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Revision as of 22:07, 8 January 2006 by Baxrob (talk | contribs) (draft draft draft)
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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.

[Having reflected on this a moment, a couple of thoughts:

  • It seems fairly simple to, where possible, rephrase the questions by stating what is common among the two fgs and then noting differences. This would present a more solid front, clean up the flow. I've made some suggestions in this direction below
  • I feel like the level of detail on the sales takes up a lot of space. Any problem with being concise and referencing the wiki price list (which we use in oly as well)?
  • Especially since the request was sent to oly, i think the reply has become somewhat overly portland-centric. I realize the interest in touching base in regards to legislation was Pete's primary motivation for starting this draft, but think it represents some more immediate and practical interests to fgoly, in terms of relationship to the state gov't, which is part of our local community. I think it would not be sacrificing anything to have oly's voice be more prominent than it is here. Perhaps just putting Oly's responses first would do it..
I'll be talking to Pete as soon as possible about all this. ...Sorry for the late concerns :/

response (draft)


You sent us some questions in September, and we failed to reply promptly. In light of 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. We hope to correct that.

FreeGeek Olympia is one year old, but has strong ties with the original FreeGeek in Portland, Oregon. The Olympia organization is still in its infancy in many ways, so in our responses below, we include data from both organizations. Data from FreeGeek Portland demonstrates the kind of success that FreeGeek Olympia is working toward. ["success that fgoly is working toward" is, i think, stronger than the previous "success toward which fgoly aspires," or what about 'moving toward'? or 'cultivating'? -rob] Also, FreeGeek Portland serves as a resource for FreeGeek Olympia 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 legislation, we would be most grateful. We hope to be an integral part of e-waste handling in the future, and we have much experience to bring to the table. Relating to the system envisioned in this bill, our greatest success has been in repair, reuse, and harnessing volunteer labor. Additionally, our programs extend beyond waste handling: the job skills our volunteers develop at FreeGeek are another major benefit to our community.

To illustrate the scale of our operations: 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 processed during its first year, and 35 refurbished and redistributed so far. Whatever materials cannot be reused are recycled. Both organizations have experienced rapid and dramatic growth, and hope to expand to meet more e-waste disposal needs every year.

All this is accomplished without taxpayer funding, and with minimal grants from foundations. The vast majority of our labor force consists of volunteers seeking a computer or job skills, or just enjoying the process. And the FreeGeek model is being replicated across the country in such cities as Columbus, Chicago, and Michiana. Indeed, organizations as distant as South Africa have solicited our advice in setting up reuse and recycling programs for e-waste.

Detailed (if belated) responses to your questions follow. Please contact either of us if you have further questions. And if you would like a press kit for FreeGeek Portland, we can mail one out in the coming week.

Pete Forsyth, FreeGeek Portland (503)453-9766

Rob Baxter, FreeGeek 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 FreeGeek's mission.

Equipment currently accepted for donation:


SHAWN: I think the question of "what is repaired" vs "what is reused only if still functional" relates well to the original question. I'm pasting my paragraph below again, can we revisit which phrasing we use?


PCs, laptops, servers, printers (refurbished for reuse if possible.) VCRs, stereo components, monitors (reused if still functional, otherwise recycled. $10 required fee for donated monitors.) Hardware donations not accepted: copiers, TVs. 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 computers and computer-related equipment in any condition. We also accept all audio/visual equipment, which is tested and reused if working. A $10 fee is charged for each donated monitor, working or not. Hardware donations not accepted: copiers, TVs, and microwaves and other major appliances. 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.

ROB's suggested synthesis (to replace the entire response to this question):
The priority of reuse over recycling is a core aspect of FreeGeek's mission. In principle, whenever reuse is possible it is [carried out or worked toward]. Where reuse is not feasible, material is recycled in an [environmentally sound manner].
We accept computers and computer related equipment regardless of working condition, charging a cost-covering fee for disposal of CRTs/monitors. Non-computer equipment, such as copiers, TVs, and microwaves and other major appliances is not accepted in general, though Portland accepts audio/visual equipment. Portland FreeGeek has accepted donations as large as 117 systems and 85 monitors, and to [our] knowledge has never turned a donation away for being too large. Due to current space contraints, special arrangements are required for unusually large equipment or [lots] in Olympia.

[FYI: Total Reclaim picks up CRTs from Oly's local landfill. Fgoly currently hauls monitors there, and we have found that for loads over 200 lbs (min weight charged) the cost per monitor is roughly $6.50. We have stuck with the $10 fee because we started with that before we knew we could dispose of them locally - and we haven't lost _too_ much sleep over it. We have taken a few monitors from other nonprofits for the actual cost, and this might be an offer worth extending to the state (since they may be unlikely to pay $10 a pop). ...this is why i've left out the specific fee here..]

  • 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. Selling hardware augments our revenue stream, but is not our main 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.requested

OSO - It's not such a great idea to say we exchange goods in exchange for labor. A better way to say it is: "The vast majority of the labor required to perform the reuse and recycling operations is performed by volunteers. Volunteers are rewarded with 1 free computer after performing a required number of hours (currently 24) or after building a required number of computers for reuse (currently 5). Volunteers are also eligible for a discount in the thrift store as long as they are active with the program." We don't want create the impression that there is a straight hours/for parts exchange, which starts to sound like income, which starts to get taxed -- know what I mean?

ROB - Perhaps simply "We do offer working computers and a percentage sales discount as reward for volunteer hours."

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


Computer systems (including laptops), stereo equipment, DVD and video players, 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 away 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 of 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. Higher-end systems (no peripherals) are sold at $1 per 10 MHz, and range in speed from 1.0 GHz to 2.5 GHz. We also give hardware grants to non-profit organizations (complete systems 800+ MHz, 256 MB RAM, 20+ GB drive), or other requested items as available, including laptops, stereo equipment, projectors, etc.


We sell working systems in the 450Mhz-1GHz range, charging roughly $1 per 10 MHz of processor speed, with a reasonable complement of components. Prices for other componenents are based on Portland FreeGeek's prices. A list can be found online at

However, most PCs are given out in reward for volunteer labor, or as grants to other non-profit organizations. The computers for volunteers are functional internet and word-processing systems, with 450-600MHz, 128MB RAM, 8-10GB hard drive, keyboard, monitor, mouse and speakers. Standard computer grants to non-profits are 800+ MHz, 256 MB RAM, 20+ GB drive, keyboard, monitor, mouse and speakers.

  • 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 3 times, to ensure clients' privacy. We pay to have monitors disposed of safely, and pass that cost on to equipment donors [($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. Modern commercial software is expensive, and demands high-end hardware to perform at its best. 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