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We Get Questions About Mac Recycle Clinic

March 9, 2011

RecycleMac has been getting some positive feedback so thanks to all of our readers out there. This is really a long-term project that tries to build a quality voice in a room filled with many folks who are passionate about the environment and recycling. We’ll keep working at it with your help!

So here are the questions:

  • What’s different about recycling Macs than other computers?
    A Mac is a PC – that is, it is a personal computer or a personal appliance or a personal electronic gadget. So essentially you would recycle it the same way you might any other computer. All the folks we’ve talked about – from Apple to Dell – will take your computer and many times other electronic equipment and recycle them. 


    Unfortunately, Apple has taken some heat in past years because its computers were not made of materials that were easy to recycle or were toxic. To its credit, Apple has made some major changes and is much greener these days. I won’t go into depth here but you can read all about it on their website. If you’re interested, you can also see what Greenpeace says these days – it has an entire website devoted to the issue.

    Please know that the Macs that are donated to us are thoroughly checked and cleaned. Hard drives are securely wiped of all data and an appropriate version of the Mac OS is installed. If the machine can not be made to work (and we get some that just don’t want to work no matter what we do) we will take out any reusable parts – hard drives, memory, batteries, sometimes the power supplies and optical drives – and send the hulk to Montgomery County’s Processing Facility and Transfer Station in Derwood (Gaithersburg), Maryland – which is the closest county recycling center to us. Here’s a map:

  • Who pays for the parts and shipping?
    In most cases, folks that MacRecycleClinic donates to come to our workspace in Marvin United Methodist Church (Four Corners/Silver Spring) to pick up their computers. But we have taken computers to people when that was the best solution. We also work with volunteers who take computers to outlying areas of the Washington D.C. area to deliver Macs or computers that will make up a Mac Lab. We honestly don’t ship parts very often but if we do, we usually ask for shipping costs if the recipient can afford it. Again, we have donated Macs around the world, but we are pretty much a group that works in the region around Silver Spring, Md.
  • How does someone qualify for receipt of one of these Macs?
    We don’t generally take requests from individuals for computers but rely on referrals. We will almost always make contact with the individual or family that has been recommended to make sure that they are interested and to get some basic information so that we can best configure the computer to their needs. We can not supply an Internet connection or provide more than basic training, so recipients must be interested in learning how to use a Macintosh. A thank you letter is always appropriate so we have something to put in our records. 


    Two eMacs are part of the new Mac Lab at Marvin Church

    Referrals should go to our mailing address or through the “Contact Us” page, available on the MacRecycleClinic website. A call to our office or email will always get things started. If a non-profit is looking for computers, we ask for a more formal letter of request that we can keep in our files. As a 501(c)3, we have to keep good records for the state of Maryland and the IRS. For example, it was Marvin Church that came to us, requesting that we create a Mac Lab for Blair High School students to use after school for homework.

    We hope that the lab might also be used at other times of the day by other groups as well. In this case, because the lab is in the church where we are based, MacRecycleClinic will provide Internet service and will take care of the computers. The church will provide the adult supervision when students or adult users are in the lab.

    Note that we get Mac donations all the time, so we almost always working to refurbish machines. We stick to PowerMac G4 and G5 computers (these are PowerPC machines – but the last and fastest of those Apple Macs). These models can include towers, iMacs and eMacs. We have not seen any Intel machines yet but I suspect we’ll see some in the next year or so. Again, if you have an older machine we can help wipe the hard drive for you, but you will have to take it to Shady Grove or other location to recycle it – the Clinic just doesn’t have the space or personpower to take computers out to Shady Grove.

That’s if for “We Get Questions” this time – but please keep them coming! We love to hear from you.

  1. J. Crawford
    March 10, 2011 at 3:33 am

    Hi Dave,
    Nice to hear about your recycling/refurbishing operation.
    You mention that computers you cannot refurbish are taken to the processing facility. My understanding was that there are some businesses that are specifically geared to recycle/process computers and other IT hardware bound for the garbage. I think they some how profit from stripping out the metals. Curious to know if you’ve heard of any?

    • March 12, 2011 at 3:42 am

      Thanks for your kind words! Montgomery County works with vendors to either sell or recycle as much of the material as possible. Their website has more information here: http://1.usa.gov/e2qUKj. A quick Google search found a number of companies that will take computers and recycle them (that is, tear them down completely and sell the metal and other parts for scrap) but you would need to make sure they were reputable given stories over the years of computers that ended up in China and the horrible conditions that resulted there.

      Here’s one URL of companies that I found: http://www.dslreports.com/faq/7157


  2. Mason
    March 11, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    I’m kinda new to the MAC world – I bought a MAC Book Pro more than a year ago. It’s great to have this resource.


    • March 12, 2011 at 3:47 am

      Hi, Mason! Glad to hear you’ve come over to the Mac world. You’re part of an ever-growing group of passionate users who really enjoy their machines. Apple has done a masterful job of creating (almost!) a cult of followers. But that could not have happened if they did not make excellent products. Apple still has some foibles but we have come to expect them and deal with them in return for products that have made our lives a little easier and more productive. That said I hope you purchased an Apple Care contract for your MacBook Pro. Laptops just need the coverage because as much as we love Apple products, they are not always perfect and need some help. If your machine is out of warranty and isn’t feeling well, consider bringing to our clinic on any Monday night for a check-up!

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