For those not familiar with the background, Erin saw a video of the original Bright Sparks London and fell in love with the idea. From there she started Bright Sparks, a non-profit social enterprise in Melbourne which aimed to keep electrical items from landfill. The pilot project was so popular and even loved that seven months later they still get enquiries as to whether they will open again.
During the pilot Bright Sparks received over 6003 donations of unwanted electrical items, 5422 of which were recycled; 398 were sold; 139 were donated to other organisations; 29 were stolen in a burglary and 20 were saved for Bright Sparks 2.0. During this time the enterprise also repaired 129 items.
Erins honest and humurous account of why the Bright Sparks model had to change provides some a valuable lessons for Community Recyclers. Where Bright Sparks anticipated people would bring just one or two items in for donation, many customers bought car loads of items with some people travelling towns from as far as 200km to dispose of their unwanted goods. Bright Sparks original model was to have collection bins placed around Melbourne however these quickly became flooded with donations. Some of the bins needed to be emptied daily however councils were only willing to pay for weekly pick-ups.
At the sales front of the business, the cost of labour involved in preparing items for resale often exceeded the sales value. Only a small percentage of items were bought in for repair, however repair was time consuming and most things are designed for the dump. This meant most of the items received had to be sent for recycling. And this was expensive as many recyclers charge a collection fee as well as a processing fee. Some recyclers who would collect for free she describes as being like a 'Bad Boyfriend' who don't call for weeks and then call up out of the blue pretending nothing ever happened!
The vision for Bright Sparks 2.0 is a magic place called Tinker Town — a repair, reuse and replay centre. Tinker Town would feature a repair town - a one stop shop where people can get all manner of items repaired, a repair school that teaches people how to fix their own items, repair supplies for sale and a repair library where people can borrow repaired items. They are currently seeking funding, a space and volunteers who would like to help support this vision.
If you are interested e-waste, electronic waste, collections or repairs it is well worth reading the full article on Medium. Bright Sparks have recorded some great information and produced some beautiful graphs to share the lessons learnt from this project.
Community Recycling Network Australia looks forward to watching Tinker Town evolve!
If you would like further information please contact Erin Lewis-Fitzgerald at firstname.lastname@example.org.