Special Issue "Electronic Waste — Impact, Policy and Green Design"


A special issue of Challenges (ISSN 2078-1547).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2015)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. William Bullock

Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI), Design for Energy and Environment Laboratory (DEE Lab), School of Art and Design, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 408 E. Peabody Drive, MC 590, Champaign, IL 61820, USA
Website: http://www.art.illinois.edu/people/wbullock/
Phone: 217.390.8291
Interests: sustainability; product development
Co-Guest Editor
Ms. Joy J. Scrogum

Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI), Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 1 E. Hazelwood Drive, Champaign, IL 61820, USA
Website: http://www.sustainelectronics.illinois.edu
Interests: sustainability; pollution prevention; education

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Electronics are at the heart of an economic system that has brought many out of poverty and enhanced quality of life. In Western society in particular, our livelihoods, health, safety, and well being are positively impacted by electronics. However, there is growing evidence that our disposal of electronics is causing irreparable damage to the planet and to human health, as well as fueling social conflict and violence.

While global demand for these modern gadgets is increasing, policy to handle the increased volumes of electronic waste has not kept pace. International policy governing safe transfer, disposal, reclamation, and reuse of electronic waste is nonexistent or woefully lacking. Where laws do exist about exporting and importing hazardous waste, they are routinely circumvented and enforcement is spotty at best. While European Union countries lead the way in responsible recycling of electronic and electrical devices under various EU directives, most industrialized nations do not have such policies. In the U.S., for example, most electronic waste is still discarded in landfills or ground up for scrap.

It is imperative that we consider how green design practices can address the growing electronic waste problem. This special issue is meant to do just that and spur discussions on how electronic products can become greener and more sustainable.

Prof. Dr. William Bullock
Ms. Joy J. Scrogum
Guest Editors


Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Challenges is an international peer-reviewed Open Access biannual journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. For the first couple of issues the Article Processing Charge (APC) will be waived for well-prepared manuscripts. English correction and/or formatting fees of 250 CHF (Swiss Francs) will be charged in certain cases for those articles accepted for publication that require extensive additional formatting and/or English corrections.


  • e-waste
  • electronics
  • sustainable design
  • conflict minerals
  • planned obsolescence
  • design for the environment
  • recycling
  • refurbishing
  • remanufacturing
  • rare earth elements
  • extended producer responsibility
  • product stewardship
  • lifecycle analysis
  • supply chain
  • e-stewards
  • R2
  • WEEE
  • RoHS
  • green engineering
  • green chemistry

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Displaying article 1-7
n° 13
by  and
Challenges 2016, 7(1), 13; doi:10.3390/challe7010013
Received: 22 February 2016 / Revised: 7 May 2016 / Accepted: 10 May 2016 / Published: 19 May 2016
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(This article belongs to the Special Issue Electronic Waste — Impact, Policy and Green Design)
n° 5
by ,  and
Challenges 2016, 7(1), 5; doi:10.3390/challe7010005
Received: 31 December 2015 / Revised: 19 February 2016 / Accepted: 2 March 2016 / Published: 10 March 2016
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(This article belongs to the Special Issue Electronic Waste — Impact, Policy and Green Design)
abstract graphic
n° 3
by , ,  and
Challenges 2016, 7(1), 3; doi:10.3390/challe7010003
Received: 3 December 2015 / Revised: 26 January 2016 / Accepted: 2 February 2016 / Published: 15 February 2016
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(This article belongs to the Special Issue Electronic Waste — Impact, Policy and Green Design)
p. 136-153
by , , , ,  and
Challenges 2013, 4(2), 136-153; doi:10.3390/challe4020136
Received: 26 April 2013 / Revised: 18 June 2013 / Accepted: 11 July 2013 / Published: 23 July 2013
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(This article belongs to the Special Issue Electronic Waste — Impact, Policy and Green Design)
p. 169-187
by , , ,  and
Challenges 2013, 4(2), 169-187; doi:10.3390/challe4020169
Received: 30 May 2013 / Revised: 14 July 2013 / Accepted: 16 July 2013 / Published: 23 July 2013
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(This article belongs to the Special Issue Electronic Waste — Impact, Policy and Green Design)
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p. 75-85
by  and
Challenges 2013, 4(1), 75-85; doi:10.3390/challe4010075
Received: 26 February 2013 / Revised: 12 March 2013 / Accepted: 24 April 2013 / Published: 7 May 2013
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(This article belongs to the Special Issue Electronic Waste — Impact, Policy and Green Design)
p. 19-33
by  and
Challenges 2013, 4(1), 19-33; doi:10.3390/challe4010019
Received: 5 February 2013 / Revised: 24 February 2013 / Accepted: 4 March 2013 / Published: 14 March 2013
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Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Type of Paper: Article
Title: Linking Informal and Formal Electronics Recycling via an Interface Organization
Authors: Eric Williams 1,*, Magnus Bengtsson 2, Shiko Hayashi 2, Yasuhiko Hotta 2, Ramzy Kahhat 3 and Yoshiaki Totoki 2
Affiliations: 1 Golisano Institute of Sustainability, Rochester Institute of Technology, 111 Lomb Memorial Drive, Rochester, NY 14623, USA; E-Mail: exwgis@rit.edu
2 Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, Hayama, Kanagawa-ken, Japan
3 Department of Engineering, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Lima, Perú
Abstract: Informal recycling of electronics in the developing world has emerged as a new global environmental concern. The primary policy approach to address the problem has been command and control policies that ban informal recycling and international trade in electronic scrap. Enforcement of such policies is challenging and as yet largely unsuccessful. An alternate approach is to link informal and formal sectors so as to maintain economic activity while mitigating environmental damages. This article explores the idea of an interface organization that purchases components and waste from informal collectors and dismantlers and passes on to formal processors. This article explores the potential for establishing interface organizations through an analysis of environmental, economic and social aspects. The main environmental questions to resolve are what e-waste components should be targets of the interface organization, and at what point in the chain of processes (collection, refurbishment/repair, component reuse, etc.) should the interface organization intervene to channel material? Economically, the interface organization can be market based (e.g. for circuit boards) and/or publicly subsidized (e.g. for residual waste) depending on its objectives and technical and market conditions. There are questions on how to build a coalition of organizations with the appropriate expertise and financial connections. Socially, the potential for corruption and gaming of the system is critical and needs to be successfully addressed. In the final section of the article, the case of informal and formal recycling of printed circuit boards is discussed in some depth.

