sustainable learning spaces

Designing Our Future: Sustaining Space and Encountering eWaste

Kristi Apostel, Smarthinking
Shawn Apostel, Bellarmine University

Mobile Devices in Education
Tablets Usage Increases
Recycling Programs


In contrast, the iPad our daughter was so excited to use will eventually be sold at public auction once they’re no longer valuable, according to Kentucky law. Kentucky legislature also passed a statute in 2008 that allows school boards to distribute refurbished surplus technology to low-income students (Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, para. 1). Other states have of course passed similar laws, and while discussing these in-depth isn’t the current focus, results of an informal survey we conducted on this topic bring compelling insight. In schools ranging from pre-K to higher education, which are in states from the South to the Midwest, and from the North to the Southwest, there are very few plans in place for recycling mobile devices currently used in the classroom.

Most schools are unsure of what will happen to devices when they’ve reached their ends, but some do plan to place devices in storage or sell them at auction or in rummage. However—and this is more promising—some universities are committed to recycling their outdated electronic equipment. For instance, Bellarmine University, in Louisville, KY, is an institution that currently sends out-used devices to an ethically minded e-waste recycler, E-Waste Sys Cincinnati, Inc (EWSI).  Formerly, Bellarmine recycled their e-waste through 2TRG, which was an R2 (Responsible Recycling) and e-stewards certified processor. However, when it went out of business in 2013, leaving behind 1500-3000 tons of CRT (cathode ray tube) glass at its former Cincinnati facility (Elliot & Leif, 2014), EWSI stepped in and purchased much of 2TRG’s assets in December of the same year. Fortunately, school and universities like Bellarmine that used the 2TRG’s services had a larger, global company to resort to, providing a seamless transition for continued responsible e-waste recycling.

EWSI, which is located in Cincinnati, London, and Shanghai, focuses on global leadership in “safe, compliant, and ethical e-waste disposal” (EWSI, n.d.-a, para. 3). By offering customized solutions in IT Asset Recovery, E-Waste Management, and Electronics Reverse Logistics, EWSI fits the needs of diverse clients (para. 1). An ideal choice for a university’s electronics recycling needs, the company targets circuit board based electronics, including the multitude of computers, monitors, and hard drives in use by students, faculty, and staff, but also accepts cell phones, televisions, and printers (EWSI, n.d.-b, para. 1).

If universities or colleges wish to follow in Bellarmine’s footsteps, they might engage in e-waste recycling exchanges with companies like EWS and see some of the following options:

Charges for certified e-waste recycling Credits to an institution for e-waste recycling
HardDrive Destruction $2.00 each Desktop PCs $7.00 each
CRT Monitors, Flat screen monitors, and CRT TVs $0.15/lb Laptops $15.00 each
Rear Projection TVs $0.25/lb Servers $7.00 each
Figure 2: Charges and Credits for E-Waste Recycling

Other items, such as printers and network gear, might be processed at no charge (K. Lundgren, personal communication, June 5, 2014). Recently, Bellarmine recycled 39 hard drives through E-Waste Systems, for which a detailed audit report was provided (see Figure 3). Remaining committed to safe, responsible, and certified e-waste recycling, the company also releases a Certificate of Destruction (Figure 4) in exchanges like these, noting on the certificate that materials were disposed of in accordance with applicable Federal, State, and Local Rules and Regulations. Recycling e-waste that is processed by the pound, EWS recently worked with Bellarmine to recycle 3,308 lbs. of electronics, providing a Certificate of Recycling which promised that materials were processed through an EPA-approved vendor who had been inspected by EWS. Furthermore, the certificate noted that all electronics were properly recycled or handled in accordance with Federal, State, and Local regulations within all regulated time periods (see Figure 5). Bellarmine can be further assured that it is working with an ethically-minded e-waste recycler because EWS is part of a global company, E-Waste Systems, Inc. (EWSI), “which is the first pure play public company in the emerging waste electrical and electronics equipment (‘WEEE’) industry,” targeting “companies facing regulatory or other mandates for handling e-waste” (E-Waste Systems, Inc., 2013, para. 9). No matter the location of a university or college in the U.S., it could consider working with EWSI, as the company can arrange collections from every zip code. Internationally, it is also working or partnering in the United Kingdom, China, and Australia and has recently announced deals in Africa, Argentina, and India (para. 6).

