eReuse Society Refurbishes UNSW E-Waste

Waste from used electronic devices (e-waste) is growing three times faster than any other kind of waste in Australia. This is concerning because e-waste – which contains toxic elements such as mercury, lead, lithium and cadmium – can affect almost the entire human body when not recycled properly.

Thankfully, student startup and not-for-profit organisation eReuse Inc has found a way to mitigate the environmental impact of e-waste. Every three to four years, UNSW’s desktop computers are replaced to maintain state-of-the-art facilities.

Instead of throwing out the old ones, eReuse gathers them, refurbishing 90-95% of these computers by wiping out data and fixing up the system. The same thing is done for laptops donated by staff, students or community members. Once these devices are fixed, they’re distributed to less fortunate members of the community.

Just recently a laptop was given to a refugee who arrived from Iraq a year ago with her husband and four children. She and her husband have had a lot on their plate, between studying English and attending community classes, so getting the laptop sent the couple over the moon and provided them with opportunities to connect and communicate.

eReuse has come a long way since its genesis. It began as an idea for Enactus, a social entrepreneurship program, but it soon became sustainable enough to be a not-for-profit startup on its own. In early 2016, eReuse Inc approached Arc @ UNSW to ensure that eReuse stayed in student hands.

Working closely with UNSW Sustainability and UNSW IT, Arc @ UNSW established eReuse as an Arc student volunteering program. Now, eReuse maintains a close relationship with UNSW Sustainability and UNSW IT to ensure the long-term success of the program.

The program involves tech savvy students who volunteer at weekly refurbishment workshops at MCIC, where they work together to refurbish used computers and laptops.

These workshops provide an avenue for students to make a significant social impact in their own small way.

The success of eReuse goes to show that anyone and everyone can do their part in closing Australia’s digital divide. The startup invites any unwanted computers or laptops to be dropped off at Arc reception so that these devices can be refurbished and given new homes. Anything beyond repair can be recycled at the Reverse E-Waste bin, which is found in MCIC’s maker space.