Jeff Robinson: Product coordinator, Free Geek
Every year about 500 tons of old and broken computers wind up at Free Geek, a recycling cooperative in Portland, Oregon. Hundreds of volunteers, from nerds to the needy, help reassemble the parts into working machines, and no wonder, since 24 hours of labor earns volunteers a free PC. Jeff Robinson, 33, is one of 14 members of the collective that runs Free Geek. Begun in 2000 in a living room, the enterprise now occupies a warehouse and has spawned nine other Free Geeks, from Arkansas to Vancouver, British Columbia. freegeek.org
Q: What's it like to work at Free Geek?
A: It's a crazy atmosphere. We have retirees who have had great jobs standing next to someone who's never used a computer before, helping each other out.
Q: What happens to the computers that come through your door?
A:Roughly 20 percent are immediately reusable, ready to rebuild or resell. The other 80 percent need to be recycled.
Q:Does an operation like this really make a difference?
A:Rather than have computers go to a landfill, last month we gave away 100 and sold 100, and they're going back into the community. The difference is environmental, economic, and educational.