Web platform to aid electronics garbage disposal
A group of students at USP is developing a web platform to help searching and localizing of recycling cooperatives trained by the Eco-Electro Project held by the university, in order to indicate a location for proper disposal of electronic waste. The platform will also benefit from these cooperatives because the user can notice an equipment to be discarded, helping in gathering logistics. The Eco-Electro Project offers training to cooperatives, focused on safe and cost-effective disassembly of electronics.
The spin up was during the Brazilian stage of Climathon 2015 held in June at USP Agency of Innovation, in partnership with the Department of Computer Engineering and Digital Systems of the Polytechnic School (Poli – USP), and the Research Center for Biodiversity and Computing ( BioComp). The Climathon is a global challenge posed by Climate-KIG, an institute linked to the European Union, in order to seek innovative solutions to improve the conservation of biodiversity in cities. “This challenge was in a Hackathon format, a competition that took place simultaneously in several countries. Participants should develop, within 24 hours, a connected solution to environmental and climatic aspects”, explains Sabrina Raimundo Gonçalves, one of the group members and graduate student of the Institute of Biosciences (IB) at USP. Later, the project was presented at the 21th Climate Conference (COP 21) held in December in Paris.
The Brazilian group also includes undergraduate students in Information Technology, at the School of Arts Sciences and Humanities (EACH): Philip Filardi Jesus, Thiago Kobayashi, Victor Edoardo Garcia Ribeiro Valeriano, and Fabiano Sampaio (who joined the group to the end of COP 21).
The group first proposal was a game. “As the user is playing and overcoming the various stages, he would find places to dispose of electronics”, he explains. After being selected in the first stage of Climathon, they were asked to extend the proposal and was given two and a half months to develop a business plan, validate the project, and make some adjustments.
Sabrina says that the main original idea of the group was to address the issue of electronic waste. They talked to several people in the industry, among them experts from Sustainability Laboratory (LASSU) from Poli, coordinated by Professor Tereza Cristina Carvalho, and also Disposal Center and Reuse of Information Technology Waste (CEDIR) from USP. The LASSU develops, in partnership with the GEA Institute Ethics and Environment, the Eco-Electro Project.
Disassembly and sell the parts of a computer to recycling companies is much more profitable than sell the entire equipment as scrap. However, toxic elements are present on these devices (lead, mercury, chromium) that can contaminate people and environment; however, other components are reusable, such as noble metals (gold, silver and platinum); apart from iron, aluminum and plastics, also recyclable. Therefore, disassembling requires specialized training. This is what the Eco-Electro Project provides to its participants.
After talking to several people, the group altered its business plan and chose to develop a web platform. The idea is that users can locate the nearest cooperative, either to go thereto discard or to inform the cooperative about the existence of an equipment to be disposed of, generating a demand map. “We also think that the existence of the platform could be a way to encourage other recycling cooperatives to be interested in the training offered by the Eco-Electro project”.
The new proposal was sent to the organization in London. The project was approved and thus they ensured the participation at COP 21. A total of 12 groups from other countries presented their projects to investors and entrepreneurs from around the world. “It was a very short presentation, about 2 minutes. After that, each group was available on a stand, where we were able to detail our idea”.
Currently, the group is working on the web platform development, but it is not public yet. “We want to make a version for smartphones, like an application, but without requiring users to download anything. The platform shall offer other resources for members, among them, the availability of a cash flow manager and a locator of the places where cooperatives can sell the parts salvaged from equipment, among other features”, says Sabrina.
According to the researcher, the platform became a life project. She recalls that they did not know each other before Climathon. “We first met each other during the event. The University needs to invest more in this type of activity, because it opens new horizons and we leave the lab”, she says.
By Valéria Dias – firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Cecília Bastos / USP Images