E-waste Investigation

Duration: 3 months | Role: UX Researcher

Many third-world countries face significant challenges in e-waste management due to inadequate recycling methods. Annually, large amounts of e-waste are improperly disposed of in landfills and incinerators, often imported from more developed countries. Such practices pose serious risks to human, animal, and plant health.

This project investigates current recycling methods across various countries aiming to propose effective solutions. The objective is to develop sustainable, safer e-waste management strategies suitable for diverse regions, thereby mitigating the environmental and health impacts of e-waste.

The project also focuses on researching the environmental impact of electronic waste, aiming to enhance user awareness and understanding of electronic and electrical recycling for sustainability.

Furthermore, it includes recommendations about how to educate users on recycling and to encourage sustainable practices.

Research Question

What actions can citizens take to influence the life cycle of electronic products from a holistic perspective that encompasses the three R's: Reduce , Reuse and Recycle ?

The main purpose of the research question is to guide and clarify the right path in the discovery phase of the process, especially when details are misty and unclear. This approach ensures meeting the project objective while addressing more detailed questions that can be seen .

  • What new purposes do users find for obsolete products?
  • What essential information is required for a user to recycle effectively?
  • Which are the methods and/or locations used by users for recycling e-waste.
  • What are users' perceptions of the consequences of recycling or not recycling?
  • What types of redesign projects could inspire people to recycle and reuse materials?
  • How users describe the concept of sustainable consumption and provide strategies for buying sustainably?
  • What key information do users need to minimize the production of e-waste?
  • At which stage in a product's lifecycle should recycling information be provided to the user?
  • What methods can be used to facilitate connections between users donating electronics and electric products and those receiving these donations?
  • What kind of service or platform would be most helpful for users to address their needs related to e-waste?

Desk Research

"... governments take appropriate measures to minimize the disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) as unsorted municipal waste and achieve a high degree of separate collection of WEEE."

(Dir. 2002/96/CE of the European Parliament and of the Council Jan. 27, 2003)

"the lifetime of a bitcoin mining device is less than 1.29 years.[...] the amount of electronic waste per bitcoin, reach a result of 272g per transaction, which is equivalent to 112.5 million in 2020."

(Resouces, Conservation and Rerycling - Bitcoint’s growing e-waste problem)

"[...] if we are able to give up an excess of material comfort, that represents a liberation of creativity, a rebirth of good coexistence and the possibility of leading a decent life"

(Made to Throw Away - The Irrationality of Planned Obsolescence)

"In 2019, the world generated a staggering 53.6 tonnes of e-waste, an average of 7.3kg per capita."

(The Global E-waste Monitor 2020 Report)

Competitive audit

A competitive audit was conducted to understand the current market landscape and how existing solutions address the problem. This examination included an analysis of user preferences across various interfaces and devices. The research focused on identifying direct and indirect competitors and analyzing their most significant services to gain insights into the current market dynamics.

Competitive audit insights.

User Definition

The 2x2 diagram is a research method that categorizes users into groups based on accessibility and the insights they offer, enabling the identification of priority groups for research.

Diagram 2x2

This research primarily focuses on users in the "Gold" sections of the 2x2 diagram, who offer significant learning potential and are easily accessible.

Discovery User Interview

Semi-Structured Interview with an Open-Ended Script

The goal of this discovery interview was to answer some of the questions that emerged during the earlier design phases. To ensure the proper users were interviewed, a screener has been created. Also an interview script comprising some demographic questions and interview questions was created. The informed consent and Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) were created and presented and explained to users before the interviews. Five representative users from the target audience were interviewed presenting the results in the following section.

To check out some of the user's quotes during the interview, press .

"I believe I purchase these types of products almost monthly."

"I usually buy this type of product when the previous ones break, and it's often out of necessity."

"If they are headphones and they break, I usually throw them away."

"Every time I have tried to fix something, it has gotten worse, so I have stopped trying."

Ilustration of an interview

Schetch of a semistructured interview generated with DALL·E

Affinity Diagram

The affinity map is a method of understanding and processing data that associates ideas with each other. Currently used in different fields, it has become an essential tool for organizing and structuring concepts. That's the main reason why I decided to use this method to analyze the interview insights.

Ilustration of an interview

Affinity diagram created with the interview insights

To better understand the creation of categories within the affinity diagram, please refer to section.

Purchase Frecuency

Encompasses users that purchase technological/electronic products almost monthly. With the ever-increasing consumption of technology they have been categorized into a single group.

Reasons for Producing E-Waste

This category includes user statements related to why products are set aside, stopped being used, or replaced, thereby generating e-waste.

Product Repair

This category encompasses all interview quotes about intentions to repair products or not. It also includes the challenges users have faced when attempting repairs.

Alternative Use of Products/ Solutions

Here, all ideas about alternative uses for obsolete or non-functioning electrical and technological products are gathered. The goal is to propose alternative solutions to recycling, based on these user experience quotes.

Information about E-Waste

Interviews revealed that often, recycling is not done due to a lack of knowledge on how to proceed. All the ideas related to these challenges due to unfamiliarity are included here.

Utility of Technology

The research phase also uncovered the significant daily utility of technology for users, which should not be overlooked. However, ending its lifecycle in a way that negatively impacts the user's environment is the least desirable solution.


Purchase Frecuency

For users who frequently buy products, alternatives like rental services or product trials could be introduced. Efforts should be made to encourage these users to purchase less frequently or opt for long-lasting products.

Reasons for Producing E-Waste

Given that many users replace products only when they break or malfunction, offering a post-purchase repair service could be beneficial. Promoting the purchase of products with replaceable parts for easy repair over time is also advisable.

Product Repair

Users show a willingness to repair damaged or non-functional products, but often face prohibitive costs or lack the necessary know-how. A viable solution could be to provide discounts at repair service stores or, for those who are more hands-on, detailed guides for DIY repairs of various products.

Alternative Use of Products/ Solutions

Introduce incentives like discounts on new purchases in exchange for old products. Provide step-by-step guides for repurposing non-functional digital products. Consider enabling the donation of repairable products to developing countries.

Information about E-Waste

Enhance awareness through infographics, educational boardgames and/or videogames for children and adults, and detailed reports on the how, where, and why of recycling.

Utility of Technology

Maintain focus on the benefits of living in a technology-rich world. Technology itself isn't the issue; rather, it's how technology is used and how its life cycle ends that poses risks to humanity.

Thank you for taking the time to review the E-Waste project. I appreciate your interest. As a passionate advocate for innovation and technology, I believe in the importance of recycling properly for the future of our planet. I hope this project made you curious about this subject and inspired you to investigate more in the field. If you'd like to discuss it further, explore potential collaborations, or share your feedback, please don't hesitate to contact me. I'm always happy for a chit-chat.