Kitty, one of our regular volunteers, lives in Edina. As part of the Edina Day of Service, she organized a “Donate your old computer to Free Geek Twin Cities” dropoff in the parking lot of Jerry’s Foodssupermarket. The weather was perfect, but we had no idea if anyone would show up. Well, the good folks of Edina really came through for us. We received over 50 desktop machines, more than 20 laptops, and about 20 flatscreens. We filled two minivans and an SUV with all the donations. A hearty thanks to Kitty and the people of Edina.
On August 1 we had our first pickup of recyclable materials at our new location. Waste Management/Recycle America sent a truck which took away seven pallets of plastic, CRTS, hard drives (all spiked!), circuit boards, and various other sorted components. We just got the report back from WM/RA and the grand total was 1976 pounds! That’s right, we shipped almost a ton of recycling, keeping a whole bunch of toxins and precious metals out of landfills.
Our last shipment had been in April, in preparation for the garage sale and the move. Considering that we didn’t do any recycling work in May because of those events, nor for a week or two after the move while we settled in, it appears we generate a ton of recycling about every twelve weeks. Plus, we recovered enough valuable materials in the process to not only pay for the truck to come pickup the materials (in the past we’ve hauled it ourselves), but even had a bit of credit left over.
Having the space for pallets and gaylord boxes has been a godsend. Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to scale up our recycling as we have. We really are moving along now.
If you haven’t seen our new site, come visit us, and we’ll show you our great new recycling area, where we are making “a ton” of difference.
In the past few weeks, we have gotten two long benches in place in the garage for doing teardown work. Even with that, we’re getting so many terrific volunteers that we’re pretty much elbow to elbow. It’s a great problem to have!
If you look at the previous blog entry, from January, the pictures show the one small bench we had for doing teardown, with four people working on it. We have now more than doubled the bench space and the number of volunteers using it. On the teardown benches, we dismantle computers, printers, and other peripherals that are broken or too old to be used for our build program. We break them down to four components: plastic, metal, circuit boards, and mixed. We separate the components and then deliver them to our recycling partners. Some components make us money in recycling, others cost us. So far, we’ve been able to make a bit more money in recycling than we’ve had to spend. The money then goes toward things like paying the rent.
Eventually, the space over on the right will become dedicated to testing and evaluating donated computers and components. We even managed to do a tiny bit of that yesterday.
Meanwhile, in the build room, the tight space story is the same as in the garage. A few months back, four tables were enough working space for doing builds. Then we had to “adopt” a couple of other tables in the room, as our number of volunteers grew. Yesteday we had so many people showing up to learn that we had to pull in folding tables stored in the garage to provide enough space for everyone to work on. We share this space with PPNA and other groups which use it for meetings and gatherings, so whatever we put up, we have to take down. That’s actually a good thing, as it makes us be better roommates, and enables the community to get more use out of the space. We just may have to look at getting more folding tables to accommodate all our friends and neighbors who want to get geeky. Another good problem to have!
This week we got some gaylord boxes from Waste Management. We filled nearly four of these huge boxes with all the CRT monitors that used to make up our “Monitor Mountain”. We began filling a fifth box with all the plastic parts we have accumulated in the past several months of computer & printer teardown. Next week, WM will send a truck to pick these all up for recycling. (WM is a BAN-approvede-steward recycler.)
Ben in a box: Michael and Gary hand monitors to Ben who stacks them up in the gaylord boxes. Ben will not be recycled with the monitors.
We also took 200 pounds of wire and cables to Leder Brothers Metal Recycling. This was our first visit to Leder Bros. When we told them about Free Geek, they seemed very interested in having an on-going relationship with us, both as a place to direct people with old computers and as a resource for them to send their own computers. Leder Bros. is only about a mile away and they are open Saturday mornings, which makes it convenient for us.
We are still working on the exact dates for the garage sale, but this week, in preparation for the event, we worked on giving a final test to our pool of completed build machines, known as Geek Boxes. It turns out to be a pretty good sized pool. We have been marvelously busy with moving into the new space and sorting all the computer equipment we have accumulated over the past several months, all while welcoming new volunteers who come to learn how to dismantle and rebuild computers. As a result, we kind of lost track of our inventory of completed machines. So, we fired them all up, and verfied that everything worked, that they had Ubuntu 10.4 installed, and that they were ready for new owners.
We also found we have many more flat screen LCD monitors than we thought. We will hang onto the small or slightly damaged ones for our own internal use, but plan to sell the larger, fancier models. Our Geek Boxes come standard with a 19″ or 21″ CRT monitor, but we’ll offer a flat screen LCD monitor as an optional upgrade for a modest price. We also will have several Macintoshes to sell.
All of this is good news for the garage sale, as it means we have more computer goodies to offer the public. We won’t be selling all of our computers; we will keep some that will be given to other non-profits as part of the hardware grant program, and to volunteers who complete their 24 hours of service, or who complete their six build boxes.
Meanwhile, in the garage, we continue to refine our teardown process. In the past we used to just lump all scrap metal together. But now we are separating ferrous (magnetic) from non-ferrous metal. The non-ferrous is primarily aluminum, and we think we can get at least a modest amount of money selling it to scrap yards. We have quite a few old, small hard drives, which are mostly aluminum. While we could sell the drives for scrap as is, we will get a better rate if we break them down to their individual components and sort them accordingly. The circuit board in each hard drive is valuable as scrap, too. Even the ferrous metal, if sorted, is worth a few cents per pound, and we have many pounds of it.
Stay tuned for more details on the garage sale. We will be posting more info shortly.
We’ve managed to clear out a lot of space in the past week. Last Saturday everyone pitched in and we sorted all the monitors in Monitor Mountain into four piles: Dells, Sonys, large monitors, and everything else. Today, we took the Dells to Staples which has a recycling program in conjunction with Dell; and we took the Sonys to Waste Management which has a recycling program with Sony. The large monitors we’ll keep to be distributed with computers via our volunteer and grant programs. All the rest are currently stacked on pallets waiting to be recycled. We will probably just have to pay to have those recycled which means it may take us some months depending on our cash flow.
All told, we got rid of more than 40 monitors totaling more than 1700 pounds today. In place of all those monitors we’ve now got testing workstations setup. We still have a lot of stuff to sort through but we’re slowly getting there.
See the “Before” and “After” pictures below. The board that Buster the Robot is standing on used to be covered with Sony monitors.