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Giving Technology New Life

An old adage states that one person’s junk is another’s treasure. For AZ StRUT, a nonprofit headquartered in Mesa, this saying is especially true.

It’s not exactly junk that AZ StRUT deals with, but rather unwanted or outmoded technology—specifically used monitors, computers, tablets, and smartphones. Just about any piece of equipment that might otherwise end up in a landfill can be safely and responsibly donated to this nonprofit organization. And that’s where the real magic begins. StRUT (an acronym for Students Recycling Used Technology) takes those donations (either by pickup or drop off), refurbishes those pieces that still have life in them, and recycles the rest according to R2 standards. 

Much of this old technology can be given a new lease on life. Lithium-ion batteries, for instance, can be refurbished, as can many other items. This rehabilitation not only decreases waste but also provides a much-needed service for the community:  refurbished items are donated to Title 1 schools as education aides, helping in an area where funding gaps have long existed. Sixty percent of students at these schools live below the poverty line, and because of financial shortfalls, these schools face challenges that others do not. 

AZ StRUT has been doing this work for 25 years, but large-scale publicity has been slow in coming. “We’re Arizona’s best kept secret,” says Tom Mehlert, Executive Director of StRUT. This oversight is certainly not due to a lack of community engagement. In addition to recycling and donation efforts, AZ StRUT also runs a series of Techie Camps specifically designed to give students hands-on experience with technology—literally taking donated items apart and re-assembling them, building skills that can later be utilized in the workforce. 

AZ StRUT’s numbers speak for themselves: over 3,500 refurbished and donated computers in 2021 alone; more than 5,000 the year prior; and 750,000 pounds of electronics saved from the landfill last year. So, is this really a zero-waste enterprise? Doesn’t something end up in the landfill? “Only just the pizza box from our office lunch,” Mehlert says with a chuckle. 

AZ StRUT is doing its part for a sustainable future while working to level the educational playing field. For donation and additional information on AZ StRUT, please visit https://azstrut.org/

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