State of the Environment Report 2007

Snapshot: Do the PC thing

Canberra Christian Life Centre originated Charity Computers, a not-for-profit organisation reusing computer equipment from the public, business and government sectors, recycling it to the needy, and training the unemployed in IT-related skills.

Charity Computers helps us to help the environment by donating equipment rather than dumping it, and helps those in need by providing cheap computers. Donations are assessed for recycling or, preferably, reuse.  Data is wiped and new software installed. Computers are sold to concession card holders and not-for-profit organisations, or given to community projects such as the Charnwood Primary School computer lab and the migrant resource centre. 

Some computers are reused several times, but eventually reach the end of their useful life. Canberra Charity Computers originated a process, now used across the organisation, of manually stripping parts, with strict procedures to limit contamination of material. Computers and monitors are recycled in partnership with recycling companies with up to 95% of waste recovered. Cartridges are recycled and reused: even cardboard is reused as packing. 

Computer inspections are free to concession card holders with repairs at 50% below industry rates. The entire system operates at cost. Fees on reused computers and recycling pay for sending computers to the needy or cover disposal costs: government grants help fund training. 

Unemployed individuals are trained in IT skills such as trouble-shooting, repair, customer service, basic programs and networks. Some train as certified Infrastructure Engineers, learning supervisory skills, complex networking and management. Life skills are also addressed. Connections with recruitment companies help participants find employment. 

Charity Computers in Canberra has 12 paid staff but depends heavily on some 300 volunteers and 70 students per year. Its reuse, recycling and training model is being duplicated throughout Australia and, now, in third world countries. 

Reuse and recycle is central to government no-waste strategies. Charity Computers maximises such benefits in IT and widens access to the technology and skills of the ‘clever country’. 

living sustainably

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