How one resolution helped reduce our environmental impact, support families in need, and save the county money.
Whatcom County replaces roughly 200 computers each year on average. These are devices considered to be end of life span which typically means they’re about 4-years old. When the device reaches this point, it’s replaced with a brand new version while the old device begins a journey towards disposal.
Upon removal each device would be temporarily stored in the basement. During this time IT would wipe the device to ensure no confidential information would remain. When enough computers were ready, the county would pay a vendor $0.25 per pound to pick up and dispose of the items.
Average number of computers Whatcom County would throw away each year.
Estimated disposal cost of each device.
Speaking personally, most of the computers I own older than 4 years. Occasionally I’ll have to upgrade a video card, RAM, or hard drive on a device that we use for resource intensive jobs such as video production. However, the majority of my computers live on without any upgrades to the hardware. From my experience, a computer can last for much longer than 4-years if it’s maintained well. You may not be able to use it to produce videos or play video games, but it will still work great for things like book reports, email, and learning how to program.
With this in mind, I ask the Council to change how we disposed of surplus devices. Instead of paying a company to throw away old devices, I requested we work with local non-profits to donate the devices to children and families in need.
We could create a program where non-profits would have free access to the computers. They could use these computers to create educational classes for kids and families, teaching them how to install a new operating system, upgrade the hardware, and basic programming. Families could then keep the device, taking it home where they could continue to learn, complete homework, find and apply for jobs, and more.
With one small change we would could accomplish a lot.
Support Non-Profits: The computers become a free resource and create a new way to engage and support their target audience.
Supporting Kids & Families: After learning the basics up upgrading a computer, families could take home the device as their own. Giving them a resource as well as the opportunity to learn more on their own.
Benefiting the Environment: Every computer donated and re-used becomes one less device that ends up in a landfill.
Save Taxpayer Money: The County would no longer need to pay to have the devices removed.
Multiple Failed Attempts
It was a fight, but after two years and multiple votes we were finally able to make it happen. On December 11, 2020 the Whatcom County Council finally approved Resolution AB2020-527 requesting the County Executive and Administration distribute surplus computers and similar devices to the community.
Have a program that could utilize surplus computers? Here’s who to contact to learn more.
Information Technology Manager