Perth teenager upcycles old electronics and computers to give them back to those in need
At a house in Perth’s south-east, broken iPads, laptops, PCs, and phones are stacking up the walls, waiting for Sam’s nifty hands to breathe new life into them.
- Sam fixes old tech from a house his family has turned into a community hub
- Jacaranda House provides a space for the community to connect
- Sam wants to build a computer museum and gaming space for neurodiverse people
Sam Thomas, 18, runs an e-waste collection point where he repairs broken and thrown-away electronics to give away for free to those in need.
“We have… maybe 60, 70 desktop PCs that are either needing to be fixed or that are fixed and ready to go,” he said.
The hordes of computers and laptops started arriving after a single post on social media, and Sam’s Spares was born.
“We did a post one day just asking for anyone with junk that they wanted to get rid of, to drop it off,” Sam said.
“You might look at a computer that’s 10 years old and think it might not be usable.”
But Sam says basic upgrades are often all that’s needed for a piece of tech to meet the needs of most people.
“I like computers. I’ve always had a very big interest in the hardware side, and later on the coding side,” Sam said.
Sam’s project has grown beyond his local community in the outer Perth suburb of Gosnells, with some willing to travel long distances to support his work.
“We’ve seen people come from Fremantle, some from Bunbury. We have people messaging us saying, ‘we’re getting together a load of stuff for you!’,” Sam said.
A home to grow community spirit
Generous donations from the community mean Sam sometimes has hundreds of old computers, laptops and phones, which need a space to be stored and repaired.
Most of it sits in a carport of a house that Sam’s family has repurposed as a community hub.
Sam’s mother Diane Lloyd said she saw the home as an opportunity to rekindle a sense of local connection.
The Jacaranda House offers a place for neighbours and locals in the community to meet.
Ms Lloyd said people who turn up and meet Sam for the first time often think he is older than he is.
“They don’t believe that he’s 18. I think that he’s got a very mature view of the world,” she said.
People are often also surprised to hear Sam is autistic and has Tourette’s syndrome.
He says the conditions manifest in a variety of ways, and seldom mirror how they’re represented in movies and television.
“I come across as a very standard person,” he said.
Sam hopes people don’t overlook his ability to help when they learn about his conditions.
Recycling is the last option
A big part of Sam’s project is reducing the amount of e-waste that ends up in landfill, which is a large contributor to Australia’s emissions.
Ms Lloyd says sustainability is part of their family ethos.
“You start researching what tiny percentage of [e-waste] is actually being recycled,” she said.
“When we say ‘e-waste’, the things that people are throwing away are not waste. Some of the stuff is really valuable.
“So if Sam can do his part to stop things going in the rubbish bin, that’s brilliant.”
Sam emphasised that even if old electronics are beyond repair, there’s a proper way of disposing them.
“Even if you want to drop stuff off to be sent to the proper facilities… we will take everything. Even if it’s broken,” he said.
The teenager has dreams of expanding the project beyond the confines of his family’s house.
“Bigger workspace, a bigger office, bigger storage. We’ve got a lot of stuff,” he said.
“We want a computer history museum… you can have guided tours to see the evolution of computers.
“And we want a gaming space for people who are neurodiverse, who have sensory issues.”
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