Monday, February 21, 2011

'Free Geek' Tour

It was another typical rainy day in Vancouver, but that didn't put a damper on our trip to Free Geek! Free Geek is a non-profit, ethical recycling organisation, located on East Hastings and Pandora St. They not only  recycle electronics, but they also re-furbish computers. In addition to this, they offer free education for those who want to learn more about computers and receive training in refurbishing them. This successful program has created a team of extremely dedicated and passionate volunteers.

We were welcomed by Jessica Mason-Paull who took us through an eye-opening tour of the recycling depot and its operations. It was outstanding to see the stacks of boxes and aisles filled with computer monitors/towers, batteries, printers, phones, and speakers. Free Geek has efficiently allotted space to three main operations; the evaluation site, the re-furbishing room, and a thrift store. The thrift store, Free Geek's main source of income, sells low cost re-furbished electronics back to the community. You can find some great deals there - 10 cents/gigabyte, computer monitors for less than $50, video games for $2 and more! 

E-waste has become an issue that concerns more than just the condition of our planet but also the future of our social structures. Jessica emphasizes that “we [are] killing people and their families, [and] their children's children are going to suffer because of our toxic waste”. Our irresponsibility in disposing of e-waste has caused those in lesser developed countries like Ghana, China, and India to suffer the effects. Their health and lives are put to risk due to our ignorance.

Evaluation Table
Jessica mentions three main culprits of e-waste:
1. We, the Consumers - Our mentality is to have the coolest and latest gadgets. Instead, we need to forget about this idea of 'perceived obsolescence'. Do we really need that new iPod/Blackberry, when our slightly older version is in perfect working condition? 

2. Electronic Companies - These companies have the resources and money to develop products which do not contain such toxic
chemicals but the time, effort, and research required deters them from          
Barrels overflowing with wires
 taking responsible action.

3. The Government - Without the implementation of stronger measures by the government, changes regarding e-waste will not happen. Until then, it is up to organisations like Free Geek, and other e-waste advocates to educate the public.

Our trip to Free Geek has further motivated us to raise awareness to people, especially our student body, in hopes that they too will be encouraged to take a stance on this underreported issue. Our society has grasped the concept of recycling, but we need to further this and enforce the importance of re-using, re-furbishing, and reducing.

Some of the MOST toxic - Lithium Batteries

E-waste has been disregarded by citizens and the government for far too long, so as a starting point, we are hosting an “E-Waste Day” at SFU Burnaby on March 14th. Bring in your old cell phones, computers (if you can carry them!), iPods and small appliances. At the end of the day, we’ll bring them to Free Geek, where they will be re-furbished and will not be sent overseas.

For further information on volunteering or attending a workshop, visit

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