How are vapes saving lives and powering soldiers in Ukraine?
When the Ukraine-Russia war began, Ivan Volynets, an IT specialist based in Kyiv, joined the Ukrainian cyber army. Part of his duties involved daily contact with soldiers on the frontline.
“I asked friends on the frontline ‘what do you need? How can we help you?’, and the feedback was, ‘We need guns, power banks and night vision goggles’.
Ivan built a night vision device from scratch and sent it to one of his contacts on the frontline. While the goggles didn’t work as hoped, the device’s added charging function proved to be very useful. Power banks were very hard to come by through traditional retail outlets so portable energy sources were in short supply.
Together with Dmitri Yaremeko, the pair set about designing and building a power bank using what resources they could draw upon. Dmitri had a eureka moment to use the lithium batteries found in disposable vapes - a free and readily available resource, ripe for repurposing - to provide the much needed energy. As demand grew for their power banks, so did local awareness of what the team were doing for their compatriots.
Anastasiia Latysheva, founding member and co-organiser of events and social media, commented, ”Once news spread of what we were doing in our community, we quickly grew from a team of 5 to more than 20 who are with us every weekend. Today, there are over 100 volunteers who support us remotely and at our workshop.”
Every Saturday, the UAPowerkit team hosts volunteers at their workshop to dismantle collected disposable vapes (manually removing the batteries is a time consuming process), test the batteries and build the power banks, under the supervision of Dmytro Yaremenko.
Once the batteries are harvested, the remaining components are taken away for recycling by a local government organisation. The team of volunteers can make 1 power bank in 1.5 hours, and as of April 2023, the UAPowerkit team has made and shipped 1600 power banks to soldiers on the frontline.
Dmytro commented, “It costs about 30 EUR to make one power bank. It’s enough to buy all the extra materials we need such as power bank boards, insulation, wires, pipes and solder”.
As demand for their power banks has grown, so has the need for disposable vapes. The UAPowerkit team has cultivated an effective collection strategy through partnerships and social media outreach.
Collection points have been set up with retailer Rozetka and cinema chain Multiplex. The collection and delivery of the collected vapes is managed by environmental collective EcoKPI. A freepost agreement with Nova Poshta allows for postal donations from supporters in Ukraine and Poland.
When I asked what motivates them to do what they are doing, the answer was clear.
Ivan Volynets, spoke on behalf of all the Founders, “Our motivation is the feedback we get from the soldiers. They tell us some stories of when the power bank has saved their lives. They can charge their night vision goggles, drones, walkie talkies and smartphones - vital kit now for soldiers and this motivates us, and the volunteers, to keep doing what we do. Ukrainian people also send us letters of support which is joyful for us to read. The snacks are great too.”
To make a donation to fund their project, click here