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TechSoup’s Refurbished Computer Initiative (RCI) has provided warrantied refurbished computers and other IT devices to nonprofits and libraries for eight years now. In recent months we've made some improvements to see how good we can make refurbished computers.

PC Rebuilders and Recyclers (PCRR) is our newest RCI refurbishment partner and is now providing enhanced troubleshooting to our program. All organizations experiencing difficulties with their RCI PCs and monitors within our 90 day warranty period may be eligible to receive troubleshooting support for their equipment. For more details regarding the RCI policies on this visit the returns and warranty page. We have much deeper troubleshooting support to offer you. I'll explain more on that below, but here's some background on the RCI program.

A Bit About How RCI Started

In 2004 we published our Islands In The Wastestream study, which measured the demand for low-cost computers among U.S.-based nonprofits, schools, low-income families, and small microenterprise businesses. Not surprisingly we found that there is considerable demand for good low-cost PCs. We then pulled in the New Sector Alliance and some UC Berkeley Haas Graduate School of Business volunteers to really help us think through how to address the demand. When all was said and done, we received a 2005 seed-funding grant from Full Circle Fund and launched the Refurbished Computer Initiative program.

RCI Now

With a catalog spanning desktops, notebooks, LCD monitors, desktop-monitor bundles, servers, and printers with a variety of performance characteristics, we've now distributed a bit over 38,000 refurbished IT devices through RCI.

We have served more than 12,300 nonprofits and libraries across all 50 states, and we estimate that we have saved organizations somewhere in the neighborhood of $4.5 million, based on what they would have paid for retail equivalent products (including the software).

All of our RCI-refurbished PCs come with the Windows 7 operating system, and all come with Office 2007 Basic. All models also come with Symantec Norton Antivirus and also with system restore capabilities. You can check out our entire catalog of refurbished IT equipment here.

How Green Is RCI?

Using the U.S. EPA's Electronics Environmental Benefits Calculator, here are some interesting stats that help to quantify how the TechSoup RCI program – and our participating recipient organizations – have done the Earth some good by extending the life of and reusing RCI equipment:

  • Energy – we've saved enough electricity to power 7,458 households in a year
  • Greenhouse gas reduction – equal to removing 3,259 passenger cars from the road per year
  • Solid waste – equal to removing the solid waste generated by 145 U.S. households in a year
  • Hazardous waste reduction – equal to the weight of 21,798 bricks
  • Toxic material reduction – equal to the weight of 577 bricks

The RCI program also has a free end-of-life takeback program, in which organizations can return their RCI equipment to the partner free of charge for recycling. The RCI equipment is then processed according R2 (Responsible Recycling Practices) standards by all our refurbishers, Arrow Value Recovery (formerly Redemtech), InterConnection, and PC Rebuilders and Recyclers (PCRR).

Our RCI Refurbishment Partners: Arrow, InterConnection, and PC Rebuilders and Recyclers

Arrow Value Recovery has been with us since the beginning of the RCI program when they were called Redemtech. One of their most current philanthropic projects is Connect 2 Compete, which in a big new digital inclusion program that aims to provide a PC and broadband Internet in every U.S. low-income household with children.

InterConnection is our Seattle-based nonprofit refurbisher. One of their many charitable projects is to be part of the 20 years | 20 ways campaign, a year-long effort by Microsoft to build better careers and better lives for aspiring IT professionals and students around the world. They're urging everyone to donate their discarded laptops to InterConnection as part of this work. InterConnection recently worked with us to test out Windows Multipoint Server in charities and libraries to see how it works. Multipoint Server is thin client software in which one host computer is shared by multiple users simultaneously. It makes it much easier and cheaper to set up a lab. InterConnection is also doing a big Microsoft Earth Day collection event. They're a busy place.

PC Rebuilders and Recyclers (PCRR) is, as I mentioned above, our newest RCI refurbishment partner. PCRR is a Chicago-based company that was founded in 2000 as the nonprofit, Computers for Schools. It became a commercial company in 2008. Because charity sensibility is in its DNA, PC Rebuilders and Recyclers has a mission to bridge the digital divide, be an electronics recycling and reuse environmental advocate, and to be a leader in providing very high quality refurbished IT equipment to nonprofits, libraries, schools, and low-income families.

TechSoup Global has had a long association with PCRR. In 2002, Jim Lynch of TechSoup (yours truly) and Willie Cade, the founder of PCRR, started the International Computer Refurbisher Summit. This conference is still going strong and is organized by PCRR. The next one will be in New Orleans in November 2013. We also worked together with other industry stakeholders to help develop the R2 environmental and safety standards for the electronics recycling and refurbishment industry, and we have also testified together in front of the US Congress to advocate for responsible electronics recycling and refurbishment. PCRR of course is R2 certified like our other refurbishment partners.

Willie Cade was also involved in the creation of the Illinois Electronic Waste Recycling Act, which is the model US recycling law with a defined flow of material that is designated for reuse and refurbishment. There is a much bigger story to tell about Willie and his daughter, Sarah Commes’ leadership in electronics refurbishment that should be written up someday.

Perhaps most importantly for the RCI program, though, PC Rebuilders and Recyclers is working hard to create industrial processes to make used computers equivalent or even better (and certainly less expensive) than new ones. They provide warranties, support, and a user experience as good as the big computer makers. PCRR is now providing enhanced troubleshooting to our program.

Select RCI products are now covered for troubleshooting difficulties within the 90 day warranty period. This may include receiving a call from our partner PCRR or a remote desktop session depending on the severity of the problem.  For a complete overview of the RCI returns and warranty policy please visit our returns and warranty page. We heartily welcome PCRR to our family of RCI refurbishment partners.