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A new life for obsolete modems and TV Boxes

Internet and TV are now an established part of our daily lives. But what actually happens to old receivers? A trip to Poland provides the answer and reveals a solution that embraces reusing rather than discarding them.

Evelyne Owa

August 29, 2022 . 3 minutes read

We drive from Bydgoszcz Airport to the company Reconext, passing pastel-colored prefabricated buildings and huge election posters along the way. The branch of the refurbishment partner used by Liberty Global, the parent company of Sunrise, is located in an industrial area just outside the city center. In this context, refurbishment means reprocessing electronic devices like modems or TV Boxes. It’s no coincidence that Reconext has set up shop in the city of Bydgoszcz with its around 344,000 inhabitants, explains Nick Linford, general manager of the site: «There are several technical universities and colleges here. Our employees are very well educated and have university degrees in electronics, IT or other technical subjects.»

It is just before 14:00 and there is a hive of activity at the entrance to the production hall. The afternoon shift is starting, while the morning shift has just finished. At the security gate, the employees exchange a few quick words with their colleagues and get ready for their shift. Alina Miklasz also goes through the security gate and heads to her workstation, where used modems and TV Boxes are checked and cleaned.

 Alina Miklasz at her workstation, where used modems and TV Boxes are checked and cleaned.

Refurbishing devices and preventing electrical waste

The used devices are from Switzerland and come from Sunrise customers whose role in this process is over as soon as they have dropped off the package at the post-office counter or kiosk. The returned TV Boxes and modems, on the other hand, are only just starting their journey to a new life – to be refurbished so that they can be used again. Manager Nick Linford is a staunch advocate of this solution: «We prevent a huge amount of waste when we refurbish the old devices.»

«We prevent a huge amount of waste when we refurbish the old devices.»
Nick Linford, general manager

This is how an old Sunrise TV Box has ended up with Alina Miklasz today. First, she registers the box using its serial number and then checks whether it has any external damage like deep scratches or defective connectors. Following this visual inspection, she removes the cover to clean the box, sometimes finding things like chocolate or cat hair. If there are serious signs of wear, Alina reconditions the device. Replaced components such as covers or bases will also be refurbished and reused if possible.

Precise results thanks to automated testing

The TV Box then goes to the so-called decision line for a computer test. Thick bundles of orange cables protrude from the equipment. Employees connect the TV Box to the cables and the computer checks all the device’s functions in just a few minutes. People are still a vital part of this process, though, as they are the ones checking the computer, analyzing the tests in detail and thus continuously improving the process. If the computer identifies a fault with a device, it is transferred to the repair station. This is where Szymon Wawerek works. The technician has been working for Reconext for a number of years, a fact that is obvious to anyone who watches him at work. With absolute focus and precision he plugs the cables and wires into the circuit board and solders contacts together.

Testing: When it lights up, the cables are intact.

Once repaired, the TV Box is then returned to the decision line. If further faults are discovered, the box goes back to the repair station and the process is repeated until every one of the functions gets the green light. After a final check, it is packed up together with the installation instructions. The TV Box is as good as new and ready to make the journey back to Switzerland, where it will soon be used by Sunrise customers again.

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