People Power

Modified Bicycles Recycle Electronic Waste




Harvard graduate Rachel Field, 22, has invented the Bicyclean device, a contender for an international James Dyson Award recognizing the next generation of design engineers. The Bicyclean helps people in Third World countries separate valuable recyclable materials from the mountains of refrigerators, computers, cell phones and other electronic e-waste dumped in their “backyards” by richer nations. She aims to show that the needlessly harmful process can be made healthier, using simple bicycle technology that can be implemented virtually anywhere.

Her solution is to stand up a bike in the normal position, but with the back wheel removed and replaced with an enclosed, pedal-powered, grinder-and-separation system. Pushing bits of circuit board down an attached chute onto a grinding mill of coarse cement ejects crushed e-waste fragments. Magnets collect the ferrous metals, and a battery-powered electromagnetic current pushes away non-ferrous metals. The device is more sustainable, plus it deposits and emits much less pollution into nearby waterways and air than other methods.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Tree Tally

By digitalizing photographs and other museum records, scientists are closing in on the number of tree species left to be discovered in the Amazon rainforest.

Tiny Baubles

As many as 51 trillion particles of discarded plastic lie on the ocean floor, threatening marine life globally.

Landfill Eulogy

Sweden’s waste-to-energy plants are so efficient that it has closed many landfills and actually imports trash to burn from other European countries.

Humpback Holler

Humpback whales that leap out of the water are making a big splash to communicate with distant pods, Australian researchers have found.

Window Pain

As many as one billion migrating birds die annually when they collide with glass windows in the United States.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags