By Bonita Davis, SE Resident and Master Recycler

Spotting my laptop open on the dining room table, my friend Shelley shared that she had four laptops at home that needed to be either donated or discarded. They remain stashed on a shelf because she didn’t know how to securely delete data and/or remove the hard-drive.

Spontaneously, we remembered a great resource for used electronics and laughed as we blurted out in unison, “FREE GEEK!” Shelley started mentally collecting all her unused tech gear, excited to donate her electronics, and I went for more information.

Going to their excellent and frequently updated website, I learned Free Geek’s mission is “to sustainably reuse technology, enable digital access and provide education to create a community that empowers people to realize their potential.”

In other words, they “divert technology that would otherwise be recycled or thrown away, refurbish it, and give it back to our community at no or low cost.” How great is that?

Located at 1731 SE 10th Ave., Free Geek is a non-profit with an amazing list of accomplishments. Stepping up to make a difference, Free Geek appeared at a public Earth Day 2000 event and by September, they had opened their 10th Ave. facility for a recycling and reuse drop off center for electronic waste.

Since then, they have involved some 150,000 individuals from the community and enlisted the help of more than 35,000 volunteers and expanded into a 22,000 square facility that has served as a space for classes, training, outreach, donations and materials reuse and recycling.

An astounding 1.3 million items have been diverted from the landfill, 900,000 volunteer hours clocked and over 72,620 technology devices granted to schools, individuals, non-profits and other organizations. To date, over 10,000 computers have been granted to volunteers and students in exchange for community service.

Recently, COVID-19 and the poor air quality that resulted from the wildfires, have made it necessary to adapt operations. The store is now online, tech support is available by phone and email, and information on opportunities to contribute money to support their mission and subscribe to the newsletter are a click away at freegeek.org. Volunteering is closed at this time.

Regarding donating tech, the solution Shelley was seeking, Free Geek now has limited public drop-offs on the NE side of their facility. Participants are asked to unload items, wear face coverings and maintain physical distancing. Current times are Wednesday–Saturday 11 am-1 pm and 3-5 pm.

If you are a business or have a large number of computers, additional options are available. The website details what items they do and do not take, how to prep your donation and information on their data security process used with laptops, desktops, smartphones, tablets and other devices containing personal data. It is always wise to check the website before you go.

Free Geek is a participant in the Oregon E-Cycles program that guarantees convenient recycling of computers, monitors, TVs, printers, keyboards and mice for Oregonians and small businesses.

Did you know that it is actually illegal to dispose of computers, monitors and TVs in the garbage, at the landfill or at transfer station (unless to recycle)?

Go to oregon.gov/DEQ/ecycles for more information about the program and what electronic devices you can recycle for free at a location near you.