Store Wide Shot

When the Dell Reconnect program was preparing to exhibit at South by Southwest — a popular music, film and interactive conference and festival held every year in Austin, Texas — they wanted to come up with a good way to showcase just how easy and important it can be to reuse or recycle computers.

The solution? A retro game arcade.

Chances are, if you were an adult attending SXSW, you grew up with some kind of old-school game, be it Pong or Donkey Kong. So Dell Reconnect turned to Goodwill Industries of Central Texas, which is a founding partner of the Dell Reconnect program, to turn computers dropped off for recycling into a vintage arcade machine. The result: a 14-year-old Dell computer wiped clean and loaded with more than 50 games — including Galaga and Mario Bros. — to help attendees relive some of their favorite gaming memories.

“Even older units that may seem like they’re not necessarily that useful anymore can still be made functional,” says Kelly Freeman, sustainability director for Goodwill of Central Texas. “Certainly, there’s a lot of opportunity to do the same thing with that old computer in your closet and fix it up a bit and use it for something fun.” Given that many of those classic games are available to download off the Internet, it’s easier than ever to create a nostalgic dream machine, adds Freeman.

If you’re not that handy — or you really are ready to part ways with your past-its-prime computer — donating it to a Dell Reconnect participating Goodwill location is a convenient (and free!) way to make sure it goes to a good cause and gets recycled responsibly. All the parts that are salvageable will be saved and put to good use; anything that doesn’t work is safely and responsibly recycled. There are more than 2,000 participating Goodwill locations throughout North America, so you’re likely to find one near you.


Your old computer might just be the ticket to delighting someone else. If it’s only a few years old, it probably needs very little in order to get it ready for another owner and provide computer technology for families in need at an affordable cost. In the case of the SXSW machine, the Goodwill refurbishment team cobbled together the parts from multiple Dell units, meaning that many people had a role in keeping their retired computers out of landfills — and entertaining festival-goers.


There are other creative ways to recycle computers as well. Goodwill of Central Texas’ Computer Museum once created a giant word search puzzle out of recycled keyboard keys. “If we look at something differently and creatively, we find a way to give it new life,” Freeman says.


Of course, if you do hang on to an old computer and load it up with Pac-Man and Frogger so that you never have to worry about running out of quarters, that’s perfectly understandable.

At the SXSW event, even those who weren’t gamers ready to flex their fingers to rescue the princess from Bowser once and for all got the message: something old is never worthless — it can always be recycled and turned into something new.

Editor’s note: Earth911 partners with many industries, manufacturers and organizations to support its Recycling Directory, the largest in the nation, which is provided to consumers at no cost. DellReconnect is one of these partners.

By Haley Shapley

Haley Shapley is based in Seattle, where recycling is just as cool as Macklemore, walking in the rain without an umbrella, and eating locally sourced food. She writes for a wide range of publications, covering everything from sustainability to fitness to travel. Read more of her work here.