Oregon DEQ 2002

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Submitted in Sept 2002 (funding for 2003)

Brief Project Description

Part of application form/cover sheet, basic conatact info. not shown for simplicity.

FREE GEEK is a 501(c)(3) non-profit community organization that operates a computer recycling facility located in inner SE Portland. Open from 11:00am to 7:00pm Tuesday through Saturday, the Community Technology Center provides a convenient location for the public to donate their obsolete computer equipment. After being dropped off, donated computers are evaluated for their best future use. Reusable equipment is sent on for testing, while obsolete equipment is sent to recycling for material recovery. Tested components are built into new starter computers with software pre-installed. The refurbished computers are made available for "adoption" to FREE GEEK clients in exchange for service hours they provide working in the recycling operation. FREE GEEK operates a classroom to teach the recipients of the computer systems how to use them productively. This space is available for volunteers to organize classes on a variety of computer subjects. Classes are available for free to FREE GEEK clients and volunteers.

FREE GEEK generates monthly reports from our database that detail the number of pieces of electronic equipment that are donated, tested, recycled, adopted, stored or sold. All of FREE GEEK's recycling partners provide weight reports on each shipment processed. FREE GEEK tracks the number of daily unique visitors and page views on their website (www.freegeek.org).

Currently, FREE GEEK is unable to keep up with the community need for material recycling, producing computers and providing training. We have several tons of material backed up in our warehouse and a waiting list of over 200 potential clients. FREE GEEK is seeking financial help to expand it's entire operation by renting and remodeling an additional 5,000 S.F. of adjacent warehouse space. This will allow FREE GEEK to more than double capacity for it's recycling and production programs by the end of 2003. FREE GEEK estimates that with it's expanded facility it will divert over 200 standard tons of electronic scrap, get more than 1,500 computers back into circulation while providing over 36,000 hours of computer instruction and job skills training in 2003. The long term goal is for FREE GEEK to be financially independent and self-supporting by the end of 2005.

FREE GEEK is a unique community service, providing the best future use for donated computer hardware and environmentally sound recycling of obsolete hardware. FREE GEEK also offers essentially free computers, free computer education and free job skills training. The entire program operates at a very low cost, while promoting community involvement from a very diverse population of computer professionals, non-profit organizations, businesses, and individuals in the community.

Grant Application Narrative

Questions are part of application form

1. What community or environmental need does the project respond to, how was the need determined, and how will your project contribute to solving the need?

In 1999, the National Safety council identified in its report Electronic Product Recovery and Recycling Baseline Report: Recycling of Selected Electronic Products in the United States, found that in 1998, more than 20 million computers were considered obsolete and only 11% were recycled or reused. At the current rate, by the year 2005, 350 million machines will have reached obsolescence, with at least 55 million ending up in landfills. In the Portland Metro area, electronics makes up only about 6% of the total land filled waste, but contains 70% of the lead in the land fills.1 Fortunately, computers and peripheral devices that are considered obsolete, can be refurbished into working systems. Truly obsolete equipment can be recycled in an environmentally responsible manner recovering 97% of the component materials.

FREE GEEK Incorporates a screening process that ensures the maximum life-cycle for working equipment, and an environmentally friendly recycling process for all non-functioning or obsolete equipment. Refurbished equipment is put back into circulation, reducing the pressure on the market that generates new computers, save the embodied energy of the manufactured equipment, while helping to establish equal access to computers and the Internet for those in need in the local community. FREE GEEK achieves a 99% re-use or recycling rate with all of the computer technology that they process.

FREE GEEK provides a convenient centralized location for individuals, small businesses and non-profit organizations to dispose of older computer equipment in a best future use and environmentally responsible manner. FREE GEEK provides extremely low cost (almost free) access to computers and computer education to the local community. All for a very low overall operating cost.

2. Who was involved in identification of the need for the project and development of the grant proposal? Briefly describe the process and identify the participants.

