EMC, EDF and InnoCentive Announce Winners of Eco-Challenge to Improve Tracking of E-Waste

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Waltham, Mass. – September 10, 2012 – InnoCentive, Inc., the pioneer in open innovation, crowdsourcing, and prize competitions, EMC Corporation, and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) today announced the successful conclusion of an Eco-Challenge aimed at finding solutions for tracking shipments of used electronic components and subsystems and ensuring that they are disposed of responsibly. The winning ideas are the first step in developing a scalable solution for tracking electronic waste to its final destination and ultimately helping accelerate the adoption of more environmentally sustainable and innovative e-waste practices industry wide.

“This unique Challenge builds on EMC’s ongoing product take-back initiatives and commitment to developing a sustainable supply chain,” said Kathrin Winkler, vice president and chief sustainability officer for EMC. “We recognized the need for a fresh approach to addressing e-waste, a challenge that our industry has grappled with for years, and our collaboration with EDF and InnoCentive has helped EMC connect with untapped sources of innovation and uncover creative ideas. We are committed to further developing these ideas to achieve our vision of an ecosystem that enables safe, environmentally friendly processes for e-waste, allows vendors to recover maximum value from used electronics and provides economic opportunities for people in developing countries.”

The Eco-Challenge asked participants to help develop a scalable process or device that would allow organizations that produce electronic devices to follow the flow of discarded items—such as computers, office electronic equipment, entertainment devices, mobile phones and television sets—from the location of their use through the waste stream to final disposal. Over a three-month period, the Eco-Challenge attracted nearly 800 Solvers, and more than 60 solutions were submitted. Three solutions were selected as winners and the Solvers split a $10,000 prize. The winning solutions included:

  • The use of a unique 12-digit code printed directly onto each subsystem component using passive radio-frequency identification (RFID) ink, recommended by Sumit Bhardwaj, a digital marketer in London;
  • The use of an electronic identification bee (e-Bee) that combines electronic identification codes printed on components with an online crowdsourcing platform that together yield a holistic picture of where electronic components end up; and
  • A tracking system that leverages a sheet of labels printed with unique, encrypted codes for each major component in the system. Similar to those used in the fresh food industry, the labels would be applied to and follow subsystem components as they move through the disposal process.

EMC plans to host brainstorming sessions with the winning Solvers to explore the synergies among their ideas, outline a potential proof-of-concept and ideally partner with them to move forward. The ultimate goal is to develop new solutions to improve e-waste tracking industry wide. EMC intends to share the winning ideas with its peers in the industry to help accelerate the adoption of more environmentally sustainable and innovative e-waste practices.

“Proper disposal of e-waste has been an ongoing issue for the IT industry with serious environmental and business impacts, such as public health, waste reduction and data security,” said Namrita Kapur, director of strategy for EDF’s Corporate Partnerships Program. “The solutions discovered through this Eco-Challenge are another example of how we can use proven tools such as crowdsourcing to help unlock innovative ideas that lead to game-changing solutions for problems like e-waste.”

According to Greenpeace, 20-50 million tons of electronic products are discarded each year. Whether it ends up in landfills, is destroyed by incinerators or gets recycled, the potential health, environmental and data security impact of e-waste has made proper disposal an ongoing concern for both industry and environmental groups. The ability to track products to their final destination and ensure safe, legal and transparent disposal is critical; however, current processes and technologies simply are not sufficient for measuring the true destination of e-waste as it passes through each level of the disposal process.

“The strong interest and engagement of our Solver community in this and other Eco-Challenges speaks to the strong desire of people across the globe not just to solve complex problems, but also to have a meaningful impact on our planet,” said Dwayne Spradlin, CEO of InnoCentive. “Whether it’s helping reduce agricultural pollutants, finding better ways to recycle lead-heavy glass or improving how we track old electronic components, our Solvers have risen to every Challenge, proving that great ideas can from anywhere and crowdsourcing has become one of the most powerful tools for driving innovation.”

Through the Eco-Challenge Series, EDF and InnoCentive work closely with participating organizations to design unique Challenges and prize competitions, review submissions, select and award winners, and promote the program and results widely. Eco-Challenges are posted to InnoCentive’s Global Solver Community comprised of more than 260,000 creative and diverse problem Solvers.

Past Eco-Challenges have resulted in recommendations for the capture of toxic nitrate from agricultural processes and novel ideas for recycling lead-heavy cathode ray tube (CRT) glass.


About EMC

EMC Corporation is a global leader in enabling businesses and service providers to transform their operations and deliver IT as a service. Fundamental to this transformation is cloud computing. Through innovative products and services, EMC accelerates the journey to cloud computing, helping IT departments to store, manage, protect and analyze their most valuable asset — information — in a more agile, trusted and cost-efficient way. Additional information about EMC can be found at www.EMC.com.


About Environmental Defense Fund

Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading national nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. For more information, visit edfbusiness.org. Read our blog at blogs.edf.org/business. Follow us on Twitter: twitter.com/EDFbiz.


About InnoCentive

InnoCentive is the open innovation crowdsourcing and prize competition pioneer that enables organizations to solve their key problems by connecting them to diverse sources of innovation, including employees, customers, partners and the world’s largest problem-solving marketplace. InnoCentive’s proven Challenge Driven Innovation methodology, network of millions of problem Solvers, and cloud-based technology platform combine to fundamentally transform the economics of innovation and R&D through rapid solution delivery and the development of sustainable open innovation programs. Leading commercial, government, and nonprofit organizations, such as Booz Allen Hamilton, Eli Lilly & Company, Life Technologies, NASA, Nature Publishing Group, Popular Science, Procter & Gamble, Roche, Rockefeller Foundation, and The Economist partner with InnoCentive to solve problems and innovate faster, more cost effectively, and with less risk than ever before. For more information, visit www.innocentive.com or call 1-855-CROWDNOW.


Media Contacts:

Steve Bonadio
InnoCentive, Inc.

Marisa Borgasano
Schwartz MSL for InnoCentive

Jen Boucher
EMC Corporation

Jasper Jung
Environmental Defense Fund


By Wazoku

Wazoku is an innovation SaaS business that helps some of the world’s biggest organizations to innovate at scale. Whether it’s making the most of your employee's ideas, identifying new partners to collaborate with, or exploring the boundless potential of open innovation – or all three! – Wazoku makes innovation happen.