The nonprofit Free Geek accepts e-waste of all sorts, including computers, televisions and controllers. A handful of paid staff and volunteers sort out the workable items, refurbish them if needed, sanitize any hard drives to wipe their data, then donate or resell the electronics at discount prices. The rest — more than 55 tons last year — gets recycled as scrap metal through outfits like eSCO Processing & Recycling in Rogers. ESCO also accepts e-waste from the public and refurbishes and resells some of its collections.
But Free Geek is more than a recycler and reseller, also offering repairs and tech support, an internet cafe and equipment for hobbyists to tinker. Computers and other donations have gone to 7hills Homeless Center, Canopy NWA and similar groups.
Within their circuit boards and wiring, electronics contain all sorts of reusable substances, saving energy and other natural resources. Copper, steel, glass and precious metals can be recycled indefinitely. Throwing them in the trash also creates a pollution risk for local land and water. Refurbishing and reusing can bring more benefits than recycling, since the components are already made.
Free Geek launched in Fayetteville in 2007, inspired by a similar organization in Oregon. It’s been carrying on ever since, operating even through the pandemic.
Time has brought other struggles as well, Free Geek leaders say — a cramped warehouse, worn-out equipment and the difficulties of trying to recycle items that weren’t designed for it. The group hopes to eventually garner enough community support and resources to bring on more staff and possibly secure a bigger space.
Until then, the thrift store is open from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday at 521 W. Ash St. Electronics also can be donated Tuesday through Saturday during the same hours. You can make a financial donation online. And you can also hear a Free Geek panelist at our Rethinking Trash event coming up in April.
Where else can I recycle electronics?
Other options around Northwest Arkansas include:
- Benton County Solid Waste District drop-offs in Centerton, Rogers and Siloam Springs. Get hours and other details.
- Boston Mountain Solid Waste District drop-offs in Springdale, Prairie Grove and Huntsville. Go here and click the “Filter by Category” menu to select Electronics for locations and hours.
- ESCO is at 2111 S. 8th St., Rogers, and many devices are free to drop off. For hours and accepted materials, check out eSCO’s website.
- Online resources such as Earth911 can point you to retailers that accept various electronics by ZIP code.
This post is part of a continuing series highlighting local businesses and initiatives that not only collect recyclable materials but also put them to use in Northwest Arkansas. Find our previous features below: