Project wins grant to help use e-waste to bridge digital divide

By Tim Aldred

20 May 2024

The Making Rooms

Blackburn’s The Making Rooms has secured a grant to support a project which collects unwanted laptops and uses them to help teach digital skills in the community.

The £55,000 funding comes from a pot of half a million pounds distributed by Virgin Media O2 and environmental charity Hubbub, which together have created the Time After Time fund.

The fund was established in 2022 in response to the nation’s growing e-waste problem, with the UK producing more electrical waste per person than any other country in the world except for Norway.

The Making Rooms was selected as one of eight winners from more than 120 entries by a panel of judges including TV presenter and environmentalist George Clarke, non-profit, Material Focus, digital inclusion charity, Good Things Foundation, plus Hubbub and Virgin Media O2.

The Making Rooms has pioneered a project to collect e-waste laptops from local organisations and train the next generation in digital skills. Repair Space Blackburn uses the devices to teach community members and young people repair skills. The refurbished equipment is passed on to digitally excluded young people, who are trained to become digitally literate.

Thomas Macpherson-Pope, director of The Making Rooms, said: "We saw during the pandemic just how wide the digital divide is between young people in the borough. This funding from Time After Time will allow us to bridge the divide and give excluded young people a solid platform to engage with all the digital skills training opportunities that are available in Blackburn with Darwen.

"Partnerships like this create a unique opportunity for us to effect change in young people’s lives, whilst reducing and bringing attention to the issues of e-waste."

Gavin Ellis, co-founder of Hubbub said: "There is an abundance of smart devices in households and businesses that have a potential to help the estimated 1.5 million households are digitally disconnected get online. These projects will tackle digital exclusion through research, training and the redistribution of devices and continue to raise awareness about the issues of e-waste and digital inclusion. We are thrilled to award this funding and look forward to seeing what these projects achieve.”

The Time After Time Fund forms part of Virgin Media O2’s sustainability strategy, the Better Connections Plan, and is helping the company achieve its goals of supporting people to carry out 10 million circular actions to tackle e-waste, and to connect 1 million digitally excluded people across the UK through free and affordable connectivity and services by the end of 2025.

Virgin Media O2 is also working to achieve zero waste operations and products by the end of 2025, and has removed 65 tonnes of single-use plastic since 2021 – the equivalent weight of five double-decker buses.

Dana Haidan, chief sustainability officer at Virgin Media O2, said: “Well done to Blackburn’s The Making Rooms for their innovative and inspiring Repair Space project that will provide rehomed devices and digital skills to help young people get online, along with tech repair training sessions to help them get into work. With this funding from Virgin Media O2 and Hubbub’s Time After Time fund, the Making Rooms will continue to have a positive impact on young people across Blackburn, and cut e-waste to help protect the planet.”

Enjoyed this? Read more from Tim Aldred

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