment with different economic models Assuming that users find benefit in the service, it would be ideal to have a service that can operate by generating revenue to sustain itself. Consider different economic models, perhaps expand the prototype and test these models. Can the service charge a commission from the e-waste pickup company? Maybe a percentage of the tax break? A commission from the resale transaction? 4) Connect with 3rd party resuse/recycle/resale stakeholders Begin to integrate the service with 3rd party stakeholders that can benefit from e-waste disposal. The might be recycling companies, online resale vendors, organizations that help donate computers, etc. The more seamless the integration can be, the better for users to easily dispose of their e-waste. 5) Build a database of devices and components As the service gains more users, it will be necessary to have a wide-ranging database of devices and components. Manufacturers can upload information voluntarily, or an objective 3rd part organization can document and provide the necessary information about devices. 6) Expand input mechanisms Ease of use will be essential for consumer acceptance. Is it possible to upload a picture of your device for identification by the system? Maybe devices can come with a QR code with information on component ingredients. Perhaps an add-on to the actual Mint.com site that collects information about electronics purchases, knows exactly which product you bought, and automatically uploads the sustainability info to the site. 7) Market the service to schools and through social media Leverage the coopetition and peer pressure elements of the service by having school compete against each other. Encourage users to display sustainability scores.

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

OWNER: Depending on the type of economic value that can be generated from a service like this, it would be great to see a for-profit or private social business group take the lead in implementation. - STARTUP - A dedicated group of individuals seeking to provide a convenient service for consumers. The group would benefit from tech, design, and user interface skills. Could potentially be bootstrapped, especially if the group is able to partner with important stakeholders. The company could also be structured as a non-profit, for-profit, or social business. - INDUSTRY CONSORTIUM - Electronics makers and retailers could band together to form a consortium to provide this service. Benefits the consortium in terms of sustainability and corporate social responsibility. - RECYCLERS - A company that currently does electronics recycling may be interested in providing this service in order to expand awareness and reach. However, they will have less incentive to provide a full range of disposal options. - NGO - A non-governmental organization will have the 3rd party credibility to pull different stakeholders together and have the mandate to help improve e-waste. PARTNERSHIPS - MANUFACTURERS - Cooperation with manufacturers would make the service more efficient in terms of component data. Manufacturers could also agree to provide consumers with more component data on their own, whether in the packaging or through QR codes, etc. - DISPOSAL STAKEHOLDERS - Agreements and integration processes would be needed with various stakeholders that have a means to reuse / recycle / resell electronics, including - Recycling companies - takes pick-up requests via the site - Donation organizations - connects donors to specific stories of people in need - Resale retailers - resale prices show up instantly on the site - NGO - To provide accurate data on footprint and environmental effects. A trusted, expert, and informed party that can assess and provide comprehensive data from an objective viewpoint. TECHNOLOGY - WEBSITE - With a database backend of compenent and footprint data. Intuitive and engaging user interface to help display and communicate data in a clear and transparent way. - INTEGRATION API - To enable partners to connect and integrate with the site, especially parties offering disposal options. - COMPONENT API - Potentially a means to allow the broader community to contribute data about devices, components, and environmental impact. Of course this information would need to be vetted somehow.

My Virtual Team

Thanks to the concept "Gaming for E-Waste Behavior Change" that helped spark some ideas on different directions. Sabine Kuznik, Alex Finnemore, OpenIDEO, Paul Reader, Neville Lynch provided feedback, helpful comments, and great ideas.

Evaluation results

7 evaluations so far

1. How much of a social or environmental impact will this concept have on discarded electronics or e-waste?

This concept could have significant social or environmental impact. - 42.9%

It's unclear how much social or environmental impact this concept will have. - 57.1%

This concept would have little social or environmental impact. - 0%

2. How well does this concept help you or others understand how electronic items are designed, built, reused, recycled or thrown away?

Very well: it makes the entire electronics life cycle easier to understand. - 71.4%

Pretty well: it could help people better understand the electronics life cycle but it needs more detail or information. - 28.6%

Not so well: it does not significantly help people better understand the electronics life cycle. - 0%

3. How appealing do you believe this concept would be to investors (businesses, banks, lenders, venture capitalists and others)?

