Recycling program rescues unwanted computers

MARSHALL — Have an unwanted electronic device? It may gain new life and help out a family to boot by donating it to the Lyon County Environmental Office.

Roger Schroeder, the Lyon County Public Works administrator, gave an update on one of his department’s recycling programs Tuesday morning at the Lyon County board’s regular meeting.

The program is called ResQZone and takes unwanted, but usable, computers and swaps out their operating systems for a new one. The hard disk drives on the computers are completely sanitized for a new user.

Schroeder said the rescue program started in April of 2018 and was “fully up and running by the end of June last year.”

The computers are given to low income Lyon County residents and non-profit organizations providing assistance to under-served Lyon County residents such as United Community Action Partnership Head Start families.

“We gave out the first computer last December,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder has been working with United Community Action Partnership, Advance Opportunities, Computers and Beyond has provided technical support and Adult Basic Education has provided interpretative help for families whose first language is not English.

“Basically the common denominator through all of that is people, people working together with the county,” Schroeder said. “If the county just did this on its own, I don’t think we would have been able to come up with this idea.”

Lyon County residents are coming through with their electronics.

“So far we have received just about 250 computers that are worth taking apart to try and figure out if they can be refurbished. So far Jason (Redepenning) has been able to refurbish 17 tablets, 35 laptops and 86 desktops.”

The program has hit a snag, however.

“Not all (computers) have been distributed,” Schroeder said.

Once the family has been selected to receive a computer they must be taught how to use computers safely and just how to use them in general. Because of language barriers they are unable to attend a computer class.

“ABE said they would produce some videos in their language,” he said.

“So there are 14 distributed and 57 machines that have been approved and are waiting for people to go through the process of being educated,” he said.

Without this program “the computers would have been sent to Wisconsin or somewhere else to be recycled,” Schroeder said.

The program has ended up with a surfeit of materials such as power cords.

“We are going to contact Canby DAC that does Christmas lights recycling and see if they can take a look at these cords for recycling,” he said. “So there is somewhat of a glut of old computer parts that we’re not really sure what to do with.”

Schroeder is looking into whether the extra refurbished computers can be sold with the money going back into the program.

The commissioners suggested that Schroeder could contact Lyon County schools to see if there are families that need computers.