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.