An environmental nightmare

Current Affairs

Where computers go to die — and kill:

“More than 50 percent of our recycled computers are shipped overseas, where their toxic components are polluting poor communities. Meanwhile, U.S. laws are a mess, and industry and Congress are resisting efforts to stem ‘the effluent of the affluent.'”

We’ve got shelves full of computers and parts here in the parish. Most of them have come from parishioners and businesses that are upgrading to the latest and greatest and donate them to us for distribution to others.

One of the issues that keep us from being able to distribute these are that the computers we get from businesses tend to come without operating systems. (We tend to install either a linux distribution like Mepis or Ubuntu.) The other issue is that sending them overseas is not always economically feasible – and many times they are not wanted. Giving a free computer to someone who doesn’t know how to use one is like giving a puppy to a friend. It’s a lovely gift, but it comes with a cost.

I guess the best idea for dealing with the computers we have that still work, but will no longer use the latest and greatest operating system is to think seriously about installing a desktop version of Linux on them and then turning them into public workstations. We’ve done that here now with four of our old computers and they are being heavily used by folks from the Soup Kitchen and the parish. Since they’re Linux based and running Firefox for a web browser they haven’t required much maintenance and I can feel better that we’re managing to avoid adding the toxic materials that they include into the waste stream either here in the states or overseas.


The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...