London – Around 40,000 people in Ghana’s capital Accra depend on informal recycling to earn a living and one practice involves burning the plastic insulation of electrical cable to extract the copper wire. Royal College of Art student Hal Watts has developed a sustainable recycling system called Esource to tackle the harmful health and environmental consequences of this process.
Presented at the Innovation Design Engineering Masters degree show, Esource comprises a cable shredder and a sorter powered by bicycle.
‘The sorter works using the same method as in gold panning machines,’ Watts tells LS:N Global. ‘As the basin rotates, the copper particles work their way up the spiral and are collected in the centre. The water washes out the lighter plastic particles before they can get to the centre of the spiral.’
Not only does the system eradicate the harmful fumes caused by burning the plastic, but the copper extracted is also worth 20% more because it is not charred. Such indovation – innovating downwards for emerging markets – is becoming increasingly prevalent. For more, read our Inform interviews with Navi Radjou and Jaideep Prabhu.