FREE GEEK has been operating the Community Technology Center for nearly two years. In that time the project has grown at a phenomenal rate. With this success has come problems, namely not enough capacity. Across the board, operations are suffering from lack of space. In addition to the current space problems, there is a region-wide problem that has developed with monitor recycling and safe disposal. The latest rulings from the Department of Environmental Quality has resulted in FREE GEEK being the only unrestricted local location for the public to take CRTs for safe disposal. Quantum Resource Recovery is no longer accepting any monitors for recycling. StRUT (Students Recycling Used Technology) is only accepting 15" color, digital monitors and larger. They do not accept any Apple Computer monitors, UNIX workstation monitors, nor any terminals. High Tech Now's computer recycling facility burned down earlier this year and will not be back in operation until at least mid 2003. FREE GEEK has subsequently seen a 300% increase in the number of monitors dropped for recycling since the rulings went into effect. FREE GEEK does not want to restrict public drop-off of CRTs, nor do they want to stop taking monitors. The FREE GEEK board and staff, in conjunction with the City of Portland's Office of Sustainable Development have determined that an expansion project is needed to increase capacity of the overall program and specifically, FREE GEEK's ability to continue to accept monitors. See attached history of FREE GEEK, in Appendix iii.


3. How will you measure the success of the project? Describe the evaluation steps you plan to take and when they will occur. Include the evaluation steps in Section 7, Project Work Plan and Schedule.

All donation receipts are recorded and tallied on a month by month basis. Every significant piece of equipment donated to FREE GEEK is recorded into a inventory database that tracks status through out the process, from receiving, through recycling or "adoption". This allows FREE GEEK to physically count the number of computers donated, recycled, re-used and returned into the system. The database also tracks service hours performed and the number of hours that are traded in exchange for services. These figures are tabulated into monthly reports.

FREE GEEK's commercial salvage and recycling partners furnish FREE GEEK with weight reports on all material picked up for processing. These figures are tabulated into monthly reports.

Web traffic indicators on the FREE GEEK web site shows the number of visitors, by the hour, day, week, month or year. Web traffic is a good indicator of media exposure and the success of other outreach projects. These figures are tabulated into monthly reports.

Evaluation will be ongoing. After each months numbers are tabulated, staff will analyze the data and determine what, if any bottlenecks are occurring in the process and determine how to shift resources to relieve any problems. See attached Project Progress Reports, in Appendix ii.

4. Do you have any plans for your project beyond the grant period? Will project activities continue? How will you build on the project's success? Identify anticipated future funding sources and the level of commitment you have received from them, if any.

The FREE GEEK Community Technology Center Expansion Project is part of a three year plan to make FREE GEEK a fully self-supporting organization. Additional funding is being sought from the Meyer Memorial Trust to further expand the capacity of the program and allow for increased salaries for staff. The Meyer Memorial Trust grant is still in process. Increased capacity will directly result in higher income from the salvage operations. All other income streams are also expected to rise as more equipment is processed through the facility.

5. How will the project be integrated into other waste management programs in your area? Is it part of a solid waste management plan or waste-shed recovery plan? If so, does the plan identify your project as a priority? If not, how is your project consistent with these plans?

Both the City of Portland and Metro do not explicitly list electronics recycling in their respective solid waste plans. However, they both feel that electronics recycling is an important issue and will probably be added to their revised solid waste plans next year.2 Both the City of Portland and Metro strongly support the work that FREE GEEK is doing and feel that this model is an approach to electronics recycling that should be encouraged in the Portland-Metro area.

