Recycling old computer equipment takes time, money, and energy. Cash donations help FreeGeek cover our recycling fees and cover administrative costs and operational costs. Make a secure cash donation online via PayPal by clicking the donate button.
FreeGeek Chicago responsibly recycles and refurbishes computers and computer-related hardware in any condition. This page covers the equipment we accept, equipment we do not accept, recycling & pickup fees, our data destruction policy, and how to prepare your donation for drop-off.
There are a number of items FreeGeek Chicago accepts which have limited reusability and therefore get sent to our recyclers in bulk. While FreeGeek gladly accept these items to ensure safe and responsible recycling of these items, we do suggest the following donation per item to help cover our recycling and processing costs.
FreeGeek Chicago wipes or physically destroys every hard drive and all storage media it receives. We use Darik's Boot and Nuke (DBAN) to wipe drives. In the case of broken or obsolete drives, FreeGeek Chicago renders the drive physically unusable (with a hammer or drill) before sending it to any downstream recycler. If you require certified compliance with data-destruction and retention regulations, you must destroy your data prior to donating equipment.
To make a quick and easy drop-off, please consider writing up a list of items that you plan on donating to FreeGeek. Please bring as little packaging as possible. It is also helpful to us if you remove any stickers, notes, etc. We do not recycle styrofoam. Please try to untangle all cords and cables. Coil them up with a rubber band or twist tie. Attach power adapters (AC adaptors, transformers) to their associated equipment (such as powered speakers, printers or external modems) as best you can; clear packing tape works well.
We reuse any materials we can to build complete computer systems that we give to volunteers as part of our Earn-a-Computer program or sell for far below the used "market rate." Reuse is the most environmentally-friendly path for your old hardware. Since reused materials don't need to be processed by recyclers, there is no energy cost to turning the materials into a new usable product. Our computer buyers, and those who earn a computer in our program, are diverted from buying newly produced computers, which further reduces the energy cost associated with putting a computer into their hands.
We are given a lot of material that we cannot reuse, most commonly because its age makes it infeasible for use in a modern personal computer or because we have tested it as non-working. Materials that we cannot reuse are sent to a recycler that we have carefully chosen based on their processes. The criteria that we use to consider and approve recyclers are based on those of Freegeek Portland:
In 2008, FreeGeek/Chicago staff conducted a survey of area e-waste recyclers. We chose Supply-Chain Services (SSI) in Lombard, IL as our recycler for all these materials based on a number of impressive aspects of their recycling process: they claim a real recovery rate of around 98% (about 98% of material by weight that is processed by SSI is reused—other recyclers falsely claim 99% or 100% for marketing purposes), they export no materials except for CRT glass, which they ship directly to a factory in Mexico that reuses the material in televisions (one of only a couple that is allowed under the new EPA R2 certification) and PCBs, which they send to a smelter in Belgium, and they provide thorough documentation of recycling. Currently, SSI is our stated recycler for printed circuit boards (PCBs), plastic, scrap metal, printers, drives (hard drives are thoroughly wiped by Freegeek/Chicago before being sent to SSI), CRT and LCD monitors, wiring and connectors. SSI was recently awarded the contract to recycle federal agencies' electronics by the US EPA. They are ISO 9001 and 14001 certified, and will receive the EPA's new R2 certification. There is more specific information on how SSI processes materials on their website: http://www.supply-chainservices.com/index.php/stewardship/material-processing.html.