On September 24, 2012, Apple Inc. reported that the iPhone 5 sold five million units in its first weekend (New York Times, 2012). Immediately, millions of older phones became obsolete, eclipsed by the lighter and faster model. Consumers are enamored with technological innovation, which drives them to purchase the newest product on the market. However, these technological innovations come at a cost. According to the Massachusetts Department of Environment Protection, this unwanted technology, more commonly known as electronic waste, is the fastest growing category of waste in the state.
Why it Matters:
In Massachusetts, consumers must spend time and money to ensure electronic waste is properly disposed. As a result, most electronic waste suffers the same fate as any household trash; it is collected and thrown in a landfill, incinerated, or shipped off to a third world country. On occasion, with the right system and incentives in place, consumers recycle electronic waste, keeping the precious – and often dangerous – materials it contains out of the environment.
As part of Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Undergraduate degree requirements, every student must complete an Interdisciplinary Qualifying Project in an area outside of their major. Three juniors chose a project to change that paradigm of electronic waste disposal in Massachusetts. In one semester, after many long nights, they became quasi-experts and strong advocates for a state-wide E-Waste recycling program that holds manufactures responsible for the cost of disposing of their products.
Meet the Team
Brianna Newton, nicknamed Brie, is a Biomedical Engineering major from Feeding Hills, Massachusetts. On campus is a member of the varsity field hockey team, captain of the women’s club lacrosse team, and a sister of Phi Sigma Sigma sorority, and an intern in the admission office at WPI.
Raj Patel is majoring in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Biochemistry who recently finished an internship with Saint Gobain where he helped start-up a brand new manufacturing pilot plant in Massachusetts. Currently, he is working as a Research Assistant with the WPI Mechanical Engineering’s Surface Metrology Lab where he serves as the student leader for the Ignition Research Project which focuses on different roughness vs. ignition rates on polymers. In addition, he enjoys sharing his time on campus with the club tennis team and the Student Alumni Society (SAS).
Christopher Savoia is pursuing a degree in Biomedical Engineering with a minor in Bioinformatics. He hopes to use bioinformatics and biomaterials to develop medical devices for use in finding cures to malicious deceases such as cancer.