Making Connections – James Burgett

I met an interesting guy online and on the phone yesterday. James Burgett runs the Alameda County Computer Resource Center, a non-profit recycling center in the San Francisco Bay Area. For years he’s been helping to keep millions of tons of electronic waste from landfills. He basically takes stuff and finds a way to reuse or recycle it. He prefers reuse of course. He’s the big guy with the beard in the video.

His most common method of moving stuff along is to give the stuff away to people who need it. For example he takes old computers and monitors, refurbishes them, and turns around and gives them to people that need them. He invited me down to his football sized warehouse for a tour, lunch, crazy talk, and as much free stuff as I can fit in my truck for the tiny free house.

It also seems James is just as crazy as I am, maybe even crazier. No no that’s a compliment. If we hit it off and pool some of our madness we might actually be able to do some really great things. I’m very hopeful to say the least.

For example, we were talking about cheap and free alternative energy generation ideas and I told him about a crazy solar powered kiln idea I had back when I was a starving artist. The idea was simple, put mirrors on solar trackers and aim them at a hard brick kiln that slowly turned. The brick would super heat and the turning would heat the walls evenly.

He trumped my idea by adding the use of several 5 foot fresnel lenses from old rear projection televisions. It seems that those old big screen TVs had giant fresnel lenses in them and when you hold them up to the sun they act like giant magnifying glasses. He said he can burn a hole in concrete with one. Yikes!

Anyway he had lots of other, less destructive but equally fun, ideas for generating electricity from discarded trash. Maybe the tiny free house will get that renewable energy system after all. I had decided early on to not add that to my list of requirements because photovoltaic systems are expensive. But James has now opened my eyes to an array of possibilities I had never considered.

8 thoughts on “Making Connections – James Burgett

  1. Thanks Beth… I agree… and if the economy gets any worse I suspect more and more people will begin to appreciate reusing what we already have too. James should become a very popular guy.

  2. I admire anybody who can not only keep things from getting into a landfill but to refurbish them and actually get them to people who need them what an amazing guy and cool non-profit. There should be non-profits like this in every city. In fact there should be something like this at the entrance of every landfill! Thanks for all your ingenuity James! People like you change the world.


  3. I am a founding board member with the Alameda County Computer Resource Center and the Marin County Computer Resource Center. We are a 501(c)3 charitable corporation, totally legit. We are over 14 years in the business of taking the homeless, the parolees, and other poor people, giving them jobs at very low pay (all we can afford) to take apart electronic equipment for either re-use or recycling. We have rebuilt (mostly by volunteer help) hundreds, probably thousands of working computers with open source software and given them away for free. We have given to Schools in Oakland, hospitals in Cuba, cornea transplant clinic in India, AIDS victims, placements in Africa using small solar panels connected to battery backup units for power, and just plain old poor people whose lives are enriched by being able to have and learn about computers and getting access to the internet. I am happy those on this site have learned about us. There was a convention in San Francisco with mayors of cities all over the world a couple of years ago. All of the materials that went into building a house made of left over computer equipment came from ACCRC. Recently because recycled materials are a world commodity and there are man phony green companies sending stuff to third world contries where the toxic materials are being leaked all over the earth, we have suffered a big loss of business. Please spread the word that we will take anything you have left over from “old school” technology and either reuse it or promise to be sure it is being recycled in accordance with regulations in place in California.

    I do not know much about your organization, but I really like the ideas.

    One of the most important words US citizens have yet to learn is: “enough.”

    Recently, someone(s) have thought it useful to spread damaging remarks about us and its founder James Burgett. He is a remarkable human being who never profitted one bit from 14 years of dedication to our mission statement. He is recuperating from medical problems that were aggravated by the financial straits that we were forced into recession and all. His personal life, his relationship to his wife, are being used to embarrass him and destroy the good name of our charity. Please take this crap from whence it comes. We are good people.

    PS I recently took up beekeeping after several swarms showed up in my backyard. Your group might want to look into the value of the honey bee, not just for their product, but also for how good your garden will be if you keep bees nearby.

    Let us learn that the other good word in our language is forgiveness. Start with forgiving ourselves, and see how easy it is to forgive those who have or do harm us. It really feels good, and we get to move on to the more important things in life, enjoying being free to not consume, and to add value to sustain the planet.


  4. I got out of a drug program in April 2004 after being on drugs for 35 years.Accrc gave me a job and more important a purpuse.I feel I owe my life to James Burgett and the other people I worked with for four and a half years.I hope nothing but the best for James and accrc. Thanks

  5. It’s really glad to know that there are still people like James Burgett who endeavors to reuse items that can still be used. People like him are praise-worthy. Thanks for sharing the article.

  6. my husband is a salesman first and a junkman second, he likes to say, “i buy junk and sell treasure!”… but since we own a thrift store, we are pretty thrifty people ourselves.
    and, i just wanted to share an idea that my 18 year old son shared with me a few months ago: tapping into the energy created by the gazillion gallons of water that is constantly running through our city’s water pipes. have you ran into anything of that nature in your quest to improve the world?

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