When TD Bank Financial Group cleaned out a warehouse last year, the bank needed to dispose of more than 38,000 old computers, monitors, printers and other electronic devices.
So TD turned to Compugen Inc., a Toronto-based information technology services company, for help. Except for about 1,000 machines that were broken down for recycling, Compugen resold the equipment either intact or as parts, says Dave Codack, vice-president of employee technology and network services at TD.
The proceeds were small change to a major bank, admits Steve Glover, senior vice-president of Compugen - and that sparked an idea. "The amount of money that we'd ultimately be able to give to the TD Bank as a result of resale, to the bank would be inconsequential. To a charity, it wouldn't."
Thus was born Green4Good, a Compugen program now being launched. It incorporates a novel twist on the idea of businesses donating discarded computers to charity and community groups. Instead of donating the computers themselves, Green4Good will refurbish and resell equipment and donate half the proceeds to charity.
Programs that funnel used equipment from businesses help cash-strapped non-profit groups equip their offices, but "they prefer brand new," Mr. Glover says. "They're no different than a business." And often, non-profits need money more than they need more office equipment. Or, they may benefit from computer-related services.
So Compugen is providing both professional services - such as software or network installation - to charitable groups along with cash. The business that disposes of used equipment through Green4Good chooses the charity, Mr. Glover says.
"It actually falls very much in line with what TD believes in," Mr. Codack says. The bank is now refreshing technology in its branches, and will dispose of some 13,000 desktop computers and 600 servers through the Green4Good program. Proceeds will go to Toronto charities Homeward Bound, which provides affordable housing for homeless single mothers, and the Massey Centre for Women, which helps pregnant teens.
While helping charities, TD Financial is also saving a bit of money because disposing of the old equipment through Green4Good costs less than paying disposal fees, Mr. Codack says. And Compugen takes care of security issues. In erasing data from the machines' hard drives, Mr. Glover says, the company follows a U.S. Department of Defense standard that amounts to wiping the drive no less than seven times, ensuring no fragment of data remains readable.
At least one other IT equipment disposal company, London, Ont.-based Greentec International, will resell old information technology and split proceeds with charity. Under its ThinkRecycle program, Greentec takes old equipment from businesses, resells what it can, donates half the money to a charity of the business's choice, and safely recycles what can't be resold. Or, says Tony Perrotta, president of Greentec, the business can choose to take half the resale proceeds back itself.
Like Compugen, Greentec wipes the hard drives or - if preferred - removes and physically destroys them.
Mr. Perrotta says computers up to about five years old can be resold as complete systems, but older machines aren't worthless because some of their parts can be harvested.
Especially when disposing of equipment less than five years old, donating it directly to charities or schools is still a good option. Several organizations can help with this.
Toronto-based ReBOOT Canada, with offices in Ontario, British Columbia, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, accepts all unwanted equipment, distributing refurbished gear to charities and individuals in need, and recycling the rest. ReBOOT cleans hard drives to U.S. Department of Defense standards or destroys unusable ones. The organization says it has supplied more than 100,000 pieces of used equipment to several thousand charities and to students and people in need.
The Electronics Recycling Association, based in Calgary, has facilities in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver and affiliated operations in Montreal and parts of Ontario. The ERA will take any old computer equipment, as well as some consumer electronics gear, says Joanna Trebon, donations co-ordinator. ERA will wipe or destroy hard drives and provide certification that it has done so, she adds. Ms. Trebon says there is strong demand for the donated equipment - "it's ongoing, unstoppable and always hard to keep up with."