on July 23rd, 2021

Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT) on-campus students are using their internship experiences to think beyond recycling and help stop the flow of e-waste to landfills.

Every year, 44.7 million tonnes of e-waste are generated around the world. Furthermore, in Australia, e-waste is the fastest-growing component of the municipal solid waste stream.

Documented statistics by the United Nations University (UNU) show that only 20 percent of e-waste is collected and recycled, the fate of the other 80 percent is unknown. E-waste contains hazardous materials like lead, cadmium, and beryllium, that when dumped or burned can damage human health and the environment.

This is why companies like Total Green Recycling (TGR) are so important for our future.  

Established in 2008 by brothers Michael and James Coghill, TGR is striving to clean our environment and reduce carbon emissions, one electronic device at a time.

Providing sustainable e-waste solutions throughout Western Australia, TGR recovers useful everyday technology materials and redirects them into productive, profitable, and green enterprise solutions.

They are focused on maximizing the environmental outcome achieved from recycling e-waste, to ensure a cleaner environment for future generations.

In June 2021 alone, they recovered 252,432kg of materials and recycled 37,761 items.

EIT Students and TGR Director, Michael Coghill
From L-R: Ceezan Maharjan, Testimony Onoja, Amrit Thakur, Michael Coghill, Felix Okoh

A pivotal aspect of TGR’s mission is supporting purposeful education, and through EIT’s Work Integrated Learning (WIL) program, four EIT on-campus students have embraced the valuable opportunity to gain work experience in this crucial field.

Inspiring a Greener Future with Work Integrated Learning

At the Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT), we are committed to providing all on-campus students the opportunity to gain Australian experience in a professional organization.

For EIT students, Amrit Thakur, Ceezan Maharjan, Felix Okoh, and Testimony Onoja, their WIL experience has allowed them to apply their engineering skills to create solutions that positively impact the environment around them.

“Engineering is all about encouraging a future of innovation, so it’s important to develop the core skills that will inspire students to have the confidence to try and solve the problems of tomorrow,” says TGR Director, Michael Coghill.

“We try and test the assumptions of students and really encourage them to ask questions. As engineering students, it’s important they understand the why.”

EIT students smiling at camera
From L-R: Ceezan Maharjan, Felix Okoh

Beyond just observing and learning from what is currently being done, EIT students are encouraged to think of their own innovative solutions. By getting hands-on with their ideas, students can witness the real-life impacts that their studies make.

EIT students working at station
Pictured: Amrit Thakur (L) and Testimony Onoja (R) testing lithium-ion batteries

A Second Chance at Life for Lithium-Ion Batteries

In Australia, only 2 percent of lithium-ion batteries are currently being recycled properly, with the other 98 percent potentially ending up in landfills.

Industry analysts predict that by 2030, the worldwide number of used lithium-ion batteries will hit 2 million metric tons per year.

During their placement at TGR, Amrit Thakur and Testimony Onoja began the project of giving lithium-ion batteries a new lease on life. Work that was then continued by subsequent students, Ceezan Maharjan and Felix Okoh.

“We are constantly getting thousands of old laptop batteries, inside these old laptop batteries are six individual cells,” explains Michael.

Discarded batteries

Pictured: Discarded batteries

“What’s happening is, some of these cells are actually still good. So, we’re developing a process with the students to recover the good cells, quality test them, refurbish them and then rebuild them into new battery products.”

The project is still in its beginning stages, giving students full control in taking it to the next level.

Through continuous process improvement, they have currently been able to achieve a production time of sixty seconds per cell.

“As an engineer, it’s all about finding solutions. From what I achieved at TGR, I was able to go back into class and use my new knowledge to approach my studies more confident and with a new mindset,” reflected mechanical engineering student, Amrit Thakur.

EIT student holding lithium-ion batteries
Pictured: Ceezan Maharjan and lithium-ion batteries
Close-up of student's hands holding lithium-ion batteries
Pictured: Testing lithium-ion batteries
EIT student checking the temperature of lithium-ion batteries
Pictured: Amrit Thakur

Going Beyond Technical Skills

Whilst it is inherently important in engineering education to impart technical knowledge and skills, it is the development of soft skills that can make the difference in setting students apart from the rest of the crowd.

Recent studies have shown that the current engineering field shifted to emphasize and legitimize the importance of soft skills for employability.

Coming together from different streams of engineering for their TGR placements, students were able to learn from each other and understand the importance of communication and respect within the workplace.

“Critical thinking binds together all of engineering, and we were able to use each other's strengths to create continuous improvements,” explained industrial automation student, Felix Okoh.

“Beyond the technical thoughts and knowledge, we were able to establish teamwork with the other students and bring together the EIT community,” concluded electrical engineering student, Testimony Onoja.

To find out more about Total Green Recycling and join their mission, visit their website.

The On-Campus Experience at EIT

EIT provides all our on-campus students 240 hours of work-integrated learning at no extra cost.  This equates to a 6-week full-time internship or equivalent in part-time hours. 

Your internship may be physical, virtual, or a hybrid placement (a combination of an in-company placement and virtual placement). It will provide an outstanding opportunity to gain Australian experience in a professional organization relevant to your field of engineering and will improve your employability post-completion of your degree.

To find out more, visit our Work Integrated Learning website page.

References

Baldé, C.P., Forti V., Gray, V., Kuehr, R., Stegmann, P.: The Global E-waste Monitor – 2017, United Nations University (UNU), International Telecommunication Union (ITU) & International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), Bonn/Geneva/Vienna.

King, Sarah; Boxall, Naomi; Bhatt, Anand. Lithium battery recycling in Australia - Current status and opportunities for developing a new industry. Australia: CSIRO; 2018. https://doi.org/10.25919/5b69ec381e06c

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