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College of Engineering » Clean Energy Institute

CANCELLED: E-waste, E-toxics, E-pressing
WhenThursday, Nov 19, 2015, 4 – 5 p.m.
Campus locationBagley Hall (BAG)
Campus roomBagley 154
Event typesLectures/Seminars
Event sponsorsClean Energy Institute

This program is cancelled due to speaker illness. Please check back for a rescheduled date in the future.
E-waste, E-toxics, E-pressing
With more and more pressure to recycle into more and more bins, it becomes more and more tempting to give in to overload and give up on minimizing our own daily contribution to the toxification of our environment.   Whether at home or in the office, the sheer range and complexity of the many things we discard is overwhelming.  

Of the many things we discard, however, few are as toxic to environment and public health as electronic waste.   And, as pressure increases to recover precious metals and rare earth elements from our discarded electronics, recycling is at risk of becoming just as dangerous to air, water, and soil quality as illegal dumping.   Yet, the ubiquitous nature of electronics all around us and the ever increasing pressure to decrease product development and product lifetime makes it equally ever more difficult to make good decisions about how we choose new electronics and how we dispose of the old ones.   Few realize that electronics are the #1 source of heavy metal toxificiation in our waste, accounting for almost 80% of the those metals that rest in landfills, and making a disproportionate contribution to the leaching of these toxins into soil and groundwater. 

Yet, even if the e-toxics in e-waste are truly e-pressing, what can an ordinary consumer or office worker really do to mitigate the problem?   Isn’t recycling batteries and toner cartridges enough?   Is dropping an aged and no longer desirable mobile phone into the appropriate bin a step in the right direction or a negligible drop in a gargantuan bucket?

In this lecture and discussion, we will look at the electronics and components that have the most harmful impact on environment and public health and corresponding means to dispose of or recycle them most effectively.   We will also look at where the electronic waste stream goes and how it impacts both developing and developed countries.  Although many formal collection programs now exist to support the safe and efficiently recycling and disposal of e-waste, there are still many loopholes through which E-waste can fall, into places where it creates havoc with public health and ecosystem alike. 

E-waste, E-toxics, E-ducation…. can turn a jumbled patchwork of recycling and marketing messages into a streamlined strategy for discarded refrigerator and mobile phone alike.

Denise Wilson received the B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, Stanford, CA, in 1988 and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, in 1989 and 1995, respectively.  She received the M.Ed. from the University of Washington in 2008. 

She is currently a Professor with the Electrical Engineering Department, University of Washington, Seattle.  Her research interests are split between technical research (chemical and biological sensors, solar cells, application of sensors to environmental health and monitoring) and engineering education (belonging, active/social instruction, self-efficacy).   Electronic waste is an important environmental health issue that stems from her circuits and sensors research in her home field of electrical engineering.  She is also managing director of Coming Alongside, a non-profit environmental health services organization.

Printed: Friday, June 5, 2020 at 5:24 AM PDT