At this year’s Bay Area Maker Faire, one of my fave characters was James Burgett of Alameda County Computer Recycling Center. I not only liked him because he reminded me of half of my tabletop wargaming buddies, he also saved my ass in the Mousey the Junkbot workshops. He provided the junk, some 75 analog mice that we transformed into an army of light-seeking robo-rodents.
The ACCRC is a very innovative organization that finds new users, or new uses, for Silicon Valley’s tons o’ techno-junk. James and his cohort have been great friends to MAKE/Maker Faire and I’m looking forward to working with James at future Faires. That’s if he’s still around. Recently, he ran afoul of the Department of Toxic Substance Control of the California Environmental Protection Agency. No, he’s not acid-burning parts in vats in the back to extract precious metals or letting motherboards bleed into the Berkeley groundwater. It all sounds like bureaucratic bullshit that may have been exacerbated when James vented his spleen about the whole situation on his blog.
Anyway, he needs help if he’s going to keep his Center in operation. It’s amazing to me — given how much of this waste actually DOES end up in your ground water or melted down in tech-reclamation villages in south-eastern China worthy of a cyberpunk novel (or the Toxic Avenger) — that someone wanting to do something useful and creative with the stuff would be threatened by the authorities.
If you live in California, you can write the DTSC or other appropriate officials. Dale Dougherty did a write up on O’Reilly Radar with more details about the failed inspection. There’s also some good discussion in the comments, including a letter from someone at Yahoo! who volunteers at ACCRC, and a list of CA officials to contact. James has also created a PayPal account to help with any legal fees or fines.The link is on his blog.