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People around the world, especially in the global south make their livelihoods by processing E-waste. This process can be long and labor-intensive including brute force, chemical reactions, and incredibly high temperatures. It is also highly dangerous to the waste processors, their families, and the surrounding community. When E-waste wires are burned to obtain precious metals, such as copper, a black smoke containing hazardous chemicals is released into the air. This smoke includes toxic heavy metals and organohalogen compounds which bioaccumulate and cause severe health risks to communities, contaminating water, soil, and food supplies. The goal of our project was to develop a device that would reduce these toxic emissions. Specifically, we designed a ‘burn-box’ and scrubber which would prevent the emission of these chemicals into the ambient air as much as possible. Some of the key design constraints that we needed to consider were available tools and materials, portability, and reproducibility. This meant that we needed to use materials reasonably found on or around the E-waste site to construct our burn boxes which we designed in conjunction with the community to assure that our design would be useful and sustainable.
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- UN Sustainable Development Goals
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