At MIT, we're surrounded by electronic and digital devices. Over time we outgrow these devices or they become obsolete or stop working. Collectively, that amounts to a heap of electronic waste (eWaste) — and that's not the worst of it. According to MIT Environment, Health & Safety (EHS), eWaste contains as many as 38 different toxic or hazardous substances, including lead, mercury, cadmium, PCBs and arsenic. When eWaste is not properly handled and recycled, these substances get into our groundwater, air and soil.
The Institute is committed to responsibly recycling its eWaste — from larger equipment such as monitors, TVs, computers, copiers, fax machines and printers to smaller daily-use devices such as mobile phones, pagers, CDs and inkjet cartridges.
If devices are still operable, MIT provides several options for selling, donating or reusing them. This article focuses on recycling eWaste, but you can find out about these other options by visiting the Disposition of Equipment page on the VPF website or by contacting Michael McCarthy in the MIT Property Office.
Before you take steps to recycle equipment, be sure to deactivate its Property Office tag. Note that excess property originally purchased through a government contract or grant should be screened to determine whether it meets the needs of other contracts. The Property Office will do this screening as part of the deactivation process.
To have equipment tags deactivated, send an email to John Erkkila that includes the item type, its seven-digit MIT tag number, the reason for deactivation and contact information. Once equipment has been deactivated, the Property Office will send the assigned contact person a red tag to affix to the device.
Next, erase data and recycle
To safeguard against identity theft and other cybercrimes, it's important to erase personal information and sensitive data from devices before they get recycled. You can do this yourself or, depending on the situation, have it handled by IS&T or an outside vendor.
If you plan to erase the data yourself, be aware that it isn't enough to reformat a hard drive or delete files using an "erase" or "empty trash" command. To wipe a hard drive, use software designed to overwrite each sector. For recommendations, see the IS&T Knowledge Base article, Removing Sensitive Data.
You can ask Facilities to pick up eWaste at no charge as long as each item weighs less than 50 pounds. To do this, fill out the request form through the Recycling and Bulk Trash option under the Building Services tab in SAPweb. (Pickup can take three to five days because of high demand for this service.) Facilities arranges for a third-party vendor, M&K Recovery, to destroy the drives of computers they recycle.
If your department, lab or center (DLC) has a contract with IS&T through the Distributed IT Resource (DITR) group, your consultant will arrange for your systems to be wiped on campus before being picked up by Intechra, an IT assets disposition firm and MIT partner vendor.
If your DLC plans to recycle large amounts of equipment, it can contract with Intechra to wipe the drives before they recycle the equipment. The company retires IT assets using a secure, centrally managed process. To make arrangements for this fee-based service, email Intechra representative Melanie Jaques or call her at 401.225.6429.
Facilities also provides the TechnoCycle service for recycling smaller devices. TechnoCycle bins are available at Distributed Mail Centers throughout campus. If you are recycling old mobile phones, follow the advice for Removing Data from Mobile Devices on the Removing Sensitive Data page.
Reuse or recycle, but don't abandon
Ruth Davis of Facilities has a final word on eWaste: "Please don't leave equipment in MIT hallways." The firstname.lastname@example.org email list on campus provides a green way to find new homes on campus for old equipment and other goods. Sometimes, however, the items don't get picked up. If this happens with your eWaste, contact Facilities to remove the equipment.
If you have questions about recycling eWaste at MIT, email email@example.com.