An invoice from eWaste systems. A certificate that assures hard drive destruction. A certificate that states what was recycled.
Figure 2: A detailed report of the 39 hard drives recycled through E-Waste Systems
Figure 3: A Certificate of Destruction
Figure 4: Certificate noting that all electronics were properly recycled

With sustainability issues in mind, and in order to favor local industries, Bellarmine IT staff gives us a model to follow because they remain on alert for new companies that follow the strict e-waste guidelines outlined by standards such as WEEE, or the Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. Set up by the European Union (EU) in 2003, WEEE allows for disposal of hazardous chemicals contained in the electronic devices we use every day (WEEE, 2003, p. 37). While EWSI is in compliance with this directive, a smaller, local company Bellarmine has its eyes on does the same. C & I Electronics, located in nearby in Indiana, proclaims its motto, “Commercial and Industrial Electronics Recycling…For a better tomorrow,” in tandem with its name. Making good on this promise, C & I has been careful to operate within crucial standards, as it is R2 certified, boasts ISO 14001 certification, and is an Indiana IDEM Registered E-Waste Facility. Offering its services to both individuals and business, C & I promotes electronics recycling in various ways. If a product can be refurbished, for instance, C & I gives it a second chance by selling it to local residents (students are frequent customers of this service). However, when a product cannot and should not be returned to operation, C & I promises to use “the latest technologies to recover the highest percentage of raw material possible,” including copper, aluminum, plastic, glass, and precious metals present in “yesterday’s electronics” (C & I, 2013, para. 2).

While recycling and end-of-life disposal is an important aspect to consider when purchasing technology, in the educational setting we must also consider the ease in which instructors adapt these tools. If instructors feel the technology is too difficult to learn, these recyclable tools may not be used at all. In order to be sustainable, technology has to be usable. The popularity of mobile devices shows us that lowering the learning curve opens up technology to a wide range of users, and this should take place in educational settings too. For example, when Bellarmine wanted to construct a place for faculty to record and share lecture topics with a virtual audience, they researched and found free software provided by Penn State ( and constructed the One Button Studio. The Studio allows anyone with a USB Drive and the ability to push a button a way to record a high quality video and audio file (see Figure 5). The Studio is open to students and faculty alike and is becoming increasingly popular as the word spreads. (Examples of faculty and student work can be found in Figures 6 and 7). In projects like these, Bellarmine is finding ways to make technology work for the instructor, instead of the instructor working for the technology.

Links to YouTube video Links to YouTube video Links to YouTube video
Figure 5: A two minute YouTube video explaining how to use the One Button Studio. Click on the image to watch.
Figure 6: An example of how an instructor uses the One Button Studio with Green Screen technology. Click on the image to watch.
Figure 7: An example of how a student uses the One Button Studio to construct a class project. Click on the image to watch.

If a university chooses to use a local or small company for its electronics recycling needs, there are some important and practical guidelines to keep in mind. First and foremost, the needs of the IT staff at the university should be considered. Safe and verified destruction of sensitive data is imperative, for instance. In addition, prompt response for recycling pick-up is necessary, since most IT departments do not have much space to store outdated devices. Bellarmine prefers that electronics be picked up the same day, but definitely within the same week. Also, companies that offer to offset the cost of recycling certain products are favored by IT for budgetary reasons. For example, an e-waste company may purchase a working computer to alleviate the cost of recycling another product, such as a broken monitor that cannot be refurbished. Certainly, choosing a company with the proper e-waste certification is a must, so checking for R2 certification, ISO 14001, and WEEE compliance, among others, will ensure that that devices are disposed of responsibly. Balancing local efforts with national companies is also useful, as small companies may struggle with costs associated with proper e-waste disposal. For example, 2TRG was an R2 and e-stewards certified processor but when it went out of business in 2013 and was purchased by EWSI, schools and universities like Bellarmine that used the former services fortunately had that larger, global company to resort to. So while there are benefits of a local company (e.g., easy to visit, quicker response), a global company is also smart to consider because it provides an added level of security with its larger capital.

With the rising interest from students and teachers alike to use mobile devices in all levels of education, and with the current lack of plans in place at many schools to recycle these devices, a unique opportunity is at hand. As the teachers who will interact with students and their iPads, e-Readers, or other tablets, we can look to universities like Bellarmine, or companies like EWSI and C & I as we consider the options that will divert these devices from the e-waste stream. Researching laws in our states or commitments made by our Boards of Education, and encouraging students who come to school with personally owned devices to take advantage of the take-back programs provided by the appropriate manufacturers are also options to keep on the table. We can further look for additional companies and organizations that are e-steward or R2 certified, which are listed on websites like and

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