Type of Paper: Article
Title: Cytogenotoxicity and Oxidative Stress Induced by Electronic Saste Leachate and Contaminated Groundwater In vivo
Authors: Adekunle A. Bakare 1,*, Adeyinka M. Gbadebo 2, Olusegun I. Ogunsuyi 1, Okunola A. Alabi 1,3 and Chibuisi G. Alimba 1
Affiliation: 1 Cell Biology and Genetics Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria
2 Ecology and Environmental Biology Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria
3 Department of Biosciences and Biotechnology, Babcock University, Ilisan Remo, Ogun State, Nigeria
Abstract: Environmental, plant and animal exposure to hazardous substances from electronic wastes (e-wastes) in Nigeria is increasing. In this study, the potential cytogenotoxicity of e-wastes leachate and contaminated well waters obtained from Alaba international electronic market in Lagos, Nigeria, using induction of chromosome and root growth anomalies in Allium cepa, and micronucleus (MN) in peripheral erythrocytes of Clarias gariepinus were evaluated. The possible cause of DNA damage via the assessments of liver malondialdehyde (MDA), catalase (CAT), reduced glutathione (GSH) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) as indicators of oxidative stress in mice was also investigated. There was significant (p<0.05) inhibition of root growth and mitosis in A. cepa. Cytological aberrations such as spindle disturbance, C-mitosis and binucleated cells, and morphological alterations like tumor and twisting roots were also induced. There was concentration-dependent, significant (p<0.05) induction of micronucleated erythrocytes and nuclear abnormalities such as blebbed nuclei and binucleated erythrocytes in C. gariepinus. A significant increase (p<0.001) in CAT, GSH and MDA with concomitant decrease in SOD concentrations were observed in the treated mice. Pb, As, Cu, Cr, and Cd analysed in the tested samples contributed significantly to these observations. This shows that the well waters and leachate contained substances capable of inducing somatic mutation and oxidative stress in living cells; and is of health importance in countries with risk of e-wastes exposure.
Keywords: Cytogenotoxicity; micronucleus; reactive oxygen species; Allium cepa; Clarias gariepinus

