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Recycle IT

Devices that would otherwise go to waste get a new lease on life

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A joystick becomes a lamp, an inkjet printer turns into a cosmetics bag and the shell of your computer becomes a stool. Designers, students and amateurs have proven that creative ideas can transform IT waste, from discarded mainboards to old phones, into functional products that are also environmentally friendly. 

The "Use Me Again" contest organised by popular Thai website Pantip.com drew a large number of scavengers and innovators who turned IT rubbish into valuable goods.

Chatchai Bunruedi was inspired by his old game joystick and created a reading lamp. The joystick functions as a switch for the colourful LED lamp.

"I set as the target group the new generation of people who love something cool, so I came up with joysticks," said the designer who works as a product development strategist at Siam Cement Group. His work is dubbed "Eco-Joy", and it won the competition's first prize because of its distinctive concept. Besides a trophy, Chatchai won a plane ticket to the UK to visit the "100% Design London" exhibition in September.

Interior designer Phinyo Kongsuphapsiri won second prize. His invention called "Heat Sync" is made from the components of discarded CPU coolers, including a heat sink, heat pipe, fan and hard disk.

Phinyo assembled the waste components and now iPhones and iPads can sync their data across the device.

"Every computer, desktop or notebook has a CPU and a heat sink, and once the CPU is out of order, the heat sink [which works as a cooler], will also be broken, and I found there are millions of wasted CPUs left," said the designer.

Natthanan Yongwatthanaset is one of those who was eager to participate in the IT waste recycling campaign. At her house, there were a lot of unused PCs since she used to run an internet cafe. Natthanan managed to transform the old desktop computers into "Foot Stool".

‘Remind’ is a clock by Watthanon Hapermpool made from a reused heat sink, a passive heat exchanger component in desktop computers.

She used a 17-inch CRT computer screen, sewed a PVC sponge on the top of the stool and keeps the shape of the computer as the stool's structure. The stool platform is a piece of wood designed in the figure of human feet _ she wants to convey the idea that with every single step we take, we leave some rubbish behind. It's not just a normal stool, but can also serve as a dry litter bin.

Another creation is by Chai Jaiching, who designed a mirror and washing sink from a CRT monitor. He separated a personal computer into two pieces; the front part became a mirror, the rear part formed a sink. He named his invention "Facelook & The Databasin".

"Warning" is a concept that Bancha Phacharaphiman, an independent designer, would like to communicate with consumers. His wall key hanger, made from a used USB and USB hub, is linked to an electricity adaptor in order to remind users to unplug devices whenever they take their home or car key off the hook.

An out-of-order printer may be thrown away or left to gather dust, but not for Suphaporn Boonchroen, a student at King Mongkut Institute of Technology, Ladkrabang. She found the printer has enough room inside to become a cosmetics bag. After pulling out the internal components, she sprayed the inkjet's body and decorated it with stickers, attached a face mirror inside the printer cover and stitched on a hanger.

The "Print Your Face" cosmetics bag won the Pantip popular vote and Suphaporn received 10,000 baht together with a trophy.

Kanokpong Chucherd, an architecture student at the same institute, invented home furniture made from wire and desktop computer cases.

His invention can be used as a standalone stool or bench, or combined as a shelf. The two major materials are wire and computer casing (it needs to be tested for strength first).

All the creative ideas with commercial potential will be financially supported by Pantip and receive distribution support via Pantipmarket.com.

Dr Singh Intrachooto, head of the Building Innovation and Technology Programme at Kasetsart University, said 79 pieces were submitted to the "Use Me Again" competition. The judging committee pared these down to a final 10 based on creativity, commercial feasibility, and the degree of environmental friendliness.

Thailand Environment Institute president Dr Qwanruedee Chotichanathawewong said each person was generating about 1.5kg of garbage per day, and overall garbage is increasing along with the population. IT waste is difficult to destroy since it is largely made of metal, so recycling these devices is crucial for the environment.

She urged manufacturers of home appliances to be more concerned with the long-term utilisation of gadgets and not leave it entirely to the consumers.

Dr Qwanruedee said in Germany, the government announces each year what percentage of waste should be reduced, and the government emphasises this through the private sector.

In Thailand, if no one starts, a real effort to take up waste recycling will never happen and we will drown in garbage.

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