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Old computers are new again

MATT KIELTYKA, 24 HOURS
Jordan Eunson and Jessica Mason-Paul are the brains behind Free Geek, a Vancouver-based ethical computer recycling operation. (CARMINE MARINELLI, 24 HOURS)

Jordan Eunson and Jessica Mason-Paul are the brains behind Free Geek, a Vancouver-based ethical computer recycling operation. (CARMINE MARINELLI, 24 HOURS)

Just because you need to upgrade rigs doesn't mean your old computer is destined for the trash bin.

Free Geek, a Vancouver-based ethical computer recycler, is urging people to take their old computer equipment to them instead and eliminate the toxic e-waste that makes it to dump sites around the world.

"People believe they can take old CRT monitors and put them out on the curb, thinking the garbage man or the city will know what to do with it," said Jordan Eunson, one of the board members at Free Geek. "It's an out-of-sight, out-of-mind problem. Those computers are actually really toxic not just to the environment, but for people as well."

That's why Free Geek opened its doors at 1820 Pandora Street three years ago.

They not only repurpose old technology and donate computers, they provide job training to people through charities, teaching them to put together computers and let them take one home after 24 hours of volunteer time.

And instead of packing up old electronics and shipping it to a third-world landfill, Free Geek makes sure equipments that can't be recycled is properly smelted locally.

But the program has been threatened recently, as drop-offs and donations have plummeted this year.

Eunson hopes increased awareness spurs a new wave of equipment donations, saving thousands of toxic bits and bytes from ending up in the scrap heap.