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E-waste competition goes international


Starting Jan. 11, students who wish to share innovative ways for recycling electronic waste can enter the International E-Waste Design Competition, hosted by the School of Art and Design and the Illinois Sustainability Technology Center.

The competition, which started at the University about a year ago, is now international and will be promoted on the Internet.

Willie Cade, CEO of PC Rebuilders and Recyclers in Chicago, and William Bullock, chair of the Art and Design Committee and professor of Industrial Design, started the competition last year.

Cade and Bullock teach the class Introduction to E-Waste, which gets both undergraduate and graduate students involved in collecting electronic waste and thinking of creative ways to recycle it.

Electronic waste, or e-waste, is generated when things like computers, cell phones, televisions and cameras are discarded.

According to Bullock, people discard a lot of things before their useful life is up.

“As the cost of things rise, it’s much cheaper to reutilize things,” he added.

Bullock said e-waste is a growing global problem.

“We dump most of our waste in the lesser developed countries, the poor countries of the world,” Bullock said.

Cade explained that while shipping e-waste overseas is not necessarily bad, informal processing on foreign shores can be harmful.

“We don’t want to take perfectly safe stuff and create unsafe environments,” he added.

Bullock said the purpose of the competition is to provide students with an opportunity to exhibit their creative thinking about how to help solve the e-waste problem by making useful designs from what would typically be discarded.

Bullock said getting students around the world engaged in illustrating what can be done with e-waste will draw attention to this growing issue.

“We thought that this is a world problem,” he said. “And what better way to bring attention to it than to get some of the world’s brightest minds?”

Participants will compete in one of two categories: a designer/artist category focusing on aesthetic elements and a technical/geek category focusing on electronic components.

Nan Goggin, director of the School of Art and Design, said the competition connects students from different majors to produce the brightest ideas.

“You’re a better scientist if you think creatively, and you’re a much better artist if you take a broader sense of the world,” she said.

Prize money will be awarded to six winning teams; awards are given in amounts of $4,000, $3,000 and $1,000 to winners in each category.

Twenty finalists’ videos will be shown to a jury and to the public April 21 at the University as part of the International E-Waste Video Festival.

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