Spring Cleaning: Tech recycling starts at the Property Office
May 14, 2019
Phil Johnson
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Several piles of old computer hardware on the floor ready for recycling.
Old computer equipment ready to be recycled. Photo: Phil Johnson

Be sure to sure read our earlier Spring Cleaning article: How to clean your laptop

Spring is a great time to recycle your obsolete IT equipment (also known as e-waste). Old or damaged computers and laptops can be safely recycled to clean up your desk in a responsible way. Read on to find out what’s involved.


The MIT Property Office keeps complete records of computers issued to community members. All MIT-owned machines have barcodes for identification purposes.

MIT barcode

“If your device has an MIT barcode tag, please be sure to notify the Property Office prior to recycling or disposal,” says Erin George, Property Disposal Officer in the Property Office.

Before a computer with a barcode can be recycled, the Property Office must issue a deactivation tag. This removes MIT’s accountability over the device and updates records accordingly. If you move to another department, lab, or center (DLC) or leave MIT, the Property Office must be notified.

Deactivation tag

Even if the device in question is at the end of its life cycle, it needs to be marked as deactivated.

Email the MIT Property Office at property@mit.edu with any property related questions, or visit the Property Office website for more information.

Media sanitizing

Before you recycle your deactivated computer, you’ll need to wipe the hard drive to ensure that it doesn’t contain sensitive information. MIT’s recycling program does not erase the contents of the hard drives it recycles.

The Knowledge Base (KB) has detailed information about effective media sanitizing.


The MIT Department of Facilities offers free recycling services for deactivated computers and other MIT-owned IT equipment. Removal of equipment from MIT buildings is coordinated through its Recycling and Materials Management Office, managed by Ruth Davis. “Our basic recycling services are free,” notes Davis. “However, if a piece of electronics requires special equipment to remove it, then an outside company is brought in at the DLC’s expense.”

Faculty and staff can request this free service through Atlas. Students who live on campus and would like to use this service must go through their house manager.

The Recycling and Materials Management Office has also placed TechnoCycle bins in most of the Distributed Mail Centers (DMCs) and residence halls. You can use these bins to drop off small MIT-owned IT equipment for recycling. This includes items such as CDs, keyboards, cables, hard drives, and laptops. The DMCs also have bins for battery and plastic film recycling.

More information on what can be recycled in the TechnoCycle and battery bins can be found on the Facilities Recycling website or you can email any questions about recycling at MIT to recycling@mit.edu.


If you have MIT-owned computer equipment that’s still in good working condition, rather than recycling it, departments can donate the hardware to MIT’s Equipment Exchange and Storage Warehouse. The equipment will then be made available to other MIT DLCs free of charge.

“We encourage any departments to donate any working computers, monitors, keyboards, etc. that are no longer needed and help support others across campus that may need this equipment,” says George. “It’s a great way to recycle and reuse!”

Computers that are to be donated should have their hard drives wiped before being dropped off.

Departments interested in donating equipment should email George at the Property Office at egeorge@mit.edu and she will assist in the process.

The Equipment Exchange and Storage Warehouse is located at WW15 and is open Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.