Lost property becomes digital lifeline for Plymouth residents

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Unclaimed mobile phones left on Plymouth’s buses have been given a new lease of life thanks to a local repair and recycling scheme. ‘Borrow Don’t Buy’ is Plymouth’s ‘Library of Things,’ where users can borrow things like DIY equipment, camping kit or party paraphernalia for a small fee, rather than paying for brand new items that might only be used once or twice. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Borrow Don’t Buy turned its skills to refurbishing and recycling digital equipment to help get technology to people who needed it, and says that although there aren’t the same restrictions as previously, more people are now finding they need internet access when they didn’t before for things like making GP appointments.

The charity has teamed up with Go-Ahead owned Plymouth Citybus and Go Cornwall Bus, which between them every year are left with thousands of items of lost property, including many mobile phones. Although most are returned to their owners, some are never claimed, and after a few months in the firms’ lost property cupboard, the devices are now being forwarded to to Borrow Don’t Buy, where they can be inspected, cleaned, upgraded and redistributed.

Esther Scali of Borrow Don’t Buy explained: “We have a very secure data-wiping procedure which removes all personal data – it’s more thorough than a data reset – and we use this before the phones go anywhere else. They’re nicely packaged and come with their own instructions, so whoever gets it has all the excitement of opening up a new box.”

Plymouth Citybus Customer Experience Manager Jason Beverly added: “We always do our best to reunite people with belongings they leave on the bus, but on the occasions we can’t, it’s great to be in touch with organisations like Borrow Don’t Buy who, as well as stopping items going to landfill, can use them to help others.”