Why does it seem to be so difficult to donate working used computer gear to charity?
One of my clients has sold their practice and is shutting down. A bunch of their old but still usable equipment, and a stack of licensed software, is going to be available lying around without a home.
Previously I've worked with a charitable foundation that claimed to be interested – but they only wanted some of my gear – no printers, cables, network equipment or anything like that. This time around, they're not interested at all.
I contacted PCs for Schools as well. They're only interested in complete systems that are Pentium III's or higher. When I asked about older computers, they said they throw them into the garbage. I thought the point of this process was to get these computers OUT of the garbage.
Yesterday I managed to find a group that seems to break the mould – the Electronics Recycling Association. They've been responsive and seem genuinely interested in the stack of computer equipment I have – even the parts and slower computers.
Some of my friends and I have had lunch-hour talks about how it should be very easy to harvest older computers and get them into the hands of those who need them.
What I find surprising (and somewhat disappointing) is that none of the computer stores have teamed up with an organization like the ERA to help get all the old computers into the hands of people who need them (instead of in the closet or garbage bin).
If someone is buying a new computer, chances are they have an old one just sitting around without a home. If they're l a dead one, I bet there's lots of parts worth scavenging.
In my google search, I found discussion threads from other techies having the same issue as me – they have a pile of gear that really shouldn't go into the garbage, but nobody seems to want it. It's definitely worth while to tap on the shoulder of some community leaders, be it bloggers or community websites (like TechVibes) and get the word out there.
Getting help rebuilding the PCs and getting things ready to go shouldn't be a problem either. By working with local high schools and technical schools, a charitable organization should be able to get enough free (or near free) work experience students. That way there's a double-benefit – learning and getting machines ready to be reused.
Since I'm already preparing a package for the ERA, I will happily gather equipment from my contacts and other clients for donation. If you have something you'd like to add to the pile, please send me an e-mail or contact the ERA directly.