Guide to Upcycling Retired Digital Devices
How to Run an Upcycling Scheme

Step 1: Create a device upcycling policy

Case study: Community Calling
Hubbub and O2 have teamed up to create and deliver the Community Calling programme. Community Calling receives donations of used smartphones from members of the public, companies and public sector organisations. Through a partnership with upcycling experts at Reconome, the devices are cleaned, wiped of data and refurbished before they are distributed to people in need via community organisations. Each recipient also receives 12 months free data provided by O2 and access to free digital skills training. Find out more on the Community Calling website. 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. LOTI’s research has found that digital inclusion initiatives, including device upcycling schemes, struggle to achieve their full impact when they are done in an ad hoc manner (e.g. with no formal policy and relying on one motivated individual).

Key considerations

  • Does our organisation currently own or lease its IT equipment? (if it leases laptops, smartphones and other devices, you might have limited control over what happens to them at the end of their useful life)
  • What do our existing contracts say about what happens to devices when they are retired? 
  • How many devices do we typically retire each year?
  • How can we data wipe the devices to ensure personal information and confidential files are protected?
  • How much budget and resource is available for device upcycling?
  • Who would we ideally like to benefit from the upcycled devices?
  • Do we need to work with an upcycling service provider?

Top tips

Your device upcycling policy should cover the following points (at least):

  • Budget and resource expectations
  • How device upcycling requirements will feature in future purchasing and leasing contracts for devices
  • Who will be responsible for device upcycling (identify the role(s) responsible and time required for this task)
  • How device upcycling will complement your organisation’s wider digital inclusion strategy
  • How senior leaders within your organisation will support the scheme
  • How data will be wiped from the devices before distribution
  • If you choose to partner with an upcycling service provider, how you will work with them
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