Old UA computers sold to public, given to prisons

By Nick Smith
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Each year thousands of old computers on campus have to be put out to pasture, but these machines are not destined for the dumpster, rather the sales market.

The UA continually upgrades its hardware, and to make room, old computers are made available to the public.

"The majority of them are put in a public sale and sold," said Laurie Rodriguez, materials manager for the UA procurement and contracting services department.

The department holds sales of the old monitors, central processing units and peripherals about every two weeks, Rodriguez said.

Each sale gets between 100 and 200 computers. They are sold individually or to companies in a palate, Rodriguez said.

Computers not sold are dealt with in an environmentally friendly manner.

"We send them to Unicor if we are not able to sell them in public sale," Rodriguez said.

Unicor is part of Federal Prison Industries Inc., a company that provides prison inmates with job skills training.

One of Unicor's services is an outlet for government and public agencies to donate and recycle old computers rather than throw them away.

Around 40 of the roughly 4,800 old UA computers each year are recycled in this manner, Rodriguez said.

Because computers contain dangerous substances such as lead, mercury and cadmium, they cannot be thrown in the garbage like ordinary trash, otherwise these chemicals could seep into the water table.

"There's a lot of dioxins and other chemicals that have been proven to cause cancer," said Eric Case, principal support systems analyst for the chemical and environmental engineering department.

Many departments on campus have their own timetable to cycle out outdated machines.

"The ILC has a policy that first people in the ILC receive the old computers, then departments that would be of use to students," said Adele Edwards, coordinator for the UA Main Library systems planning and development department.

The computers in the Manuel T. Pacheco Integrated Learning Center are on a timetable to be updated every three years.

Every year, one-third of the center's computers go through this process, Edwards said.