Recycle Old Computers, Other Electronics

Duke Surplus program recycles, refurbishes Duke-owned electronics

Doug Garland, left, and Don Alston, of Duke Procurement Services, collect Duke-owned electronics from the athletics department for recycling and refurbishing through the Duke Surplus program.  Photo by Laurie Hyland.
Doug Garland, left, and Don Alston, of Duke Procurement Services, collect Duke-owned electronics from the athletics department for recycling and refurbishing through the Duke Surplus program. Photo by Laurie Hyland.

Don Alston pushed a large wire cart across the shiny basketball court in Cameron Indoor Stadium and parked the cart at the court's edge.

Alston, supervisor of warehouse operations for Duke Procurement Services, stepped into the office of Laurie Hyland, director of information technology for Athletics. 

"What do you have for us today?" he asked.

Hyland smiled and pointed to four cell phones, 13 computers, a laptop docking station and five hard drives stacked on her office floor. Alston and Doug Garland, a computer technician with Duke Surplus, hoisted the items onto the cart and fastened bright white bar-coded Duke Surplus stickers on them. The electronics were bound for the Duke Surplus warehouse, where Alston and Garland would wipe data from the devices and determine whether they should be recycled or refurbished. 

All electronic equipment purchased by Duke that is no longer useful for a department should be recycled through the Duke Surplus program, which is managed by Procurement Services

"If Duke paid for it, we need to know what is happening to it when it is no longer needed by the department," said Mary Crawford, associate director of procurement and supply chain management. "That is especially true for electronic items that could contain data." 

After items are collected by Duke Procurement and wiped of data, technicians refurbish equipment that is still usable for donation to local public schools, other local non-profit groups and to Duke University and Duke University Health System departments.

"If an item cannot have all data wiped off, we carry it to our electronics recycler in Research Triangle Park and those items are ground up into gravel-sized pieces, which are then recycled," Crawford said. 

Recycling electronics properly is important because a North Carolina law now makes it illegal to put electronic devices such as computers, keyboards and cell phones in North Carolina landfills.

Hyland, the director of information technology for Athletics, calls upon Duke Surplus about once a month to dispose of electronics that her department has replaced with newer equipment. Duke Athletics replaces about 60 computers a year, and many of its employees use Duke-owned cell phones and personal electronic devices that periodically need replacing. 

"I make sure that whenever I give an employee a new electronic item, I collect the old one for recycling," Hyland said. 

Occasionally, she finds that she not only gives computers to Duke Surplus, but takes them back as well. 

Over the summer, she requested six computers for students and volunteers for the beginning of the academic year. Within a few weeks, six refurbished computers were ready for her to pick up from Duke Surplus at no cost to the department.

"It's a neat program," Hyland said. "We didn't have any money in the budget to buy computers for these volunteers, but they needed workstations, and now they have them."