Recycling and revenging all at the same time
When Free Geek opened its doors in Portland in 2000, they did so to tackle a real problem that I mentioned in the last entry (SmallThing8: just exactly where is “away”?) . . . how to keep really cool, really geeky, and really toxic stuff out of landfills. And what a success story it’s been.
Free Geek has been diverting obsolete computing equipment from landfills for over a decade and putting reusable computers in the hands of people who need them but who often cannot afford a system. In fact, volunteers earn a free computer after 24 hours of volunteering(it’s called a FreekBox). Currently, over 700 volunteers per month work in the various stations in the Free Geek warehouse on SE 10th.
It’s remarkable that the enterprise is entirely self-sufficient: donations, thrift store sales, and material sales keep 35 people gainfully employed and hundreds of volunteers occupied.
Free Geek collects all the computing waste of the city offices. It provides free computers through a grant process throughout Oregon and Washington. It holds classes for all computer recipients.
Free Geek is a deep systems solutions to an intransigent growth problem: where do I put it the old one?
Described in a system dynamics model, computing waste used to look like this:
No exit for the Landfill stock. Old PC’s by the millions were going into landfills. To be sure, there was some resale thrift second-hand stores, family hand-me-downs, school donations, and the like. Still, with the advent of the personal computer in the early 1980’s and then the explosion of cell-phones in the 2000’s, the amount of e-waste has simply dwarfed our society’s capacity to contend with it.
Now it looks like this:
Plastic is “pelletized” and the sent to Total Reclaim in Seattle in ingots
Motherboards are sold to Hallmark Refining in Seattle for any precious metals
Wires, cords, cables, printers, drives, et al are sold to Metro Metals in Portland
As those at Free Geek will tell you . . . they’ve been “helping the needy get nerdy since the beginning of the third millennium.”
- In Depth: The ultimate recyclers: making new PCs from old (techradar.com)