Inspired by a couple comments in the Inventory Organization thread, how do teams handle their old material clutter in their shops in an environmentally responsible fashion?
Any team that’s been around long enough has piles of “stuff” that they aren’t likely to use anytime soon. Harvested gearboxes from eons past, old robot control systems from bygone eras, random motors that your grandfather used to climb uphill both ways, enough igus bearings to start an alternative currency system, etc. In some cases, even old machinery such as drill presses or laser cutters or unsupported 3D printers can take up space that you’d rather use for other things.
This is a question I struggle with. It’s not just the “we might use that” in the back of my mind, but also the “it’s wasteful and harmful to the environment to just throw this in a landfill” issues.
Other than just “throw it all away,” how does your team approach handling this material? Are there organizations in your area that deal with recycling e-Waste, motors, and the like? Are there other STEM or educational programs that you can donate them to? Are there makerspaces that want your old junk? Do you have a relationship with metal recyclers in your area? Do you have off-season training programs that utilize these materials? Do you have off-season or outreach robots that are built with these materials? What other creative solutions do you have?
Once again, please don’t answer with “we just throw it away.” Everyone already has thought of that as an option, and including that as your response won’t help this thread produce better solutions.
We recently gathered a bunch of steel (gears, bolts, etc), aluminum (old extrusion, old robot parts), and wire that were junky or not going to be used and sorted it then sent to a nearby metal recycler.
Good topic, following.
We have shared messages with our community like this one from late last month. We were very glad that 3 teams stopped by our shop to pick up this equipment and ask us tons of really good questions.
Triple Helix would like to give away a collection of old robot chassis and mechanisms to CHS teams who might want to poke at them and learn stuff. Preference given to teams who can stop by and pick it up at our shop in Newport News. Link to pictures is here, we’ll be adding more stuff as we dig it out of the nooks and crannies.
We can’t dispose of everything this way, so we are still accumulating things that haven’t figure out how to give away yet.
About once a year we’ll go through cleanup. We typically end up with a bin of aluminum scrap that we don’t really have a use for anymore. The school janitors do us a solid and take it to be recycled. They bring a little cash back to the school, and we don’t have to deal with it I wish we could do the same with some of the other stuff we have to junk each year (electronics, polycarb, etc)
To recycle old batteries, call some local auto parts stores to confirm they will accept batteries not from cars. The last time I took some 7 Ahr batteries to my local O’Reilly Auto store, they gave me a gift card for $10 ($5 per battery).
I am more than happy to accept any shop clutter in the form of small to medium size cutoffs, tools that need a bit of TLC, and small robot parts.
Check your local students.
Our school recently agreed to take our old/bad robot batteries - we have several dozen that had built up over the years. We do take scrap aluminum to our local scrapyard once or twice a year, although I don’t think we have a special relationship with them or anything - buying scrap metal is a core part of their business model, as I understand it. Some old motors and FTC stuff we’ve been able to donate to other STEM organizations, I forget their names but I could ask, if anyone’s curious. During our most recent clean-ups we’ve also donated some stuff to local thrift shops (mostly old-but-still-working power tools, drill bits, extension cords, etc which might be useful to the general public). Our school used to run e-waste events on-site, but hasn’t done any since returning from COVID and it’s unclear when, if ever, they’ll start up again.
A lot of junk has also gone home with students
Lead acid batteries should always be recycled, as they are particularly bad for the environment. They do have value and so a small payment is typical.
In California at least, I’ve never found a place that will pay for them and it’s tough to find places that will take them at all. In the San Diego area many recycling places (both general recycling centers and battery-specific recyclers) refused to take them; eventually we found a place that agreed to take them but they certainly weren’t going to pay us. In the San Jose area, my team’s been storing old batteries in our loft for many many years because we haven’t found anyplace that’ll accept them; someone from the school came by recently and saw the rows upon rows of batteries on the floor and said they’d take care of it. No idea where they’re going to take them.
Being mostly offsite since March of 2020 living out of our pit quickly showed us what we did and didn’t need. When we got back into the high school before 2022 I led a massive 10 year purge effort.
If the use case is limited - it gets trashed.
We keep one small tote bin of old robot parts that could make for valuable quick prototypes and one tote bin of older FRC legacy components. The rest we discard and keep just recent inventory we will use on robots.
We do try to reuse what we can when it makes sense. A lot of teams asked why we used blue Banebotd wheels on our tower this year. Normally we would buy whatever is new. This year we said we have so many that until the design suffers using them was a priority to save some money and ordering. Things like this are easy ways to go out of your way to use inventory you might be holding and wouldn’t think to use.
A lot of teams work in small confided spaces. Use that space wisely by making it easy to work in: it’s okay to throw away parts you rarely use.
With this - I’m always happy to take random bits of technology and random chunks of robot parts. There’s a good chance it’ll end up being recycled into something else or used in a project someday down the line.
Other than that, you can always use small chunks of wood in particular as spacers, you never know when you might need to duct tape a small chunk of wood somewhere in a prototype or doorway or something to fix a measurement error
We have taken old metal to scrap/recycle in the past on the rare occasion I have been able to do some purging of our shop. My biggest concern is the best way to recycle motors and other e-waste. That is what I’m currently looking for.
I volunteer with a charity that provides STEM and robotics programs for under served youth in Uganda, and they could definitely use your functional yet out of date parts. For ease of transport (we can’t actually ship anything to the schools in Uganda, we have to bring everything in luggage when volunteers travel to Uganda) and ease of use, we’ve almost exclusively taken donations of smaller kit based components, such as VEX EDR, VEX IQ, and LEGO.
And a short video for anyone who’s interested in how parts have been used in the past.
Please contact me if you’re interested!
I added the emoji initially but i wanna write out how much i support this. Every time you got something you’re thinking of throwing out, chances are someone on you’re team wants it.
Also a note on batteries is a battery that’s dead for frc isn’t completely dead. I have a couple batteries that would barely run a robot sitting on a float charger and have used them for all sorts of things including, jumpstarting a car, powering an inverter during a power outage, testing automotive electronics, powering 12v tools, testing high current electronics bc my beefiest 12v power supply is only 10 amps.
Please see if there are rookie teams are you to take it! It helps them a lot
We have a few totes filled with recycled aluminum that we bring to a place that recycles aluminum and we get a bonus for doing it
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