The idea behind Electrobac came from the drawer full of miscellaneous electronics we all have somewhere in our homes. The said-drawer is full of old headphones, cables, cellphones, and electronics that will most likely never be used again. Electrobac’s founder, Philip Bénard, started looking into the environmental impact related to electronics and was stunned. Fueled by the mission to find a solution to responsibly dispose of the items constantly found in this drawer, Philip started a school project that became Electrobac.
The first Electrobac was installed in the HEC Montreal’s COOP in November 2011. Because it was the first e-waste system of its kind, other educational institutions like the University of Montreal and Brébeuf College also installed some Electrobacs shortly after. Electrobacs started to be installed in malls, office buildings and grocery stores across Montreal. It wasn’t long before the Electrobac network reached 50 locations all over the city.
Things weren’t always easy for Electrobac. For over a year, the small team worked out of a 200 square foot storage unit. They emptied the Electrobacs themselves and brought the collected electronics to the appropriate recyclers and eco-centers.
In 2015, Electrobac made a giant leap. The company started working with a transportation team and partnered with the best recyclers in the industry. On June 1st, Electrobac was recognized by EPRA-Quebec as an official drop-off location for small electronics. EPRA is an industry-led non-profit with the mission to reduce the number of electronics that end up in landfills. EPRA also works to prevent electronics from being illegally exported, to protect the health and safety of the workers processing the electronics and to conserve natural resources by recovering raw materials that can be used to make new products. Once Electrobac joined EPRA-Quebec, the network quickly expanded throughout the province. First in Quebec City, then in Trois-Rivières, Sherbrooke, and Gatineau.
Though, as things were starting to pick up for Electrobac, the recycling industry took a hit. There was a significant decrease in the value of recycled materials, strongly affecting Electrobac. The company had no choice but to reinvent its business model in order to survive. As a solution, the team explored the opportunity of reusing some of the electronics collected. Not only did this solution help Electrobac, but it was also better for the environment! There are 3 R’s to remember to meet sustainability goals. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle! At this point, Electrobac introduced reusing in its process.
A new and exciting pillar was added to the company; the Buybac service. Companies were contacting Electrobac to find a solution to safely dispose of their corporate devices. In October 2015, the Buybac service was created to meet this demand and expanded rapidly across the country. By working with large companies with cellphones and tablets filled with sensitive data, Electrobac established itself as an industry leader in data security and device refurbishing. As an RQO approved company, Electrobac is recognized under the Electronics Reuse and Refurbishing Program (ERRP). This program attests that Electrobac respects the most rigorous data security and environmental standards in the industry.
In 2016, Electrobac took part in the Ecofuel accelerator program, which allowed Electrobac to be connected with different mentors and experts in the clean-tech industry. Once Electrobac graduated from the program, the company was ready to join the big leagues!
That same year, the Electrobac service expanded reached Ottawa. Several Electrobacs were installed in different government buildings, schools, malls and more. At this point, the network was composed of more than 230 Electrobacs in service!
2019 has been a great year for Electrobac. The network continues to expand in Ontario. As of March, the e-waste disposal service can be found in key locations of the Greater Toronto Area. In addition to the expansion in Toronto, the STM installed Electrobacs in the Montreal Metro to allow commuters to easily recycle both their OPUS cards and their small electronics.
Electrobac’s team always believed in corporate responsibility and having a positive impact on the community. The founding team established strong community values at the core of Electrobac since the very beginning. The first metal bins were made by Formetal, a company specialized in social reinsertion for youth and skill training. As of January 2016, Electrobac partnered with Coforce to integrate them as a triage center for all the collected electronics. Coforce is an adapted company who integrates people disabilities into the workforce.
A lot has happened with Electrobac, and there is much more to come!
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