K-12 schools and higher-education institutions can recycle their used computers and peripherals from any manufacturer free of charge, under a new limited-time offer from Apple Inc.

All accredited K-12 schools, colleges, and universities with at least 25 pieces of recyclable equipment (limited to computers, printers, and displays) are eligible to participate, and there is no purchase required, Apple says.

In addition to the minimum 25 pieces, Apple also accepts all brands of the following electronic equipment: computers, monitors, laptops, printers, fax machines, scanners, desktop-size copy machines, CD drives, hard drives, TVs, VCRs, projectors, overhead projectors, networking equipment, cables, keyboards, and mice.

The program is available until July 31–meaning schools must register by this date–and extends to PCs as well, not just Macintosh devices.

According to the instructions, schools are responsible for shrink-wrapping and placing all equipment on a pallet. The web site for Apple’s free recycling program also lists places where schools can find pallets and shrink wrap.

After all the items are prepared, Apple will come to the school or college to pick up the unwanted materials.

Apple says it pays close attention to data security: All recycled hard drives are ground into confetti-size pieces, customers receive a certificate of destruction for each lot recycled through the program, all asset tags and other identifying information are removed prior to destruction, and all of the electronic waste collected through the program is processed domestically in the United States.

Apple’s offer comes at a good time for schools, which often struggle to get rid of used equipment. With technology becoming more prevalent in schools and concerns rising about the environment, recycling unwanted devices can be a costly process.

"I applaud Apple for making this opportunity available to [schools]," said Jim Hirsch, associate superintendent for technology at the Plano Independent School District in Texas. "While many districts already have recycling programs in place, this provides another avenue for districts to use that perhaps haven’t used recycling services before."

He added, "Having this program available yearly or on some regular basis would be helpful in planning for those districts that will make use of this. I’m not aware of other programs similar to this one."

Marc Liebman, superintendent of the Berryessa Union School District in San Jose, Calif., said his district already has a recycling program in place through a city-sponsored company, ASL Recycling/The Greenetwork Inc.–but he believes Apple’s program "does more to destroy the hardware, which I am not sure is done by our vendor."

The only reason Liebman said he wouldn’t take advantage of Apple’s limited-time offer is because his city’s recycling program is actually a fundraiser: The recycler pays his district by weight for what it collects.

Bob Moore, executive director of IT services for the Blue Valley Union School District in Kansas, said that for some districts, making a profit might be more important in today’s economy.

"While the restrictions seem reasonable, if a district is going to go to all the trouble, why not just sell [its] old equipment?" he asked. "We have found that there is a market for just about everything, although it has gone a bit soft in the down economy."

Links:

Apple Inc.

Free computer recycling from Apple

ASL Recycling

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the GIS and Geographic Inquiry resource center. "Geospatial" technologies–which include geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), and remote sensing (RS) tools–are keeping drivers on track. Now, similar technologies in schools let you chart a course to the future of learning. Go to: GIS and Geographic Inquiry