Very appealing: this is an idea that investors would get excited about. - 28.6%

Potentially appealing: more work is needed to flesh out how the concept works, what it would cost and who would fund it. - 57.1%

Not so appealing: this does not seem like a concept that would get investors excited. - 14.3%

4. How challenging would it be to implement and scale this concept across geographies, cultures and languages? (Hint: think about resources like money, time, partnerships, or other inputs needed for implementation and scaling)

Not very challenging. - 14.3%

Somewhat challenging. - 42.9%

Very challenging. - 42.9%

5. Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

It rocked my world. - 57.1%

I liked it but preferred others. - 42.9%

It didn't get me overly excited. - 0%

19 comments

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Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Great idea making the consumer aware of their personal impact. I haven't read anything about what others have already operating or proposed (is this already being worked on?) but I think it could start at the point of purchase. If there was something like a colored footprint icon containing a number (Green is better than yellow or red, lower number means less e-impact) would make the prospective purchaser aware of the environmental impact of a product. This is similar to the efficiency rating sticker one might see on a refrigerator or freezer except its an e-waste indicator.

Defining the criteria for these numbers and impact ratings would be part of the process you already proposed. Basically it would be a physical sticker that matched what was in the database used for your online app. It would bring awareness to people who may not be likely to use an online app but still want to buy a digital clock.

Forgive me if you already proposed the physical labeling of products somewhere in your proposal, I am currently in a state of caffeine induced creativity so I jumped straight to the comments section to get my thoughts into words before they are gone forever.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Great point Neville. If I remember correctly, there are some concepts around labels, and I agree - ultimately it would be great to raise awareness at all points of the consumption cycle - awareness, preference, purchase, usage, etc. Seems like increasing transparency and information at all these touch points will help consumers make more sustainable choices.

Photo of Sabine Kuznik

Hi Joe, I really like your idea to have a dashboard to see the impact of myself as a consumer - and then see the impact of the single product as well. So for me it´s great to see the impact from both sides. As a consumer I might have one product with lots of impact or a pile of products with less impact. And for my decision, which device I will add to my "collection of electronics" I can use product labels.
Paul integrated already proposed labels in his E-Resources concept. There you can find an overview: http://www.openideo.com/open/e-waste/concepting/e-resources/
I´m looking forward to see your concept evolve.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Thanks Sabine. Absolutely agree, I would love to have more clarity around the electronics I own, and would perhaps be surprised to see which ones have more environmental impact over others. Now if only we could make this effortless for people to view... =)

Thanks for the link to the E-Resources concept! I like how it combines different dimensions along which we can grade electronics, including your concept on labels for long-lasting tech.
- Recyclability (RecyCOOLability)
- Longevity (Pure Tech)
- Re-useability (Realtime Recycling Recs)

Photo of Sabine Kuznik

HI Joe, I agree with you - it would be great to make people view the environmental impact of their devices effortless. What do you think about a playful way of adding you devices?

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Yes! That would be great, maybe you could earn points for adding, or take a picture and upload for an instant add. I was thinking it would be easy if devices were automatically added as soon as you purchased them.

Photo of Sabine Kuznik

That would be also great to have the possibility to add new purchases in web shops instantly. While constantly adding and deleting your electronic devices to your dashboard you get some sort of e-device diary. And see if your environmental impact improves or not. The better you do, the closer you become to be an e-champion. Great game!

Photo of Paul Reader

Hi Joe, Sabine, Neville and Meena - this is a great idea, much more comprehensive than I envisioned in the online database component of RecyCOOLability which was limited to information a bit like chemical
, supplied directly by the manufacturer and administered by the EPA.
Combining this idea with Andrew Allen's ( http://www.openideo.com/open/e-waste/concepting/e-rating-a-lesson-from-fast-food-menus/ ) and Vincent Cheng's RRR ( http://www.openideo.com/open/e-waste/concepting/realtime-recycling-recs/ ) could be useful for the history of a particular device or model.

With regards to labeling - that was the original premise of RecyCOOLability - based on Energy Star. designed for products from cell phones and mice to smart fridges and plasma tv's - and with the whole family in mind.

Sorry for taking so long to post here. I'm sure we are all finding it difficult being across all 106 concepts

Photo of Paul Reader

Oops - where I said "chemical" I meant to say "materials safety data sheets" but I had a 'senior's' moment and left it out.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

I think you're right, it could be an interesting integration between concepts and potentially very useful for manufacturers to get data points on their devices and perhaps modify their processes. Great point, thanks Paul!

Photo of Paul Reader

You are welcome = and as we move towards the shortlist of concepts for refinement, finding fits between existing concepts takes integrated solutions forward.

Photo of Timmy de Vos

Hey Joe, super nice concept. The information needed to make all of this work is very appealing to me and could hugely improve my e-waste race concept. I was wondering how far you got with working out the idea??

Check out my idea to collect e-waste: the e-waste race by making it a website supported challenge between schools: https://openideo.com/challenge/recycle-challenge/refinement/the-e-waste-race-a-race-between-schools-to-collect-as-much-e-waste-as-possible

My website www.ewasterace.nl would profit from adding information on resources used in devices and where to recycle them!

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