The concept is simple, really. Hire a handful of staff members, pay them the same hourly figure from the top down, train volunteers to run the business and work solely with donated electronic items to make them reusable or recyclable. In the process, teach volunteers how the business works and how to rebuild computers, allowing them to adopt a computer after 24 hours of volunteer service, giving them on-the-job training, as well as a social outlet. The result of the effort keeps harmful products out of landfills and enables schools and groups who desperately need computers to receive them at no cost. Last, but not least, make it all a democracy so volunteers and employees can participate in the direction of the collective.
Such is the way of Free Geek, a nonprofit technology recycling center in Portland, Oregon, leading the revolution in technology waste management. People donate their unwanted gizmos, ranging from computers to VCRs (excluding TVs and very few other items), then Free Geek volunteers rebuild the items to reuse, or safely deconstruct them to be recycled. Since its inception, Free Geek has refurbished approximately 6,000 computers using 5,000 volunteers and has recycled 1,000 tons of material, keeping it out of landfills. Just this month, they celebrated taking in their 300,000th donated gizmo.
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