The EMCS students behind the phone recycling project

EMCS students power up for electric charging station

Student group collects used cellphones to fund electric charging station venture

Electric car ownership has seen a steady increase over the last two years, with Teslas and Leafs popping up around Sooke every so often, but with only two electric charging stations in town, potential owners may still be wondering: would this work for me?

Well, a group of 10 Edward Milne Community School students, known as Youth for Change, are driven to do something about it: by putting an electric charging station right at the school.

And how else to power an ambition than to recycle something as disposable as old cellphones?

Nick Gakena, one of the EMCS students involved in the project and the driving force behind the charging station, said his team has collected around 80 cellphones, but hope to gather 500 or more.

The way it works is the cellphones will get tagged, bagged and shipped over to GRC Recycling, a Florida-based recycling company that has a specific cellphone recycling program called Shelter Alliance which fully recycles or refurbishes cellphones in exchange for a refund.

Gakena noted that even though the amount of money they will get back is based on the condition and quality of the phones, the cellphone doesn’t have to work, and can still be donated if it has a cracked screen or won’t turn on. Cables aren’t necessary.

In the end, it’s all about making a difference and helping those gears turn in a community.

“It opens up more possibilities for the future, and in order tackle bigger issues like climate change, we need to provide the infrastructure for that,” Gakena said, adding that he figured a charging station at the school would be fitting since there is a small but growing population of electric cars in Sooke.

As for building the station itself, costs range anywhere between $1,200 and $2,000 for the unit, plus an additional $1,000 or so for all the wiring and electrical work.

Scott Rothermel, the EMCS teacher leading the student group said he is looking to get a unit similar to the one the T’Sou-ke Nation operates at its administration building.

“We’re looking at other local businesses who have electrical charging stations and thinking of adding more,” Rothermel said, adding that some systems will have different abilities, such as displaying the consumption and how long it will take.

Rothermel said that even though they are at the research stage, making it happen at the school isn’t that far off either.

“If they can put them at a Tim Hortons, then they should be able to put them at the school,” he chuckled.

Between EMCS and Belmont over the last five years, students recycled more than 1,000 phones, with funds being dispersed to fund school activities and projects.

The group hopes to reach a healthy cellphone count by the end of the school year, and may even stretch it into 2017, if necessary.

Those willing to donate their cellphones can just drop them off at a donation bin located at the main EMCS office between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

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