6. How will your project be cost effective? Please provide examples of cost savings.

The majority of the work done at FREE GEEK is done with work/trade labor. Clients trade hours in the recycling program in exchange for a computer system. FREE GEEK receives an average of 1,100 client work/trade hours per month. Volunteers also help with many of the Administrative tasks from answering phones to helping to update the FREE GEEK web site. FREE GEEK has created and entire network infrastructure with scaleable architecture valued at over $250,000 in equipment and consulting fee's, for no cost, and a inventory and volunteer database worth approximately $50,000 was also donated. Most building materials used are salvaged or recycled. A remodel of the current 5,000 S.F. facility was accomplished with donated labor. All but $250 in materials were donated. FREE GEEK recently remodeled their thrift store space, out of 100% donated materials and labor. FREE GEEK has gotten classroom desks donated from Anthro Corp., a local computer furniture manufacturer and high speed internet access is donated by EasyStreet, a local internet provider in Portland. FREE GEEK is currently advertised with Metro and several other municipalities, for no fee, as a Portland location for computer recycling drop-off. FREE GEEK makes a conscientious commitment to have all needs donated as much as possible.

7. How does your project fit into the state's solid waste hierarchy of "Prevent, Reuse, Recycle, Compost, Energy Recovery, Disposal"?

FREE GEEK operates almost entirely in the upper end of the Solid Waste hierarchy. Prevent - making used computer equipment available reduces the demand for new equipment to be manufactured. Reuse - refurbishing computer equipment and installing GNU/Linux operating systems vastly extends the useable life of the computers that are then put back into circulation. Recycle - all unusable equipment is broken down for material recovery.

8. What, specifically, are the behaviors your project intends to change? What are the behaviors that you want your targeted audience to practice?

Disposal of computer electronics should be done in an environmentally responsible manner. FREE GEEK encourages the public to dispose of their obsolete computer equipment at a recycling facility such as the Community Technology Center, instead of taking it to the local landfill.

9. Who is your targeted audience?

Individuals and small businesses in the Portland metropolitan area that are upgrading their computer equipment and need to dispose of the replaced computer system. FREE GEEK receives computer donations from all over the state of Oregon and southern Washington state. See attached Community Impact Statistics in Appendix ii.

10. What are the barriers that are preventing your target audience(s) from practicing the desired behavior(s)? How did you identify these barriers? If you don't know what the barriers to behavior change are, please identify a methodology you will use to identify these barriers at the start of your project.

FREE GEEK participated in the WEPSI (Western Electronics Product Stewardship Initiative) phase one process that ended in spring 2002. During these meetings a consensus of electronics recyclers felt that one the greatest barriers to the proper recycling of electronics is the fact that it is not illegal for individuals and small businesses to dispose of electronics in the local landfill.

11. What are the specific methods you propose to use to achieve the desired behavior change(s)?

FREE GEEK provides electronics recycling service at the lowest possible cost ($10 for monitors, free for everything else) in a convenient centralized location.

Supplimental Questions

WP-1) Describe how your project will conserve resources (such as materials, water, and energy) and prevent waste generation. Include estimates of resources saved, amount of waste prevented, target audience, and your goals.

FREE GEEK reuses or recycles approximately 99% of all materials that are donated. By conducting a best future use analysis of all donated equipment which: reduces the demand for new computers by creating systems for the public, conserves the embodied energy within the manufactured computer equipment that is reused and recycles 97% of the materials that are recycled. Computers are made up of the following materials by percentage of total weight:

24% Silica (monitor glass, solid state devices) 23% Plastics (cases, insulation, connectors) 20% Iron (steel cases, fasteners, connectors) 14% Aluminum (cases, connectors) 07% Copper (wiring, connectors) 06% Lead (radiation shielding) 02% Zinc (batteries, phosphor emitter) 01% Tin (connectors) 01% Nickel (cases, connectors) 02% Other Materials (including gold, silver, platinum, titanium and palladium).

Source: Micro Electronics and Computer Technology Corporation (MCC), 1996.

