…Just not from us. Can you figure out how to track electronic waste as it moves downstream, from electronics recyclers to its final location in waste sites, scrap markets, or remanufacturing plants? Popular Science and InnoCentive‘s latest Innovation Challenge offers a reward of up to $10,000 for the best scalable system to track electronic waste.

The call for proposals explains:

This Challenge seeks ideas for a scalable system (may include processes, devices, etc.) that will allow EMC to follow e-waste to final destination. [...] How can the disposal chain be tracked most efficiently, so that various pieces and sizes of waste can be tracked from collection to their final destination?

The ideal solution, they say, will be safe, effective around the world, and inexpensive. Of course, that’s a rather tall order. E-waste streams are notoriously messy and complicated. Anything that involves extra electronic components is likely to be disassembled along with the e-waste itself; anything that involves humans scanning or recording information won’t scale well.

I’m not sure even $10,000 is going to be enough of an incentive to tackle a problem of this magnitude. After all, Netflix offered a million dollars to get a matrix that better predicted movie preferences. But hey, at least the challenge will get smart people talking about it.

Submissions are due by June 06, 2012.

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