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The Electronic Waste Recycling Project That's Transforming Lives

The Electronic Waste Recycling Project That's Transforming Lives

The Electronic Waste Recycling Project That’s Transforming Lives

A social enterprise in Queensland, Australia is repurposing electronic waste to make innovative products, and transforming the lives of the people who are involved in the process.

Substation 33 has been operating since 2015 and it was originally an electronics recycling business. Since they began, they’ve taken apart, sorted, and repurposed more than half a million kilos of electronic waste, which otherwise would have gone to landfill.

The company’s founder said that electronics waste is becoming an increasing problem in Australia. Technology advances quickly and there is no clear end of life recycling strategy.

Substation 33 collects electronic waste, such as kettles and DVD players, and turns them into something valuable.

Electronic Waste

The team

The team at Substation 33 is mainly made up of volunteers who are long-term unemployed and need a fresh start. Working at the project gives them some much-needed work experience and helps them develop their communication skills.

The company does have paid employees and supervisors who share their skills and expertise with the volunteers.

Amazing inventions

The team has invented some amazing things, including an electric bike powered by old batteries from a laptop, and solar energy amplifiers that light up remote villages in Indonesia. Their biggest project to date is developing real-time flood warning signs. There are 35 signs in operation in Brisbane.

Success stories

In the past year, 50 people have found jobs and 10 more jobs have been created within the company.


The extent of the e-waste problem

Projects like those run by Substation 33 help to alleviate the problem of the increasing amount of electronic waste that is discarded globally. Here are some facts that demonstrate the extent of the problem.

  • We discard around 40 million tons of electronic waste every year globally.
  • An average mobile phone user replaces their handset every 18 months.
  • E-waste accounts for 70% of overall toxic waste.
  • Only 12.5% of E-Waste is recycled.
  • 85% of E-Waste is sent to landfills and incinerators. This means toxins are released into the groundwater and the air.
  • Electronics contain heavy metals like lead which can damage the central nervous system and kidneys.
  • The most hazardous electronic items in terms of their components include LCD desktop monitors, LCD televisions, Plasma Televisions, TVs, and computers with Cathode Ray Tubes.
  • E-waste contains many toxic substances like mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, selenium, chromium, and flame retardants.

300 million computers and 1 billion mobile phones are manufactured every year, and this is growing by 8% each annually.

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