Recycling for charity
Don’t know what to with your old PC? Give it away to the underprivileged.
NADZIF Ramli dropped out of school in Year Four because he wasn’t interested in studying. Then a friend told the boy from Pengkalan Hulu, Perak, about a study programme where he could get hands- on time with PCs.
“I had never seen a PC before,” Nadzif, now 27, says. “When I saw it, it was so interesting. It was difficult to learn but I wanted to know everything about it, including the coding.”
The programme is run by Sols Tech, a social enterprise under humanitarian organisation Sols 24/ 7. Sols Tech teaches underserved community kids to refurbish computers for other underserved communities throughout the country. The kids get free accommodation and food for an 18- month training period.
Since 2008, the organisation has trained nearly 1,400 kids to do both hardware and software refurbishment. It distributes the refurbished PCs through organisations such as YouthCorp Malaysia, which has outreach programmes for the orang asli, and the Batu Grace Children’s Home orphanage.
Sols 24/ 7 founder and CEO Raj Ridvan Singh believes that Malaysians still don’t see the power that used computers can give the underpriviliged in Malaysia.
And there are a LOT of used computers around: according to Sols Tech, some four million computers are discarded in Malaysia every year.
This is huge considering that there are still 10 million Malaysians out there who don’t have access to computers, which means the problem can only get bigger in the future.
Sols Tech receives about 150 PCs a month from various com- panies, and these 100- odd students refurbish them after being taught the basics of how the devices work. “We have the capacity to refurbish 1,000 devices a month,” says Raj.
The refurbishment service isn’t limited to PCs; it also includes storage devices, laptops and handphones.
Typically, 70% of the PCs Sols Tech receives are in working order. The remaining 30% are refurbished with new parts that are sourced cheaply. Parts that can’t be reused, like certain components on the motherboard, are sent to recycling centres to be disassembled and returned to raw material form.
The refurbishing of the device hardware takes less than half- anhour per computer. It is the software refurbishment that is time consuming, taking about 10 hours as data needs to be deleted and the operating system ( in most cases, Windows 7) need to be reinstalled.
“These refurbished devices can be used for another three to four years,” says Raj.
If you live in the Klang Valley, you can drop off e- devices at three points: Putrajaya, Sungai Besi and Segambut. For more information, go to sols247. org/ sols- tech. The refurbishment business
Device refurbishment entities aren’t just limited to charity organisations, though.
Commercial device refurbishment company APR Electronic Service Sdn Bhd has been in the business for 15 years. Its senior
manager, Danny Ng, says that about 20% of PC shops sells refurbished PCs – “There’s a market for refurbished product.”
The company refurbishes 300 PCs a month and sells them to brick and mortar retail outlets as well as online sites like Lazada and 11Street. These PCs are typically three to four years old and can last another four years. It also sells refurbished iPad Airs that retail for RM799, about half the price of a new one. APR keep costs down by replacing faulty chips on a motherboard.
“A new motherboard can cost over RM1,000. Instead of throwing it away because a chip on it is faulty, we can replace that particular chip with a new one,” explains Ng.
The company pays RM50 to RM200 for PCs and RM100 to RM450 for laptops that it usually gets from companies.
“Our business has gone up 15% since GST,” Ng says, referring to how consumers are tightening their belts and opting for more economical options.
Another company, T- Pot Electrical & Electronics Sdn Bhd, has been refurbishing and recycling old devices since 2005. Its senior general manager, Mandy Chan, says the company receives thousands of devices and then resells them.
“We refurbish 80% of them. We strongly believe in reusing material and we want to encourage that culture,” she says.
Waste not, want not.
Raj ( right) with his team refurbishing devices at Sols Tech.
Nadzif ( left) and fellow Sols Tech student Frederick Yail are learning everything about the computer as part of Sols Tech’s refurbishing team.