Computer Recycling and Disposal Options at Penn
Recycling and disposal of older computer equipment is an issue of increasing importance at Penn. Beyond the basic need to clear space in closets or make room for new equipment there are specific concerns regarding environmentally safe disposal and, in many cases, a desire to see systems that still function put to good use in the community. This page is intended as a starting point for individuals who need to get rid of old equipment. It provides a few simple recommendations for preparing equipment for recycling or disposal and links to several services that accept equipment donations.
When selling or donating old computers, be sure to remove any sensitive data, and make sure that by leaving any commercial software on the machine you are not violating the terms of any software license agreements. Note that files deleted through ordinary means (e.g. dragging to the trash on Windows or Macintosh) can usually be recovered. Use a secure file deletion utility which ensures that the data can not be recovered by successively writing binary ones and zeros over files to be deleted. The products listed below will allow you to securely delete files or entire disks.
The same advice applies to storage media like computer tapes, disks, diskettes, etc. Be sure to completely remove any sensitive information before disposing of electronic storage media. University Archives and Records offers a standard service for secure destruction of confidential electronic records. If you need further help finding tools or services to do this, contact security@isc.
If the computer's hard drive is inaccessible, or cannot be wiped, University Archives has a hard drive destruction contractor available to physically destroy the hard disk. If the drive contains sensitive data and cannot be wiped, it must be destroyed.
Note: MacOS 10.3 and later supports secure file deletions without need for third party products. To delete files so that they cannot be recovered, choose Finder > Secure Empty Trash. Files deleted in this way are completely overwritten by meaningless data. This may take some time, depending on the size of the file. To prevent the recovery of files you deleted previously, open Disk Utility (in Applications/Utilities), choose Help > Disk Utility Help, and search for help on erasing free disk space. Before donating or selling old MacOS 10.3+ machines, use Disk Utility to securely erase the entire disk. For instructions, search Disk Utility help for securely erasing disks.
Note: The following table references options for secure wipes of PDAs, Smartphones, and for cell phones.
Before transferring computers containing any software, first make sure that Penn is properly licensed to transfer it, that it was not obtained illegally or in violation of license terms, and that the software was never copied illegally or in violation of license terms. Also, make sure that the transfer conforms with terms of the software license.
The following program will accept equipment donations, recycling or disposing of it as appropriate. ISC has not screened or reviewed these programs, but departments at Penn have had good experiences working with this group in the past. If you would like to comment on the quality of service you receive from Penn Communitech or other providers we encourage you to use the feedback link below. We will update the information we provide on this page based on your input.
Computer equipment can be sent to Gigabiter, the University's approved secure destruction vendor. Gigabiter can be arranged through the University Records Center, which may be reached at 215.898.9432 or email@example.com.
A useful compilation by the folks at OurEarth.org
While we primarily encourage users on-campus to donate systems through CCP and other channels, we're also posting information about buyers of surplus and used computer equipment. Below is contact information regarding one such buyer we've had contact with.
There are specific EPA guidelines for disposal of some equipment components. In addition, there may be other regulations imposed at the state or local level.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection web site discusses Electronic Discards within their Electronics Management Program web site, but it's not clear the same rules would govern disposal at Penn.
Local organizations such as Nonprofit Technology Resources (which was utilized by Penn's Program to Bridge the Digital Divide (while it was active) - formerly part of the Center for Community Partnerships) appear to take care of the potential hazards identified by the EPA in disposing of computers and other electronic resources.
Please send feedback to recycle AT isc.upenn.edu.
Information Systems and Computing
University of Pennsylvania
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