Winter 2004-2005

Islands in the Wastestream: CompuMentor Report on Computer Reuse
by Jim Lynch

CompuMentor has recently released a comprehensive report, “Islands in the Wastestream: Baseline Study of Noncommercial Computer Reuse in the United States.” In the Executive Summary, the purpose of the study is outlined:

“The United States faces a unique challenge and opportunity regarding the disposal of obsolete computer equipment. On the one hand, three-quarters of all computers sold in the United States remain stockpiled in businesses and homes. On the other, thousands of schools, nonprofits, and low-income families could greatly benefit from access to this resource. Unfortunately, no direct nationally based distribution system links this supply with this demand. CompuMentor's Baseline Study of Noncommercial Computer Reuse in the United States examines the computer reuse field to establish the quantity, quality, and overall effectiveness of computer reuse taking place in the Bay Area and, to some degree, the rest of the country. The study also profiles how businesses fit into the field of charitable computer reuse.”

Among the findings, “demand for low- or no-cost computers is high and currently largely unmet in the San Francisco Bay Area and the US ,” and “noncommercial computer reuse demonstrates increasing potential to fulfill these needs…”

The Executive Summary concludes: “CompuMentor is now undertaking a comprehensive body of research, coordination, and hands-on projects to deepen public knowledge of computer reuse and refurbishing…Tremendous growth potential for noncommercial computer reuse and refurbishing exists in the San Francisco Bay Area and the US . The field could divert much material from landfills and also help remedy the digital divide both in the US and in other parts of the world, including developing countries.”

Jim Lynch is CompuMentor's Senior Program Manager for Computer Recycling and Reuse. His projects have included developing and maintaining CompuMentor's comprehensive and free online information and referral resource for computer donors and those seeking computers.

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