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Keeping Oregon Green

Electronic waste creates a unique problem for the 21st century. You see, electronic waste or e-waste is created when everyday people, throw away old items of technology -- they end up sitting in landfills and two things can happen;

  • When burned release harmful chemicals like polybrominated diphenyl ethers and polybrominated biphenyls which contribute to climate change or,
  • Hazardous toxins seep into the soil and water which harms both human and environmental health.

E-waste represents only 2% of America's trash in landfills, but it equals more than 70% of overall toxic waste.

Quick Facts:

  • 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are disposed of worldwide every year.
  • It takes 530 lbs of fossil fuel, 48 lbs of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water to manufacture one computer and monitor.
  • Electronic items that are considered to be hazardous include, but are not limited to: Televisions and computer monitors that contain cathode ray tubes, LCD desktop monitors, LCD televisions, Plasma televisions, Portable DVD players with LCD screens.
  • The production of electronics is also a key contributor to climate change. For example, a single laptop emits about 550 lbs. of CO2 equivalent during production. Together, the annual consumption of laptops in the United States alone emits 150.6 billion lbs of carbon dioxide equivalent -- or the same amount of emissions generated from 17 coal plants in a year.

In 2014 alone, the United States generated over 11.4 million tons of e-waste, often filling landfills with hazardous materials and threatening human and environmental health. 

The cornerstone of our mission at Free Geek is to preserve and protect our environment-- Our programs are founded on a unique circular model which points two existing societal problems --  excess electronic waste in need of sustainable reuse and recycling, and lack of basic digital access among vulnerable populations -- back at each other to reveal innovative solutions. Free Geek exists to bridge the digital divide and enable the sustainable reuse of technology. 

In the 21 years since Free Geek was founded, we have grown to play a significant role in the reduction of electronic waste in the Metro region. Our organization is responsible for a large portion of the area’s total amount of recycled, refurbished, and reused electronic waste.  

Last year we collected 961,426 pounds of e-waste, which was processed, resold, or recycled according to the highest environmental, safety, and security standards; 716,413 pounds were sustainably recycled, and 245,013 pounds (or 25.5%) were reused and restored into new items of technology. Almost 30% of the e-waste that goes through the Oregon E-Cycles program is processed by Free Geek!

We take our commitment to reuse seriously, and we continue to invest in growing our Reuse program because we know firsthand the significance of getting working items back into circulation.  We donate refurbished computers and technology directly back into the community; this year, we were able to give away six laptop computers for every ten sold in the Free Geek Store. Refurbishing a computer and putting it back into the community, thereby reducing the demand for new products, has a much larger impact on materials management than simply dismantling the item for metal recovery and recycling.

Whether it’s a corporation making a tax-deductible donation of used desktop monitors, or an individual recycling an out-of-date cell phone, Free Geek turns nearly every type of electronic equipment, in any condition, into an opportunity. Our commitment to you and to our environment revolves around careful resource management and preservation, while simultaneously championing the sustainable, responsible reuse of technology. 

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