September 28, 2020

BY TONY MCLELLANTMcharles

In this day and age, many products are not built to last. Some cease to function just months after purchase, despite steep, unforgiving prices. Computers and other such technology are some of the best examples of expensive, waste-causing products that litter the landfills of cities near and far. This is clearly an issue in great need of change, and Computer Recycling aims to address it and more.

The program became part of the downtown Kitchener Working Centre over 15 years ago, as part of a volunteer initiative to bring the world of computers to those who could not afford one, and to teach those people how to fix their own computer problems, should they occur.
Starting with just four computers, the program has expanded significantly, with over 200 machines available for sale and use. The service specializes in the refurbishing, recycling and repair of computers, as well as offering informal sessions to train anyone on how to properly operate a computer.

“We do a lot of peer-to-peer training” said Charles McColm, the current head of Computer Recycling. “It’s volunteers helping other volunteers learn the process of building, tearing apart, organizing and even basic programming.”

For a small donation, volunteers in the program will fix your computer for you, but the aim of the program is to educate as opposed to simply act as a standard computer store.

Computer Recycling is an affordable outlet for purchasing computers and individual parts. According to McColm, most of the computers and parts that they receive are donations from the community. The prices offered for individual items is set in such a way that nearly anyone, no matter their financial situation, can get their hands on the item of their desire if it happens to be in stock.

“We try to keep prices to what people can actually afford. Something like an HDMI cable that would normally be sold for about $65 anywhere else you can find here for $2,” McColm said.
The system is heavily based on communal goodwill, as well as availability of parts. “If someone is in a rush and needs a cable which we have many of, we’ll probably just give it away for free,” McColm said. Prices range from a few dollars for cables to over $150 for a PC in good condition. Computer recycling also offers special, reduced licencing for Microsoft software going to low-income customers as well.

When defective parts are found, Computer Recycling is able to quickly and cleanly dispose of electronic waste. “We send away unusable parts, but as an organization that specializes in refurbishing, we make sure to take extra care when sorting through the used computers that would normally be trashed straight away.”

When asked about his love for the program, McColm said, “You get this good feeling when you can help someone out without the need to sell them something. It’s this kind of help that brings a community together.”

You can contact Computer Recycling at 519-743-1151, ext. 225, or by email at cr@theworkingcentre.org. The program is located in the basement of 66 Queen St. S., and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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