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Young alumni stories: e-waste not, want not

Alumni News

An idea that began as a way to support two brothers studying at university has prospered into an ever-expanding recycling business that aims to help reduce electronic waste.

Curtin male graduate and brother near home-made sign.
Curtin alumnus James Coghill (left) and brother Michael - founders of Total Green Recycling

Total Green Recycling (TGR) is the brain-child of Curtin engineering graduate James Coghill and his brother, Michael. Established in 2008, the company’s primary service offering is recovering and recycling materials from waste electronics. Its key objective is to liberate material from the waste electronics that can be further processed into saleable commodities used in manufacturing operations, therefore minimising the amount of material being sent to landfill.

The brothers began the business to help support themselves financially throughout their university studies.

“We started off trying to create some income to support our university lifestyles and so began collecting scrap metal from the roadside during council verge collections”, recalls Coghill.

Over time, the pair also started collecting, testing and refurbishing discarded computer monitors. This, however, came at a cost, with every second computer monitor not working, and the growing volume of e-waste no longer fitting comfortably in their parents’ garage.

“We put our thinking caps on, read a lot of books and worked out how to recycle e-waste. We then rang around to some eastern states companies and got some downstream agreements in place”, Coghill explains.

Together, the brothers formulated a business plan and flew to Africa to pitch the business concept to their parents, trading equity for seed funding.

“To our surprise we reached an agreement and Total Green Recycling was born. We flew back to Perth, rented a warehouse and hired some of our friends from university and away we went!”

The company continues to go from strength to strength, with the introduction of an asset recovery and refurbishment division in 2011. This service has proven extremely popular and has since led to additional services to meet customer needs, including logistics, data wiping, asset decommissioning and supply chain management.

In 2016, the company commissioned a modular shredding and separation plant; an investment that has positioned it as the only e-waste specific separation plant in Western Australia.

TGR’s vision to contribute to a more sustainable future is most certainly coming to fruition, with 95 per cent of electronic materials recovered and recycled, and only five per cent marked for disposal.

Never one to let an opportunity go to waste, Coghill has plans to expand the company further in the coming years.

“In the next three years, TGR plans to work with state and local government to ban e-waste from landfill and increase WA’s electronic recycling rate to the highest rate in the nation, and increase its footprint in the asset refurbishment space, offering business and corporate customers the best value for their redundant IT equipment”, Coghill says.

With a focus on data and quality management, TGR aims to move up the supply chain offering tracked logistics and decommissioning services for major Australian leasing companies.

This story is part of Curtin’s Young Alumni Stories series where we celebrate the achievements of Curtin graduates 35 and under. Learn more about the Young Alumni Program.

Alumni Innovator series

50 Years of Innovation events

This interview is part one of our Alumni Innovator series, which recognises Curtin and WAIT alumni who’ve thought outside the box and excelled in their field.