A COVID recovery grant-funded social enterprise is helping laptops live again.

Renew Crew currently operates from a room full of electronic test devices at Newlands Memorial Hall, near Romanno Bridge.

Set up with initial grant funding of £37,000, the enterprise, run by former Newlands Community Development Trust director Joe Fernand, is recycling old laptops and selling them on often to charities and other social enterprises.

The 58-year-old said: “During the COVID pandemic there was a need to get lower cost IT equipment into the hands of charities and groups in the Borders, primarily laptops.”

At first Renew Crew worked to refurbish donated old laptops which they would assess.

If they were of good enough quality, the hard drive would be replaced with a 256GB solid state drive, 8GB RAM, i5 or i7 processors, Windows 10 and Microsoft Office.

Mr Fernand said: “We are Microsoft accredited refurbishers which gives access to low cost Windows 10 and MS Office for charities and individuals.”

Needing a steady supply of machines to recycle Mr Fernand started casting the net wider.

Mr Fernand said: “One of many discussions was with Scottish Borders Council’s (SBC) chief finance officer, David Robertson.

“We asked what the council did with its old laptops.

“The council had a process in place which went through its digital services supplier Canadian IT firm, CGI.”

SBC awarded CGI a 13 year £92m contract, in 2016, to provide “transformational IT and integrated digital services”.

“After conversations with various people in SBC they were able to divert about 50 laptops from the normal waste chain,” said Mr Fernand, “Some were not great but we managed to recover about 40.

“The majority were of one particular model and it makes the refurbishment process more economical.

“We are in conversations with various companies because they have to pay to have old used IT equipment taken away.”

The idea for Renew Crew, which has two technicians working three days a week, developed from a network of voluntary groups, named Restarters, which help people to repair and learn to fix anything electrical.

A Restarters group was run at Newlands Activity centre.

In addition, Mr Fernand has his own audio visual business, The Media Factory, which was able to supply some of the test equipment used by Renew Crew.

Part of the initial grant was needed to buy equipment such as PAT testing kits and anti-static mats.

The recycled laptops sell for between £190 and £260, with a 12 month warranty and Renew Crew has a webshop.

“Peebles Community Trust is running with these machines,” said Mr Fernand, “They are also used at AdAction in Galashiels and Peebles Foodbank.”

“There is scope for other similar schemes and councillor Drummond Begg is working with us on Tweeddale Repair, Pefurbish, Reuse and Share initiative.

“Another plan is to possibly recycle sewing machines.”

Shortly Renew Crew will relocate up the A701 to workshops at Whitmuir Organic farm and Mr Fernand is working on changing it into a Community Interest Company.