Random midnight thought: To the extent that we are ill-equipped to jump into big debates already involving heavily-funded lobbyists, can we solicit PR help from foundations that have given to us in the past? --Pete 03:43, 6 Jan 2006 (PST)
John Dodge already contacted Oly before his story in the Olympian, but they weren't able to get back to him yet.
JC (Jim G.) may already know Ha Tran.
You sent us some questions in September, and we failed to reply promptly. In light of the legislation being prepared for the state legislature, we recognize that an important opportunity to participate in the future of e-waste handling may be passing us by, and we hope to correct that.
Free Geek Olympia is just one year old, but has strong organizational ties with Free Geek Portland (Oregon.) The Olympia organization is still in its infancy in many ways. In our responses below, we include answers from both organizations, in order to illustrate the kind of success toward which Free Geek Olympia aims.
If you are able to offer any perspective on the current political climate around this issue, we would be most grateful. We hope to be an integral part of e-waste handling in the future, and have much experience to bring to the table. Our greatest successes have been in the areas of reuse and harnessing volunteer labor, and the benefits we offer to the community extend beyond waste handling: the job skills training Free Geek offers is also a major community benefit.
In terms of scale: in 5 years, Free Geek Portland has put nearly 6,500 refurbished computer systems into reuse. That's about 20% of the 31,000 systems and 33,000 monitors that have been donated. This is done without taxpayer funding, and with minimal grants from foundations; the vast majority of our labor force composed of volunteers seeking a computer, job skills or both.
Pete Forsyth, Free Geek Portland (503)453-9766 Rob Baxter, Free Geek Olympia (360)705-9999
- What types of equipments or components do you set aside for reuse?
Portland: PCs, monitors, printers, VCRs, stereo components. Not taken: copiers, TVs. $10 required fee for monitors. Olympia: Reuse is the priority. We accept all computer components and peripherals, though especially large items or batches may need to be turned away due to current space constraints. Non-computer electronics equipment is not accepted at this time. $10 fee for monitors with suggested donations for other items. Some obsolete equipment that would otherwise be recycled is freely availble for creative reuse.
- Does your organization take trade-ins?
Portland: Sales is not our main focus, so the question is not directly relevant to what we do. But no, we do not offer goods in exchange for donated goods. We do, however, offer goods in exchange for volunteer labor, both in the form of a free PC and a 50% discount in our thrift store. Olympia: No, we do not offer exchanges for donated goods either. We focus on providing disposal service, and on redistribution to volunteers and local nonprofits. We have a free PC program, modeled after Portland's, and offer a 20% sales discount to volunteers.
- What type of equipment does your organization refurbish and repair?
Portland: Computer systems and printers. Monitors and other equipment are reused where possible, but we don't have active repair programs for them. Olympia: We refurbish desktop computer systems, mainly through troubleshooting and component replacement. Extensive repairs of equipment are beyond our means. Working printers, monitors and other equipment are also sold or redistributed.
- Are the refurbished/repaired equipments marketed and, if so, at what price?
Portland: Most are given out in exchange for volunteer labor. A complete computer system (600-766 MHz, 192 MB RAM, 10-20 GB hard drive, kbd, monitor, speakers) is offered in exchange for 24 hours labor. Slightly slower, fully functional systems (500-600 MHz, no peripherals) are sold for $50. Olympia: As above, except our systems are 450-600Mhz, 128MB RAM, 8-10GB hard drive, kbd, monitor, speakers. We have met a small demand for working systems in the 450Mhz-1Ghz range to contribute to startup costs, charging roughly $1 per Ghz in processor speed.
- How much waste was generated during repairs and how are they handled?
Portland & Olympia: All waste is separated to the best of our ability, and sold to recycling companies we deem environmentally responsible. As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, this is a core part of our mission. We pay to have monitors disposed of safely, and pass that cost on to donators ($10 for every monitor donated.)
- In your experience, what are the barriers to reuse?
In society at large, the biggest barrier is lack of expertise and resources to make the most of complex equipment as it begins to fail, or no longer meets the needs it was intended for. Overcoming that barrier is the primary goal of our organization, and we do a better job of it than we have seen anywhere else. As computer hardware is of little practical use without software, this is a special concern. We use the Linux operating system and other open source software. Linux has come far in it's 15 years of existence, but still lags behind commercial alternatives in several areas, including documentatation, "user frendliness", and of course user support. FreeGeek strives to help bridge these gaps in conjunction with the vibrant open source community.
original request for feedback
Here's the email survey Pete mentions (it was never replied to --baxrob):
Subject: Reuse electronics Date: Thu, 8 Sep 2005 11:30:43 -0700 From: Tran, Ha (ECY) <HTRA461@ECY.W_.G_V> To: Info at Olympia Hello: The Department of Ecology have been asked by the state to make recommendations for the handling of electronic equipments. It is important to make reuse a priority and recognize existing projects. On behalf of Ecology, I would like to request your assistance in gathering information on current reuse infrastructure. I understand that FreeGeek has played a part in solving e-waste problems. Please let me know if there are anyone I may contact for the following questions: * What types of equipments or components do you set aside for reuse? * Does your organization take trade-ins? * What type of equipment does your organization refurbish and repair? * Are the refurbished/repaired equipments marketed and, if so, at what price? * How much waste was generated during repairs and how are they handled? * In your experience, what are the barriers to reuse? The information will help Ecology better understand the roles and needs of reuse programs in the state. Thank you for your assistance, */Ha Tran/*// Department of Ecology Solid Waste & Financial Assistance Electronics Waste Phone: (360) 407-6064 Fax: (360) 407-6102