Guide to Upcycling Retired Digital Devices

This toolkit takes takes key learnings from current device upcycling schemes and provides advice for London councils and other organisations that wish to set up similar schemes. Please note, the recommendations in this guide are not exhaustive.


One way that London councils can help is by upcycling retired digital devices – either from their own IT assets or from donor organisations and individuals – and giving them to local residents.

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Several key terms related to digital inclusion and device upcycling schemes are used throughout this guide. This glossary provides short definitions of these terms.

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Step 1: Create a device upcycling policy

To upcycle digital devices effectively, it is important to have a formal policy in place that is incorporated into your organisation’s ICT and digital inclusion strategies.

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Step 2: Source the devices

There are two main options for sourcing digital devices for upcycling: A) Use your own organisation’s retired devices and B) Request device donations from other organisations and individuals.

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Step 3: Collect and store the devices

Whether you source devices internally or from a donor organisation, you will need to consider where they will be stored whilst waiting to be transferred to your chosen upcycling service provider or directly to your beneficiaries.

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Step 4: Choose an upcycling service provider

Upcycling service providers offer one or more of the services involved in the upcycling of digital devices, such as data wiping, device refurbishing and distribution to beneficiaries.

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Step 5: Wipe the data

Data wiping is the process of removing all files and data from a device to ensure that no information from the original user can be accessed or viewed by a new user.

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Step 6: Refurbish the devices

Refurbishing devices may include repairing hardware (e.g. a broken screen) and updating software to improve functionality and performance.

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Step 7: Distribute the devices

Getting the upcycled devices into the hands of people who need them may be the final part of the process but it is definitely the most rewarding.

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