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.
Annually, Penn Staters recycle more than 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.
- Supports local vendor purchasing
- Donates leftover food 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.
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.
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 .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 www.catalogchoice.org.
Questions? Email email@example.com.
After reduction, reuse is the second most important element of waste management. It is critical at the personal and institutional level.
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.
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
An office can get rid of their furniture by contacting Joann Kittle or by completing our special request form and a pick-up time will be established. Units interesting in finding materials can also contact them to visit the warehouse and choose the furniture they would like.
Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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, and a recycling process for SecurID tokens.
Not sure about what goes where?
- Email email@example.com.
- Tweet us @sustainPSU.
- Submit a Special Recycling Request.
- Request a recycling and composting presentation.
WASTE we produced in 2015
14,950 tons of solid waste
WASTE we diverted from landfill in 2015
9,214 tons (1,748 elephants) — 62% of our waste stream
100 different types of waste
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.