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Revision as of 02:20, 7 January 2006 by Baxrob (talk | contribs) (snip a bit - the point is covered elsewhere (reuse as priority))
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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. [I will do this or ask Jim to, on Monday -rob]

JC may already know Ha Tran.

response (draft)

Mr. 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 (news link here), we recognize that an important opportunity to participate in the future of e-waste handling may be passing us by. We hope to correct that.

FreeGeek Olympia is one year old, but has strong organizational ties with the larger FreeGeek Portland (Oregon.) The Olympia organization is still in its infancy in many ways. In our responses below, we include data from both organizations. This illustrates the kind of success toward which FreeGeek Olympia aims. Also, FreeGeek Portland is a resource Olympia can draw on when there are large hardware donations, needs for infrastructure or administrative support, etc.

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 volunteers develop at FreeGeek are also a major community benefit.

To illustrate the scale: in 5 years, FreeGeek Portland has put nearly 6,500 refurbished computer systems back into use. That's about 20% of the 31,000 systems and 33,000 monitors that have been donated. FreeGeek Olympia is well on its way, with about 500 systems taken in and 35 redistributed in the last year.

This is accomplished 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. What cannot be reused is recycled.

Please contact either of us if you have further questions. If you are interested in a press kit for the Portland FreeGeek, we can mail one out in the next week.

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?

Reuse is prioritized over Recycling. This is a core principle of Free Geek.

Equipment currently accepted for donation:


PCs, printers (refurbished where possible.) VCRs, stereo components, monitors (reused if still functional, otherwise recycled.) Not accepted for donation: copiers, TVs. $10 required fee for donated monitors. We have accepted donations as large as 117 systems and 85 monitors, and to my knowledge have never turned a donation away for being too large.


We accept all computer components and peripherals, though especially large items or batches may need to be turned away due to current space constraints (or overflow sent to Portland.) Non-computer electronics equipment is not accepted at this time. $10 fee for monitors.

  • Does your organization take trade-ins?

We take hardware donations. Neither Olympia nor Portland offer anything in exchange for them, but the donations do roll in at an ever-increasing rate. Hardware sales is not a major focus.

We do, however, offer goods in exchange for volunteer labor, both in the form of a free PC and a sales discount for other items.

  • What type of equipment does your organization refurbish and repair?


Computer systems and printers. Monitors and other equipment are reused where possible, but we don't have active repair programs for them.


We refurbish desktop computer systems, mainly through troubleshooting and component replacement. Extensive repairs of equipment are beyond our current means. Working printers, monitors and other equipment are also sold or redistributed.

  • Are the refurbished/repaired equipments marketed and, if so, at what price?

Yes. Prices below:


Most PCs 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. 15" monitors: $7.50, inkjet printers: $20-40, laser printers: $60-200.


PCs as above, except our systems are 450-600Mhz, 128MB RAM, 8-10GB hard drive, kbd, monitor, speakers. We sell working systems in the 450Mhz-1Ghz range, charging roughly $1 per 10 Mhz of 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 not-for-profit, this is a core part of our mission. Hard drives are physically destroyed or erased 5 times, to ensure clients' privacy. 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 greatest 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. We do a better job of it than we have seen anywhere else, and have several startups in other cities emulating our model.

Software can also be a barrier. One very beneficial strategy has been to use free software instead of commercial software. This spares us the fiscal and administrative overhead of ensuring licensing compliance on a system-by-system basis, and also allows us to closely tailor the software to available hardware capabilities (to maximize performance.)

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


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