REAP Be Local: Old computers learn new tricks at the Electronic Recycling Association

By asam asam September 19, 2016

Good computers can do wonders for a charitable organization, but they’re often unaffordable. The Electronic Recycling Association (ERA) has a solution.

Many corporations do an IT refresh every three years, and the retired computers are often still useable. ERA collects and refurbishes them, then distributes the rebuilt machines to people and organizations that need them.  In 2015 ERA donated 1,100 computers across Canada.

“It’s a really simple process,” says Kristi Gartner, marketing and communications manager. “We’re taking something that’s a necessary evil that needs to be dealt with, and making it good for people.”

Kristi says she often receives pictures and stories from the recipients of the computers, sharing how the computers have made a difference in their lives.

This spring, ERA transformed the computer system of the Rehabilitation Society of Calgary. The society provides social, educational and basic life skills to people with special needs. Its members were struggling to get by with the facility’s antiquated computers. The society’s website hadn’t been updated since 2002.

With the help of a local IT professional – who volunteered 350 hours for the endeavour – ERA set up a fully-functional computer lab with computers, servers and laptops. And the Rehabilitation Society of Calgary website got a long-overdue facelift. The society’s members were delighted.

Other recipients have included Women in Need Society (WINS) and Momentum, both REAP members. The largest donation to date was 225 computers to the Tsuu T’ina Nation school board.

“We’ve helped a lot of people get back on their feet, being able to look for jobs or even just stay in contact with their support networks,” says Kristi. “Technology is so important – you don’t really realize that until you don’t have it.”

In the restoration process, ERA wipes all data from the equipment and installs a new, current version of Windows 7 on the computers; therefore it cannot accept Windows XP systems or older. All equipment that can’t be restored is kept for parts or recycled.

Kristi hopes that one day the provincial government will make e-cycling, with reuse as the primary course of action, mandatory.


  1. Watch for the next e-cycling drive by ERA.
  2. Check out the many success stories that ERA created with the refurbishing program.
  3. Follow ERA on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.
  4. Vote for ERA as your favourite local non-profit in REAP’s 2016 Be Local Awards!