Sam’s Spares - 2023 Waste Champion

Posted on: February 9, 2024

Samuel Thomas is the founder of Sam's Spares, a not-for-profit organisation that accepts old computers, laptops, and phones for reuse.

After repairing and refurbishing these devices, they are distributed back into the community at no cost through the Peer Partner Network, which ensures the devices reach individuals who might otherwise lack access to such resources.

His achievements were recognised by the Waste Authority when he won the Individual Waste Champion category at the 2023 WasteSorted Awards.

Sam established his organisation right after leaving school. As a neurodivergent man living with autism and Tourette's syndrome, he encountered limited work placement options. "Mostly working in factories sorting screws, etc., which I think is ridiculous, because I know what I’m capable of,” he explains, standing in the front room of his not-for-profit which has now become too small to accommodate his growing business.

Sam has always been passionate about fixing computers and other electronics, gaining plenty of experience working on his own gaming systems, so this type of work was a natural fit for him. His decision that it should be a not-for-profit organisation with a mission to help the community was born of his belief that everyone should have access to devices that help them to learn.

While the items Sam takes in are considered e-waste and ready to be recycled, he emphasises that many of these devices are still in working order or only require basic repairs. Sam advocates for the ‘right to repair’ movement, highlighting that there are countless functional devices that could be reused rather than discarded. He believes it's crucial to eliminate the stigma around repairing things and dispel the notion that it's a difficult task.

"Most of the repairs we do here are relatively simple," Sam says. “Often, it's just a matter of replacing a part. These items still have a lot of life left to give, and it's unfortunate how frequently they end up being recycled instead of reused.”

“Sam is providing an essential need in today’s society,” says Danny MacAvoy the founder of the Achievers Club, one of last year’s Peer Partners. The Achievers Club is a charitable organisation that helps mentor school children. Many of these kids don’t have access to computers at home, or they have to share one computer between the whole family, which makes it harder to get school assignments completed. By partnering with Sam’s Spares, the Achievers Club was able to give each child a computer that met their needs. 

Additionally, Sam trains young neurodivergent individuals to repair computers. He is currently training six people and is impressed with their growing knowledge. Sam hopes that Sam's Spares can help eliminate the stigma around people with disabilities and create "avenues for people to grow." "It's about showing the world that we are capable of incredible things," he says. Sam's growing accolades on the wall are a testament to what he has achieved in such a short time.

Sam's Spares has just transitioned from an office next to his house to a 700-square-foot warehouse with dedicated repair stations. With several corporate clients on board, the organisation urgently needed the extra space. Sam envisions the additional space will allow him to expand training and education initiatives and increase the support they provide to the community.

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