Computer manufacturing also uses large amounts of water and electricity. The embodied energy coefficient for computers is difficult to estimate at this time, however, any reuse of computer equipment that would otherwise be thrown out or recycled will save some amount all of these valuable resources. FREE GEEK also recycles the cardboard and Styrofoam that is incidental to computer donations. In 2002, FREE GEEK estimates that it will process 104 metric tons of computer scrap for material recovery, they will also test and refurbish 28,340 computer components weighing approximately 156 metric tons. See attached 2002 Project Projections Report in Appendix ii.

WP-2) If the project includes backyard composting, describe how you will measure composting levels and how many households are actually composting after the project is implemented.

No backyard composting included in project.

WP-4) How will you evaluate the effectiveness of your project?

All donation receipts are recorded and tallied on a month by month basis. Every significant piece of equipment donated to FREE GEEK is recorded into a inventory database that tracks status through out the process, from receiving, through recycling or "adoption". This allows FREE GEEK to physically count the number of computers donated, recycled, re-used and returned into the system. The database also tracks service hours donated and hours that are traded in exchange for services. These figures are tabulated into monthly reports.

FREE GEEK's commercial salvage and recycling partners furnish FREE GEEK with weight reports on all material picked up for processing. These figures are tabulated into monthly reports.

Web traffic indicators on the FREE GEEK web site shows the number of visitors, by the hour, day, week, month or year. Web traffic is a good indicator of media exposure and the success of other outreach projects. These figures are tabulated into monthly reports. See attached Project Progress Reports, in Appendix ii.

REC-1) Briefly describe the type, source, and amount of waste to be targeted (managed).

Consumer electronics, specifically computer and computer related electronics. Donated equipment that is obsolete or non-functioning is recycled (approximately 40% of total). Donations come mainly from individuals, small businesses and non-profit organizations in the Portland Metro area. FREE GEEK also accepts donations from a limited number of institutions such as Multnomah County Libraries and Providence Heath Systems. FREE GEEK estimates that it will process 133 standard tons of electronic scrap in 2003.

REC-2) Briefly describe the current waste management method for the material and types of generators you have targeted (commercial, residential, institutional).

Individuals and small businesses are permitted to dispose of electronic waste at the Metro transfer stations. Large commercial and institutional generators must dispose of electronic waste per DEQ guidelines. There are currently 3 locations that provide for recycling of electronics in the Portland Metro area: FREE GEEK, StRUT and Quantum Resource Recovery. High Tech Now is currently not in operation due to a fire earlier this year, they expect to be back on line by mid 2003.

REC-3) Describe data gathering and record keeping systems that will be used to measure recycling/composting levels, including marketing of materials.

All donation receipts are recorded and tallied on a month by month basis. Every piece of equipment donated to FREE GEEK is recorded into a inventory database that tracks status through out the process, from receiving, through recycling or "adoption". This allows FREE GEEK to physically count the number of computers donated, recycled, re-used and returned into the system. The database also tracks service hours performed and the hours that are traded in exchange for services. These figures are tabulated into monthly reports.

FREE GEEK's commercial salvage and recycling partners furnish FREE GEEK with weight reports on all material picked up for processing. These figures are tabulated into monthly reports.

Web traffic indicators on the FREE GEEK web site shows the number of visitors and how many pages are viewed, by the hour, day, week, month or year. Web traffic is a good indicator of media exposure and the success of other outreach projects. These figures are tabulated into monthly reports. See attached Project Progress Reports, in Appendix ii.

REC-4) Describe how the proposed project will be promoted. If education and outreach are significant elements of your project, make sure you answer basic questions 8-11 on page 4.

FREE GEEK sponsors outreach booths at community events, computer trade shows and recycling trade shows. FREE GEEK is a sponsor of the yearly Earth Day Celebration, working with a coalition of community involvement and environmental organizations. FREE GEEK sponsors a yearly GEEK FAIR, block party fundraiser, with live music and other activities. FREE GEEK events are advertised for free by our sponsors, Southeast Uplift, KBOO 90.7 FM Community Radio and Computer Bits Magazine.