Type of Paper: Article
Title: Decision Factors for E-Waste in Northern Mexico: To Waste or Trade
Authors: Jesus Estrada-Ayub 1 and Ramzy Kahhat 2,*
Affiliation: 1. Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico
2. Department of Engineering, Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru; E-Mail: ramzy.kahhat@pucp.pe
Abstract: Electronic waste (E-waste) is a concern because of the increasing volume of materials being disposed of. There are economical, social and environmental implications derived from these materials. For example, the international trade of used computers creates jobs, but the recovery from valuable materials is technically challenging, and currently there are environmental and health problems derived from inappropriate recycling practices. Forecasting the flows of used computers and e-waste materials supports the prevention of environmental impacts. However, the nature of these material flows is complex. There are technological geographical and cultural factors that affect how users purchase, store or dispose of their equipment. The result of these dynamics is a change in the composition and volume of these flows. Collectors are affected by these factors and the presence of markets, labor and transportation costs. In northern Mexico, there is an international flow of new and used computers between Mexico and the United States and an internal flow of materials and products among Mexican cities. In order to understand the behavior of these flows, a field study was carried out in 8 different Mexican cities. Stakeholders were interviewed and through a structured analysis the system and relevant stakeholders were expressed as Data Flow Diagrams in order to understand the critical parts from the system. The results show that Mexican cities have important qualitative differences. For example, location and size define the availability of resources to manage e-waste. Decisions to dispose of a computer depend on international factors, such as the price of new computers, and also on regional factors such as the cost to repair them. Decisions to store a computer depend on external factors, such as markets, and also internal factors such as how users perceive the value of old equipment. In addition, e-waste collection depends on the value of e-waste, but also on costs to collect and extract value from them. The main implication is that a general policy base on how E-waste is managed at a big city might not be the most efficient for a small one. Moreover, combining strengths from different cities might overcome respective weaknesses and create new opportunities; this integration can be stimulated by designing policies that consider diversity.

Type of Paper: Article
Title: Laptop Battery Charge Cycles as an Indicator of Longevity
Author: Willie Cade
Affiliation: PC Rebuilders & Recyclers, Home of the Computers for Schools Program, 3053 N Knox, Chicago, IL 60641, USA; E-Mail: wpcade@illinois.edu
Abstract: Lithium-ion batteries are a “mature” technology in today's laptop computers. There are new technologies anticipated in the next five years that will significantly increase the longevity and reduce the charge cycle time of lithium-ion batteries. Common wisdom suggests that charge cycles are the determining factor for laptop battery longevity. This paper reviews data collected from an ideal laptop/battery usage scenario. Queen of Peace High School in Burbank, Illinois initiated a one-to-one laptop program for all students starting in 2007. Each student in each grade is issued a similar laptop and battery which includes a nine cell lithium ion battery. Students are required to bring their laptops to school each day fully charged. They are not allowed to charge their batteries during the school day therefore reinforcing the fully charged policy. These conditions meet the manufacturers recommended use for batteries. We examine the correlation of use (i.e. charge cycles) to full charge capacity (FCC). Our results find an unexpectedly low correlation between charge cycles and FCC.

Type of Paper: Article
Title: Technology Trends on a Collision Heading
Authors: Wayne Rifer and Pamela Brody-Heine
Affiliation: Green Electronics Council/EPEAT; E-Mail: WRifer@greenelectronicscouncil.org
Abstract: Two major trends in the arena of high technology and the environment are fast approaching a collision. One is the evolution, based on consumer demand and advancing technologies, of product miniaturization. The other is a growing environmental stakeholder demand to break the back of the take/make/waste society—the eternal enemy of sustainability—as manifested in short lifetimes for throw-away electronic gadgets.

Standing between these trends, and acting as a magnet drawing them towards each other, is the increasing sophistication of the material content of high technology. Products today contain rarely-before-used elements—upwards of 60 elements in all, most of the periodic table. Some of these resources may become supply-challenged for a myriad of causes. Their potential scarcity, the difficulties of mining in a highly populated world, and geo-political forces can affect their supply and challenge the sustainability of the high technology industry.
This paper will examine the factors inherent in this potentially intractable conflict of business and environmental values. It will focus on key resources in these products, some of which occur in very small quantities, but which greatly enhance certain functionalities. These resources are the focus of increasing attention, most notably the report by the International Resource Panel of UNEP “Metal Recycling: Opportunities, Limits and Infrastructure”. This report highlights that they are not currently recovered at substantial rates because recycling systems are not designed to do so. The policies that define effective electronics recycling as achieving higher recovery for bulk materials—ferrous, glass and plastic—neglect the challenges that these more highly evolved products pose for a sustainable world and a sustainable technology industry.

A key to averting this collision lies in redesigning the system—from product design to final treatment—to optimize product reuse (getting longer service from the invested materials, energy and ingenuity) and recycling (extending the use of materials into next-generation products).

Several factors are major impediments. These impediments, and opportunities, relate most especially to miniaturized computing devices in the form of tablets, slates, phones, cameras, etc. They especially exist in two areas:

• The lack of product design for end-of-first-life and end-of-life (EoL):
o Inconsistent design for disassembly to repair, upgrade, refurbish and reuse
o The lack of attention given to design for high value material recovery
• Inefficient EoL systems—collection, processing and treatment—for optimal recovery of valuable resources:
o Conflicted motivations of producer take-back schemes
o Suboptimal treatment options

Finally the paper will examine what some of the paths forward might be, including research, voluntary initiatives and standard setting.

Last update: 28 May 2015

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