Recycle A Device: Otago students are running one of New Zealandís raddest social enterprises

Recycle A Device: Otago students are running one of New Zealandís raddest social enterprises

If there is one thing every student has, it’s an old laptop or phone collecting dust in a drawer. Maybe you just don’t know what to do with it, or the thought of recycling it seems like too much admin, or maybe you’re hoping one day your old device will suddenly come back to life. Thankfully, a group of local students are here to help with that problem. 

Recycle A Device, also referred to as RAD, is an up and coming social enterprise run by Otago students Owyen and Hadi, as well as their Donor Liaison, Becks. RAD focuses on refurbishing old laptops and giving them to people who need devices the most, while also combatting e-waste.

Recycle A Device was started by Owyen and Hadi back in 2017 when the pair were still at school. They were approached by a teacher who highlighted to them that there were many students who didn’t have access to laptops. The pair then started a club refurbishing old laptops and giving them to students who didn’t have access to devices. Owyen and Hadi expanded on the business as a young enterprise scheme and they’ve been growing within the community ever since.

Speaking to Critic, Owyen said that “RAD focuses on three key things. We divert e-waste from landfill, and using that e-waste we teach school students about digital education, and then we put laptops into the hands of those who don’t have them.” Things really began to take off after the pair donated all their refurbished laptops before the Covid-19 lockdown, and caught the eye of Michael Trengrove, the general manager of Digital Futures Aotearoa. 

Hadi said “it’s sort of blown up since then, it has all happened really quickly.” Owyen said “it started off as a casual meeting. We were working on maybe 30 or 40 laptops, that got the cogs turning. We then decided to start expanding with the idea of education, it was very natural. Once we secured some funding, we went from there.”

The RAD team agreed that Covid-19 shone a light on what a necessity technology has become within our everyday lives. The pandemic showed that not having access to technology and devices creates barriers and inequity. “People were very much aware you needed a laptop to study anyway, but at home, with online classes, you really needed them,” said Becks. “Our goal is to get 2,000 laptops to students who need them, to get the word out, and let people know we exist. So many people have an old laptop in their cupboard and they don’t know what to do with it. We ask [the people who are donating] to send it to Auckland, it’s then data secured, but that will cost less than recycling it, and it goes to a really good cause.”

In terms of education outreach, Owyen and Hadi run classes at local schools to teach kids about technology and digital refurbishment. The classes give students skills they may otherwise not have access to in a regular classroom setting. “It’s something students choose to do in their free time which is really cool. They learn skills in diagnosing and refurbishing laptops, that may guide them into an interest in STEM which they might not otherwise be exposed to,” said Becks. 

The project has turned out to be a deeply rewarding experience for the trio. Providing people with a laptop often helps them get back into education that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. “I really like the personal stories, we had a student in class and it was his first time at school in 18 months, because he really wanted to join in on the refurbishment. We have talked to a young mom who wanted to get back into study and she got given a device, and that helped her get back on track and she was excited for the first time in a long time,” said Becks. 

RAD encourage anyone with an old laptop to head to to figure out how they can donate it to help others. 

This article first appeared in Issue 15, 2021.
Posted 4:23pm Sunday 18th July 2021 by Annabelle Vaughan.