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Many options available for getting rid of items

Ever wonder about the proper way to get rid of MIT office furniture or equipment that you no longer need? What happens to all the stuff that students decide not to take home or store here over the summer? Is there a way to donate personal items and help MIT students at the same time?

The Environmental Programs Task Force wants to remind community members about established and special programs that ensure reuse rather than disposal of useable items.


The Institute has a property disposal officer, Michael McCarthy, who is responsible for helping to find a new home for unwanted desks, chairs, filing cabinets, whiteboards, etc. that were purchased with non-federal funds and are owned by MIT. The first step for easily getting rid of still-serviceable items is to contact him at x3-2779 or to tell him what you have and where it's located.

Mr. McCarthy knows what kinds of office equipment and furniture are popular for reuse at MIT, and he maintains a "specific needs file" of items that departments, labs and principal investigators would like to acquire. When unwanted items become available and theyaren't on this wish list, Mr. McCarthy then sends e-mail to the list to alert interested community members about items they might possibly be able to use in their offices. (The "reuse" e-mail list also can be used by any member of the community; people who want to see what others are offering may can subscribe to the list at

Space renovations sometimes require that unwanted but useable furniture be moved until a new home can be found for it. In that case, Mr. McCarthy can help arrange for the moving and storage of items in the equipment exchange and storage warehouse in Building WW15.

If items owned by MIT aren't needed by anyone at the Institute, they are sold; the exact procedure depends on how much they're worth. More expensive items are offered for sale on a sealed-bid basis and Mr. McCarthy informs the MIT reuse e-mail list as well as appropriate dealers about what's available. Older and less expensive items are sold on a cash basis. (Massachusetts sales tax is collected from buyers.)

In either case, the MIT department that owned the furniture or equipment receives 90 percent of the selling price and the other 10 percent goes to the Property Office for an administrative fee.

Another disposal method that administrators use is to post notices to the e-mail list about unwanted furniture that other offices or departments could use. Sometimes the material is free; in other cases there is a charge.

Excess property that was purchased through a government contract or grant should be screened to determine whether it meets the needs of other contracts. Mr. McCarthy works with MIT's government property administrator, John Erkkila, to ensure that any equipment purchased with government funds is handled properly.


The MIT student environmental group SAVE (Share A Vital Earth) had been concerned by the volume of clothing and other items that students throw out at the end of the year. In response, they organized a "Stuff Fest" in late May to encourage exchange and reuse among students.

The Dormitory Council and the Department of Facilities supported the effort, and there were collection/exchange locations in several dorms as well as in the Student Center for people whose living groups weren't participating. Unclaimed articles were donated to CASPAR (the Cambridge and Somerville Program for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Rehabilitation) and to the Salvation Army.


The MIT Furniture Exchange (FX) provides a way for members of the MIT community to donate household furniture and accessories for resale to students from MIT and other area schools. In operation since 1958, the FX is a service project of the MIT Women's League. Donations are tax-deductible, and all profits benefit the league's scholarship fund for undergraduate women at MIT. For more information, call x3-4293.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 6, 2001.

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