Circular Economy in Action at the Local Level

The following case studies (printable version PDF) highlight small businesses and organizations in Toronto that are supporting the circular economy by using products and materials to their full potential, reducing the need for more raw materials to be extracted.

These businesses and organizations are growing the circular economy, increasing social prosperity and reducing environmental impacts by:

  • promoting sharing, repairing, and seeing value in spent material
  • increasing people’s access to reused, repaired, and/or sustainably sourced items
  • growing people’s capacity to advance the circular economy themselves (e.g. teaching skills for repair).

These case studies were produced by the City of Toronto in July of 2019.

Extending the life of electronics through refurbishment and resale

Free Geek Toronto collects and refurbishes used electronics that are destined for recycling or disposal and offers them for resale at an affordable price. As a not-for-profit employment social enterprise, Free Geek provides employment and training opportunities by offering experience in technical software, technology, communications, and customer service work. Free Geek advances Toronto’s circular economy by:

  • prioritizing reuse and refurbishment over recycling
  • providing capacity building for computer software and technology refurbishment and repair.

Notable numbers

  • 2,000 refurbished computers and devices
  • 75% of employees gained opportunities afterward
  • 5-8 job positions sustained over 4 years
  • 100 tonnes of e-waste recycled

Collaborators

Free Geek Toronto collaborates with local employment and social service agencies to help identify candidates who would benefit from its employment opportunities. It has received financial support in the form of grants and/or in-kind marketing through partners — such as the Toronto Enterprise Fund, The eBay Foundation and the Canadian Internet Registry Authority Community Fund — that has allowed it to continue to deliver its social and environmental mission.

A few words from Free Geek’s Executive Director

“As a not-for-profit social enterprise, Free Geek uses unwanted electronics to provide employment and training opportunities as well as access to affordable technology.”

– Ryan Fukunaga, Executive Director Free Geek Toronto

About Free Geek

As a certified electronics refurbisher and recycler in Ontario, Free Geek Toronto accepts donations of e-waste, such as laptops, desktops, amplifiers, cameras, cables, hard drives and monitors.

Free Geek securely wipes the data from the donated items and tests them before reselling them. Laptops and computers are refurbished and upgraded with up-to-date open-source software and operating systems in order to provide modern technology to customers at a low cost.

Refurbished equipment comes with a 30-day-limited hardware warranty. Other donated equipment that can be reused but is not refurbished, such as amplifiers, cameras, cables, hard drives and monitors, are sold in Free Geek Toronto’s thrift store ‘as is’.

Free Geek Toronto also has a Community Technology Hub, which provides free access to computers and the internet as well as access to tools for disassembling and repairing your own devices. It also offers workshops on basic digital literacy.

Free Geek’s circular economy future

Free Geek Toronto hopes to broaden its geographical reach through pop up-shops to provide access to technology to those who are unable to get to their downtown storefront. It is also hoping to expand the range of products it offers in its thrift shop to include used computers and electronic parts to enable others to repair and refurbish their own computers.

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