Ever wonder what to do with an old, obsolete or just unwanted computer? Fairfax County’s recycling program has teamed up with a not-for-profit to provide a green solution to the gray monsters.
The Fairfax County Recycling Program held an “E-Cycling” program Saturday at CompUSA in Fairfax, where residents could turn in any computer component to be safely broken down into smaller pieces and recycled.
“Over 400 million pieces of computer equipment was thrown away last year,” said Meredith Eisenberg, public outreach manager of the county’s recycling program.
“There is one pound of lead in every monitor, so we provide an environmentally friendly way to dispose of it,” she said.
There is a $10 fee for donating a monitor to cover the cost of processing the glass tube that contains the lead, she said.
“Most people, on average, get a new computer every three years and that really adds up,” she said.
THE PROGRAM is a partnership with ServiceSource, a company based in Alexandria that employs people with disabilities to take apart computers for recycling among other jobs.
“This is the third year we’ve had this program and we’ve recycled almost 350 tons of computer parts,” Eisenberg said. “We usually have a line of cars … we generally get 25 to 30 tons at each event.”
If the computers are a Pentium II processor or newer, ServiceSource will try to refurbish the computer for resale, said Lisa Ward, corporation development manager for ServiceSource.
“We also test the monitors and if they’re working all right we’ll refurbish them and resell them too,” she said.
It takes a ServiceSource employee about 10 minutes to disassemble a computer, she said.
“Once you remove the screws, it all comes right out,” Ward said.
The parts are then sorted and shipped to Computer Donation Management in Baltimore, where the pieces are stripped of their wire components and the metals are recycled.
“CDM sells refurbished computers domestically and internationally to wholesalers,” she said. “Pentium II computers are still considered top of the line internationally even though they’re outdated here.”
Of the 75 employees at the ServiceSource branch in Alexandria, the difficult task is not finding enough people to work on the computers, but having enough computers that need work.
“All our employees enjoy working on the computers,” Ward said. “When we first started this program, we’d get calls from concerned parents whose child said they took a computer apart at work that day,” she said.
THOSE WHO WERE unable to drop off their computer components at Saturday’s event can take the unwanted items to ServiceSource’s employment center on Edsel Road in Alexandria between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“We take printers, fax machines, scanners, mice, keyboards, laptops, modems, anything that goes on or into a computer,” Ward said. “But we don’t take cell phones or televisions.”
The need for this program was evident Saturday in a long line of cars that Eisenberg said had been present all morning.
“This is a great location, very central,” she said of the parking lot of CompUSA on Fair Lakes Parkway. “There were people waiting at 9 a.m. and we didn’t start until 10 a.m.”
Andrea Parker said she was participating in the recycling program to support another non-profit organization.
“I run a day care for low income families,” she said while dropping off a few computers. “It’s a good way to make a donation and clean out what we don’t need.”
“It’s part of our mission to help, so it’s a like-to-like donation,” she said.
Don Greco agreed. “My wife came up with the idea, we just got a new computer,” he said.
“I think just giving this to someone who needs it is incentive enough,” he said when asked if the possibility of winning a printer brought him out. “I think the people working here are doing a great job.”
With five computers at home, Thad Anderson said he was glad to be able to clean out some older, obsolete equipment.
He said that his wife and their children all have their own computers at home.
“We’re moving towards laptops just because they take up less space,” Anderson said.
Before hearing of Saturday’s event, Anderson was planning to take the computers to a different recycling program next week in Washington D.C., “but this was much more convenient.”
Eisenberg said that Fairfax County and ServiceSource will have another recycling drive on Nov. 13 at Herndon High School. Further information is available on the county’s Web site, www.fairfaxcounty.gov, and on the website for ServiceSource, www.keepitgreen.org.