Yesterday's Computers Finding New Life

Nancy Jo Craig (left), executive director of CACRC, explains the non-profit’s mission to a faculty member at the LSU Techpawlooza event. Credit: Sidney Kleinpeter
Nancy Jo Craig (left), executive director of CACRC, explains the non-profit’s mission to a faculty member at the LSU Techpawlooza event. Credit: Sidney Kleinpeter

By Sidney Kleinpeter | LSU Student

The ever-evolving advancements in computing technology means smaller, faster and larger-capacity computers bombard the marketplace. As consumers rush to stores to purchase new devices, a problem arises: disposal of their old, outdated computers.

The Capital Area Corporate Recycling Council (CACRC) is a non-profit organization with a few more than 20 employees that breathes new life into "obsolete" computers no longer wanted by individuals or businesses.

Located on St. Phillip Street in downtown Baton Rouge, CARC's warehouse receives donations of old or broken computers. It either refurbishes them or breaks them down on-site to recycle the parts.

"We get a lot of good stuff that's still usable," said Nancy Jo Craig, the council's executive director. "It doesn't have to go to waste."

Desktop and laptop computers, along with keyboards, monitors, batteries and chargers, are some of the items accepted by CACRC. The computers in usable condition are refurbished and sold or donated to the needy in the Baton Rouge area. The council also recycles telephones, cell phones, video game systems, printers and used ink cartridges.

CACRC does not accept televisions, appliances, furniture or copiers.

Craig said the council is good for Baton Rouge because it helps people through the community service work and provides "green jobs" and has positive environmental impacts.

According to CACRC numbers, reusing one and a half computers and their monitors saves enough electricity to power one American household for a year, or the equivalent of removing two cars from the road for a year.

In addition, hazardous materials such as lead, cadmium and mercury are found inside electronics and can contaminate the water table or the soil if left in a landfill, according to the International Association of Electronic Recyclers.

"It's great for the environment because we don't have to re-mine for the minerals such as gold and silver again," Craig said.

One of the council's important programs is Computers for Louisiana's Kids which distributes computers and other needed technology to schools around the state.

Craig said the program helps prevent the "digital divide" which can occur in poorer schools that have old computers. She said it's important for students to learn and be familiar with technology so they don't fall further behind.

"There were some schools that didn't have any computers. Now they have one for every fifth child," Craig said.

The council also sells refurbished computers at a low price to families which can prove financial need such as Medicare, reduced lunch, or food stamps. Qualifying families receive a desktop setup with monitor for as low as $90.

College students who bring a university ID also can purchase the refurbished laptops for class at reduced prices.

The council has agreements with more than 500 businesses which donate older computers, in addition to accepting drop-offs at their warehouse. Craig said the donated computers can be treated as a charitable donation when it comes to taxes. Donors can be assured that the computers will be recycled in an appropriate way by a company which is environmentally friendly, she said.

Computers not reusable are deconstructed at the warehouse, and the parts sold to environmentally friendly companies who can extract and recycle the metals from the equipment, Craig said.

The warehouse is located on 800 St. Philip St. and open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Friday. Pick-ups can be arranged for larger donations by calling the council directly at 225-379-3557.