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UMM Rolls Out Recycled Cardboard Computers on Campus

Added on: August 24, 2011
Michael Matis with a Recompute
Michael Matis, director of information technology, with
a Recompute recycled cardboard computer.

MACHIAS, Maine – As students arrive at the University of Maine at Machias for the fall semester, they’ll notice that some of the computers on campus have been replaced with cardboard boxes. That’s because UMM’s Information Technology department has swapped out several outdated machines in Merrill Library with Recomputes, a desktop computer that’s case is made of recycled corrugated cardboard.

Developed by Brenden Macaluso as a student at the University of Houston, the Recompute addresses the entire life cycle and manufacturing process of a computer, something the company calls Full Life Cycle Design. Instead of being manufactured and shipped from overseas, consuming fossil fuels in the process, the computers are assembled by hand in Texas from locally-sourced cardboard.

When it is time for the computer to be retired, the electronic components are removed and the cardboard case will be recycled with the rest of the institution’s paper and cardboard at the local transfer station. The internal components can then go to an electronic-waste reclamation center at a significantly lower weight and cost to the University, while also producing less waste material in the environment.

“We’re trying out these computers to see how well they fit our needs,” said Michael Matis, director of information technology. “If the machines perform well and are popular with students, we plan to purchase more to deploy around campus.”

Recompute PC
The Recompute PC. Six of these machines have
been installed in UMM's Merrill Library.

The Recompute features a cardboard shell that is treated with a non-toxic flame retardant and is glued together with non-toxic white glue. With an ignition point higher than most of the plastics used in the construction of a traditional computer, the cardboard used in the case also has a natural fluting that provides more than adequate cooling for the internal computer components.

The recycled cardboard computer made its debut on the Machias campus during the school’s Earth Fest in April. The IT department displayed a demonstration model of the Recompute machine and generated quite a buzz among visitors to the booth. The University went on to purchase the six machines for Merrill Library over the summer.

“Our campus is focused on sustainability and environmental stewardship, and these machines are just one thing our department is doing to help reduce our impact on the environment and spread the message,” Matis added.

Matis reports that the computers have a slightly lower cost-per-unit on the initial purchase price compared to the traditional desktop computer.

To learn more about Recompute, visit



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