Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Australian PC Recycling Service

I was standing at a Tram stop in Adelaide yesterday on waiting to try the new Glenelg Tram when I had a call from Brenda Aynsley from the ACS PC Recycling SIG, inviting me to see how they refurbish old computers for community use. The Sig is based at Glandore, about 81 metres (according to Google maps) from the South Road tram stop. So I went along to have a look at the operations.

The PC Recycling Sig is a special interest group of the South Australian Branch of the Australian Computer Society. They take donations of old computers from companies and individuals, refurbish them and then sell them to individuals and non-profit community groups for a nominal amount. Those eligible include pensioners and TAFE students.

This is a sophisticated operation, with volunteers taking the equipment through a carefully documented and controlled process process. The computers are assessed, the hard disks erased using a special program, components checked and where necessary replaced. The Sig is licenced by Microsoft to install the Windows operating system and other software (with careful records kept about which machines the software is installed on). Linux is also available as an option. The computers typically have a floppy disk drive (still used by many people) and a CD-ROM drive (DVD burners are harder to come by). Laptops are also provided, but these seem to be in short supply.

The Sig also provides a computer club to help community memebrs learn about computers and provide each other with support.

Apart from providing low cost computers to the community the Sig also has an environmental role in keeping computers running longer and thus reducing the amount of materials going to landfill. At my talk on Green ICT last night there was a representative from the SA Government's Zero Waste initiative. I suggested they look at helping the ACS replicate their PC recycling scheme accross South Australia.

The ACS would be happy to help set up similar groups in other locations. They can provide the procedure and forms to use to manage the process of wiping hard disks on computers, providing a standard configuration, providing help to users. The ACS can provide a package of materials and procedures and also can provide the licence registration for groups.

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