RAD approach a win for the environment, education and the economy

RAD approach a win for the environment, education and the economy

Recycle a device initiative

Sustainability initiative Recycle A Device (RAD) is not only reducing the amount of e-waste ending up in landfill, it is also tackling multiple societal issues head on, including increasing tech access and skills for the future workforce. 

RAD is a Digital Future Aotearoa (DFA) programme that reduces e-waste by tracking down donations of unwanted laptops and diverting them from landfill or e-recycling. RAD then teaches students to diagnose and repair these devices, with the refurbished fit-for-purpose devices gifted to those who need them for employment, education, and general participation in society. 

Established in 2021, General Manager Bronwyn Scott has been leading the organisation since its inception, which was prompted by the COVID-19 lockdowns. 

“Recycle A Device grew out of a student-led initiative, where some tech-savvy students were refurbishing laptops to make sure their peers had devices to use for remote schooling during COVID-19 lockdowns,” says Bronwyn. 

“We knew from our experience working in technology and digital enrichment that this model could be expanded, so RAD was formed using this initiative as its foundation, and now operates nationwide from a base in Ōtautahi Christchurch. RAD’s work reduces e-waste, prioritises reusing and reducing resources over recycling and other methods of disposal, breaks the cycle of planned obsolescence through repair skills training and mindset change, and encourages long term behavioural change that leads to less consumerism.”

RAD currently works with a number of organisations, including HamiltonJet, Department of Internal Affairs, Silver Fern Farms, Computer Recycling, the Department of Conservation, Foodstuffs, Chorus, and more. Locally, they have established partnerships with Te Aratai (Linwood) College, Burnside High School:Te Kura o Waimairi-iri, Christchurch Boys’ High School, The Loft, Linwood Library, Samoan Methodist Church, TechMate, Te Whatu Ora (formerly Canterbury District Health Board) youth mental health team, and have started discussions with several other schools and community groups. 

Bronwyn says that the impacts of the programme are more profound than just providing a laptop to someone who previously didn’t have one. 

“There is a large digital divide in Aotearoa, both in skills and access, with an estimated 100,000 rangatahi living without adequate access to digital participation.  Through the inclusion of currently excluded groups, RAD provides the tools needed for rangatahi to fully participate in a digital society, including having the skills to be able to succeed in a future workplace. 

“We have seen a good turnout of female, Māori and Pasifika students in our refurbishment programme which bodes well for the future – these demographics are currently under-represented in technology and are the most impacted by the digital divide, which means that the New Zealand tech industry is missing the voices, innovative thinking and potential of this untapped pool of talent. Our country needs a digitally skilled workforce to keep the economy going.”

The organisation has already made a significant impact. In 2023, RAD gifted 2,374 laptops to the community, developed the tech engineering skills of 334 students and diverted 3.6 tonnes of e-waste. RAD also won Best Hi-Tech Solution for the Public Good at the 2023 NZ Hi-Tech awards, and DFA won the Best Contribution to the NZ Tech Sector. DFA also won the Best in Future of Trust Award at the IDC Future Enterprise Awards for Australasia.

In 2024, RAD plans to distribute 5000 fit-for-purpose devices into the community throughout Aotearoa. However, Bronwyn says the organisation requires more funding and donated devices to achieve this goal. 

“Relationships with RAD benefit both parties – device donations are an accessible, trustworthy, low effort and data secure option to meet sustainability and community outreach goals. RAD partners can promote their work alongside DFA to build the trust of their audiences and stakeholders by showing their commitment to ethics, social responsibility and transparency.”

If your organisation can donate funding or devices for refurbishment (generally laptops that are less than 10 years old and come with a charger) please contact Becks on rebecca@recycleadevice.nz 

Image credit: DimSim Media

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