Unisys embraces recycler role

Unisys has changed the way Edwards Air Force Base handles its used, forgotten computer equipment.

Edwards Air Force Base in California covers a vast area ? more than 300,000 acres. For 50 years, it has been meeting the needs of flight testing and training.

And computers have long played an important role in managing and analyzing that work. But as the military upgraded equipment, it fell to individuals at the base to dispose of the old equipment.

It's not hard to imagine what happened ? an old computer got shoved under a desk. A server rack was forgotten in a closet. Storerooms filled up with old monitors and printers.

"It was always an additional duty," said Michael Smith, a logistics manager at Unisys Corp.

At Edwards, that situation began to change when Unisys was tasked with cradle-to-grave management of the information technology equipment at the base as part of its subcontract on the Joint Range Technical Support contract. The contract also covers work at the Western ranges ? Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, Hill Air Force Base in Utah and Echo Range at China Lake, Calif.

In addition to receiving, cataloging and servicing all incoming equipment, Unisys took on the task of collecting and disposing of the old.

Smith went on the first equipment collection call in October 2001.

"We picked up 125 pieces from the medical group at Edwards," he said. "There were 100 20-22-inch monitors and the rest were computers."

They had been stored in a warehouse. Some pieces had been in there for years and were covered with dust. "It was quite dirty," Smith said.

Since then, a week doesn't pass that Smith and his team aren't out picking up used equipment. When the program does shut down to prepare for incoming equipment, they get calls from people complaining.

In fiscal 2002, they picked up 9,421 items. In 2003, it was 7,228; 2004, 5,507; 2005, 6,135; 2006, 5,765; and 2007, 5,300.

Smith's meticulous record keeping caught the eye of the environmental management directorate of the J-Tech program. They are collecting the information for the Defense Department's Electronic Reuse and Recycling Campaign.

The equipment that Unisys collects is evaluated and then goes into the Defense Reutilization Marketing Office system, where it is either recycled or sent for reuse by other parts of DOD, federal agencies, state and local governments, or schools.

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