Electronic waste recycling and REEGAINING the passion for Science in Czech Republic

Hello, my name is Martina and I am an IVY volunteer participating on REEgain project in Třeboň, Czech Republic. This project is trying to resolve the issue of R.E.E.s = Rare Earth Elements, which are chemical elements that are necessary for producing electronics. Literally every smart phone, every light bulb and every screen is made from rare earth elements, so they are incredibly important for our economy. However, the world supplies are slowly running out, and the import from eastern countries is heavily restricted. Therefore, recycling these elements from electronic waste is becoming the easiest way how to obtain them for producing new electronics. Moreover, it is also the best way how to recycle electronic waste with respect to our environment. In the Centre Algatech,Institute of Microbiology in Třeboň, Czech Republic this process is done by green algae. These microorganisms are known to accumulate REEs in their bodies so they can be separated from e-waste and re-used later. Scientists are working hard to figure out the smartest, cheapest and most eco-friendly solution for their recycling and so far they are making great progress! The REEgain project is part of the Interreg VA program and it enables cooperation between research institutions in Czech Republic and Austria.

As for me, before I joined IVY platform I was not aware of such organization, and honestly I was overwhelmed once I discovered more about it. Anyway – since I have always been a proud citizen of European Union, I was excited about joining IVY corps and promoting European Scientific projects in a simple, friendly manner. And so I jumped right in – first, I started studying various scientific papers to really understand the background of the project itself and to gain sufficient knowledge on the topic. Consequently, I spent lot of time collecting material for my presentations (including taking pictures of literally EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY on the institute :-)) and I also launched a Facebook page and an Instagram profile. My main focus was to present the project in a funny way so that everybody could understand what we do and how is it beneficial. Finally, I started communicating with various organisations (festivals, student clubs, regional platforms, media) and that was when things started to move!

Additionally, I presented REEgain project in high schools. At first I was little bit nervous, because I was not used to give talks, but I gained confidence very quickly and I always enjoyed following debates with students (and sometimes also with their teachers! ). Currently, I am working on our next public talk, which will be a part of Science Café cycle – and I am very excited about it!

IVY volunteering experience gave me a unique opportunity to work on my soft skills, to explore new possibilities of my future career, to get an idea about scientific projects in Europe and finally, to meet many interesting and open-minded people.

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