Managing Electronic Waste

ISE faculty members Sara Behdad, Ann Bisantz, and industry partner Willie Cade are leading an NSF project on remediating Electronic Waste (e-waste) problems.

The major goal of the project is to quantify the impact of design features and consumer behavior in dealing with used electronics on the total volume, timing and quality of returned discarded items as well as the uncertainties in the return flows. Inspired by the large amount of electronics sold and the e-waste generated annually, the research has two main objectives: (1) to gain a fundamental understanding of the role of consumer behavior and designer decisions on the amount of discarded electronics generated nationwide annually, (2) to develop a novel class of design evaluation techniques with the aim of creating designs that ensure long term solutions to control waste.

To properly consider the role of consumer behavior in e-waste generation, both survey and industry data are used. Of particular interest for study are behaviors such as whether consumers choose to store rather than dispose of used products, consumer risk attitudes toward disposal of still-functional used products, and the effect of these factors on the uncertainties in the quantity and quality of returned used products to the waste stream.