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Recycling and Composting


Mobi logo - "Reduce!"

Reducing what and how much we consume is the most difficult part of waste management. But it's the most important. Penn State takes pride in the programs and efforts taking place to reduce waste at the University, but we know we've only just begun.


Water Bottle Refilling Stations

Annually, Penn Staters recycle over 200 tons of plastic bottles (approximately 7.6 million water bottles). In the United States, only about 24 percent of disposable plastic bottles are recycled. At that rate, approximately 600 tons of bottles are sent to the landfill - sitting there for hundreds of years.

Learn more about water bottle refilling stations and where the nearest one is to you on campus.



At University Park, the reusable containers operate much like the current carryout containers. In the all-you-care-to-eat dining locations on campus, students and staff pick up a container at the cashier. When they bring the container back, they give it to the cashier and receive a clean container if they want carryout. If not, they are given a carabiner to keep with their ID for their next carryout meal. Students and staff using the containers are charged a one-time fee at their first use and issued a refund at the end of the semester upon return of the container or carabiner.

Penn State Food Services

  • Penn State Food Services worker chops vegetables in the kitchen.

    Reduces the size of the plates used in the dining halls
  • Supports local vendor purchasing
  • Donates leftover foods to Meals on Wheels
  • Trains students and staff on sustainable practices


Penn State Purchasing handles the procurement of everything from furniture to lab equipment on PSU campuses. Purchasing Services continually seeks opportunities to maximize purchasing value by making wise choices that benefit both the University and the environment. Read more about "green" purchasing at Penn State.

Smarter Carpet Initiative

recycled carpet fibers

In 2010, Penn State Office of Physical Plant, Procurement Services, and the Smeal College of Business launched an ambitious collaborative effort: to develop a new standard for carpet purchasing, installation and removal that would reduce the first cost by 3-5% and the total cost of ownership by an estimated 20% and ensure 100% of Penn State carpet never sees a landfill. 

The case study for the Smarter Carpet Initiative provides more information.

Duplex Printing 

Paper Cut: 33% of American waste is paper. To reduce the amount of paper you use, just follow these two easy steps.

  • Choose double-sided printing for multiple pages.
  • Change your default margin settings from 1.25" to 0.75" to save 5% more paper (according to the Mueller study and the Penn State Green Destiny Council).

If you are flooded by catalogs, stop the overflow by contacting

Questions? Email



Mobi logo - "Reuse!"After reduction, reuse is the second most important element of waste management. It is critical at the personal and institutional level.

Trash to Treasure

Each year, Penn State averages 190 tons in move-out waste—the largest two-day waste stream produced at Penn State's University Park campus. Trash to Treasure recycles 42 percent of that move-out waste annually.

How it works:
Unwanted items are collected from residential students in April and sold to benefit the local United Way. Collection barrels for donations are placed in residence halls during the last week of spring semester. Specific areas in the dorms are designated for rugs and furniture.

Then, the Trash to Treasure sale is held each May at Beaver Stadium. Penn State and United Way volunteers sort the goods and staff the sale.

The 2008 sale generated about $50,000 for the local United Way agencies.

Furniture Re-use Program

A student works at a desk procured by the Furniture Re-use Program.

An office can get rid of their furniture by contacting Jim Brown and a pick-up time will be organized. Units interesting in finding materials can also contact them to visit the warehouse and choose the furniture they would like.

Questions? Email


Recycling & Composting

We certainly want you to recycle 
(and compost!)—but as a last resort. We really want you to reduce what you use and reuse what's left.

For your waste, click the posters below for everything we recycle and compost at Penn State. We also have a shredding program for sensitive documents and records.

Not sure about what goes where? 

Penn State Recycling Guidelines. Download the pdf:

Penn State Recycling Guidelines. Download the pdf:

WASTE we produced in 2014
14,163 tons of solid waste

WASTE we diverted from landfill in 2014
7,991 tons (1,516 elephants)  —  56% of our waste stream
100 different types of waste

WASTE diverted by adding campus-wide composting
4,315 tons of our organic waste  —  30% of our waste stream

Questions? Email or tweet @sustainPSU.


German mathematician August Möbius

What's möbius?

In 1858, German mathematician August Möbius gave a strip of paper a half twist and joined the ends to create an elegant loop—a mysterious, continuous surface with only one face. 

The Möbius loop, like Penn State's waste system, has no beginning and no end. In 1970, with inspiration from the Möbius loop, architecture student Gary Anderson designed the international symbol for recycling.

Solid waste isn't a stream that starts in one place and ends in another. It's a loop of valuable resources. In 2014, Penn State committed to "closing the loop" on its solid waste through a program we call möbius. It's waste management—with a twist. 

Penn State currently diverts 56% of its solid waste. With campus-wide composting, we'll reach 75%. Miscellaneous plastics will get us to 85%. 

Through reduction, reuse, and recycling, we're closing the loop on waste at Penn State. That's möbius.

Questions? Email or tweet @sustainPSU.