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Putting a finger on IT recycling

Redundant corporate IT equipment repurposed with heart. Photo: All Heart NZ.
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New Zealand doesn’t have many sustainable and ethical ways to recycle IT equipment. A two-year-old charitable trust is one of those having a hand in changing this.

Thousands of pieces of redundant IT equipment are either put in landfill or sent overseas, says the founder of the All Heart NZ Charitable Trust, Joe Youssef.

“I think we, as consumers, need to take more responsibility for where our stuff goes and how it is recycled,” he says.

How do we domestically recycle?

“And if we can’t, we need to look at whether we buy it.”

Ethical and sustainable options are to reuse, repurpose or upcycle IT equipment, he says.

For example, many people buy a 10-year-old redundant corporate personal computer (PC) to stream television shows and films via Netflix or listen to music via Spotify.

Joe Youssef, founder, All Heart NZ Charitable Trust.

Joe says a small local IT business can wipe a redundant computer’s information and rebuild it for about $60. People can then transfer their digital photos to this computer and watch their images scroll across the screen.

Schools can repurpose corporate computers as Chromebooks for students: “You don’t need a new PC to do this.”

Joe says that between 90 and 95 per cent of IT equipment that corporates donate to All Heart NZ is electronically cleaned, re-certified and re-used.

The trust employs a technician to ethically and professionally deal with the computers. This technician supplies the corporate with a military-grade wipe certificate to prove the computers are clean of all previous information.

Partnering ethically

All Heart NZ partners with ethical recyclers and recycles redundant corporate IT equipment within New Zealand. Recipients include charities, which use the equipment for their own purposes, and commercial enterprises.

Tongan young people and former refugees from Pakistan have been some of those to benefit.

Amid high youth unemployment rates in Tonga, Tonga Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship (TYEE) helps young school-leavers find jobs or start their own businesses.

Joe says TYEE needed quite advanced IT equipment, which the trust was able to send to Tonga.

Another way in which IT equipment has been reused is for Hope Worldwide-Pakistan, which supports families facing hardship and former refugees arriving in New Zealand to assimilate better.

The organisation needed a couple of PCs for its use and the trust was able to give these, and also a projector and projector screen for HOPE’s educational programmes.

Hope Worldwide-Pakistan Board Member, Malik Khurram, says the equipment will definitely help the organisation’s work.

Hope Worldwide-Pakistan Board Members, Nasim Gill (left) and Malik Khurram, with repurposed corporate IT equipment. Photo: All Heart NZ.

Joe says All Heart NZ can’t always give charities PCs. It sometimes needs to sell them to charities, to cover its technician’s costs.

Why ship offshore?

Joe has been told that most electronic-recycling venues in New Zealand send IT equipment overseas because this country’s recycling industry is relatively young and selling the equipment offshore is more profitable.

He says it doesn’t make much sense for consumers to buy computers shipped from China, use them for between two and five years in New Zealand, then ship them offshore.

“The system is broken. That is a linear economy.”

When discussing linear and circular economies, Joe says that people need to think about waste as a resource. When they’ve finished with a computer, table or chair, they should consider what its ‘afterlife’ will be.

A linear economy thinks this way:

I’ve used it, I’ve finished with it, I dump it.

“Circular is, I’ve used it, I’ve finished with it, what can I do with it?”

He adds, “Kiwis are good at this. How many tables have you seen recycled into doors?”

Joe encourages consumers to take responsibility for their IT purchasing habits, asking whether an item can be ethically recycled, where it was made and whether it was ethically produced.

“I need to care about that, because at the end of that product is a person.”

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For further information:

Click here to find out about All Heart NZ on Facebook

Here to read about TYEE

Here to to find out about Hope Worldwide-Pakistan

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