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[Written in partnership with Telcov, but the editorial team had full control over the content.]

Imagine a world where transforming your old phone into valuable resources instead of letting it clog landfills becomes the norm.

That’s the mission of Telcov, a Malaysian social enterprise that’s on a quest to revolutionise e-waste recycling.

Inspired by Robert Kiyosaki, the author of “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, and with an emphasis on precious metals, Telcov founder Vimalan Arumugam saw an opportunity to address the growing e-waste crisis while making sustainability profitable. 

“It’s true, it’s going to be highly sorted raw materials for manufacturing semiconductors,” he echoed the author’s sentiment. 

“However, not everyone can afford to invest in these precious metals due to financial constraints.”

That’s where Telcov steps in. The company takes a three-pronged approach: collecting e-waste, extracting precious metals, and rewarding users with certified 999.9 gold and silver bullion.

From landfill threat to urban mine

Vimalan’s entrepreneurial spirit and ambition have driven him to create a business model that turns e-waste into valuable resources. 

His journey began in 2019 when he founded VR Industries Enterprise, a sole proprietorship that partnered with licensed companies to recycle e-waste. 

Observing the rapidly increasing e-waste problem, Vimalan saw an opportunity to make a difference. In Malaysia alone, e-waste contributed to 360 kilotonnes of waste in 2019, much of it ending up in illegal landfills and causing significant environmental harm, according to the Global E-waste Monitor 2020 report.

Image Credit: Telcov

“My father worked in a landfill and later started his own metal recycling company. Growing up in this environment sparked my curiosity about the electronic waste industry,” he told Vulcan Post.

Despite facing challenges, including the financial impacts of collaborating companies and the COVID-19 pandemic, Vimalan persevered. 

In 2021, he rebranded his business to Telcov and began the process of acquiring his own electronic waste recycling licence. By the end of the year, despite a devastating flood damaging their factory equipment, Telcov was on its way to becoming a major player in the industry.

Building a sustainable solution

Today, Telcov’s facility in Semenyih, Selangor, is approved by the Department of Environment (DOE) and adheres to international standards. 

The facility can recycle up to 300 metric tonnes of e-waste monthly. To date, Telcov has extracted over RM1.5 million worth of gold, silver, and palladium from e-waste. 

10 grammes of silver bullion / Image Credit: Telcov

“We have sold almost 50kg of silver and 1.5kg of gold to date. Our bullions are 999.9 pure, certified by accredited assayers,” said Vimalan. 

“We address customer scepticism by showing the list of globally known bullion companies that use the same assayers as we do.”

The business also aligns with several United Nations sustainability goals, including creating wealth, reducing poverty, ensuring a clean environment, and generating job opportunities for e-waste collectors. 

“Our tagline, ‘Integrating Sustainability,’ reflects our commitment to these goals,” he shared. 

How it works

Telcov’s proprietary mobile app facilitates e-waste collection, allowing users to schedule pickups and redeem points for precious metals or cash.

The process is simple: users request an estimated quote for their e-waste via the app, schedule a collection, and Telcov’s riders pick up the devices within 48 hours. The points are then transferred to the user’s app, where they can be cashed out or redeemed for gold or silver bullion. 

One gramme of gold bullion / Image Credit: Telcov

“We have prices for each gadget, for example, we buy a laptop for RM14 per kg and let’s say a person sells his laptop as 2kg, he gets RM28 which he can collect as cash or collect as points or top-up to redeem 10 gramme silver bar which is RM60 or one gramme gold bar which is RM399 (prices might differ according to the daily chart),” he said.

Based on Telcov’s app, every 1,000 points equals RM100, and to get your hands on that silver bullion without paying anything, you’ll need 6,000 points. For the gold bullion, it’s 38,000 points.

Telcov also claims to offer higher returns for your e-waste than its competitors. For example, while other companies might give you RM10 for a laptop, Telcov pays RM14 per kg. On average, a laptop weighs about 1.5 kg, which means you’d get RM21 per unit.

Clearly, selling by weight is way more profitable than a fixed price per unit. Plus, many licensed e-waste recyclers don’t pay you at all—they call it a “donation to save the world”, said Vimalan. Telcov, however, believes in rewarding customers for their e-waste contributions.

Image credit: Telcov

“We are currently doing another equity crowdfunding campaign with pitchIN to set nationwide pick-up and drop-off points,” shared the founder.

Telcov’s state-of-the-art facility acquires e-waste and dismantles the electronic components, extracting valuable raw materials through advanced mechanical and chemical treatments.

They recover, refine, and certify precious metals like aluminium, brass, copper, iron, platinum, silver, and gold for purity before offering them to customers as high-purity bullion.

Achievements and future goals

“We’ve collected over 550 tonnes of e-waste, valued at close to RM2.5 million,” he revealed. 

Telcov’s vision includes expanding its operations and introducing automation to reduce dependency on manual labour. 

Image Credit: Telcov

The company is also exploring lithium battery recycling, anticipating a surge in disposed lithium batteries from electric vehicles in the next five years. 

“We’re partnering with companies to see if these batteries can be repurposed or recycled for their raw materials,” said Vimalan.

Looking ahead, Telcov aims to incorporate AI technology to identify electronic components with precious metals and automate the segregation process. 

“The future of technology depends on raw materials found in e-waste,” Vimalan asserted. Telcov harnesses these resources to prevent environmental degradation. They also contribute to the production of critical materials for technologies like solar panels.

Telcov’s innovative approach to e-waste recycling not only addresses environmental concerns but also provides valuable incentives for consumers. 

By turning e-waste into gold and silver bullion, homegrown business Telcov is leading the way in integrating sustainability into everyday life. 

“We’re confident that our precious metal reward system will motivate more people to practise responsible recycling,” he added.

  • You can learn more about Telcov here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Telcov

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