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Challenge Seeks Solution for Tracking Electronic Waste

E-waste being incinerated (EMPA)

E-waste being incinerated (EMPA)

A challenge on InnoCentive seeks solutions for tracking shipments of used electronic components and subsystems and ensuring that they are disposed responsibly. The crowd-sourced contest will award prizes totaling $10,000 and has a deadline extended to 3 June 2012.

The challenge is co-sponsored by IT services company EMC Corporation and the Environmental Defense Fund. Participants are asked to submit ideas on for a system or distributed device that allows manufacturers to follow electronic waste from a customer site through the waste stream to final disposal, ensuring compliance with industry standards and regulations. The magazine Popular Science is supporting the challenge.

Safe, legal and transparent e-waste disposal is an ongoing concern for both industry and environmental groups, which want to make sure heavy metals and chemicals are not released as part of the recycling process. Current processes and technologies, says the sponsors, make it too difficult to measure the true destination of electronic waste as it passes through the hands of downstream contractors who handle disposal and recycling.

EMC Corp. plans to make direct use of the solution since its systems are large and complicated pieces of equipment made of sub-systems that are difficult to track. However, EMC plans to share the winning idea industry wide to help accelerate the adoption of more environmentally sustainable and innovative e-waste practices.

InnoCentive calls the competition an “ideation challenge” that features a broad question formulated to obtain access to new ideas. Awards will be paid to the best submissions as determined by the sponsors. The total payout will be $10,000 with at least one award being no smaller than $5,000 and no award being smaller than $1,000.

Participants in the challenge are not required to transfer exclusive intellectual property rights to the the sponsors.  By submitting a proposal, however, participants will grant to the sponsors a royalty-free, perpetual, and non-exclusive license to use any information included in their proposals.

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