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Recycling and Composting


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 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.

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 food to Meals on Wheels
  • Trains students and staff on sustainable practices


Carbon Negative: Reducing Dining's Carbon Foodprint at Penn State

This research report was a project created as part of the 2020 Drawdown Scholars Program by Divya Jain, a Penn State student under the mentorship of Rachel Brennan during Summer 2020. 




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

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 request for carpet proposals was revised in 2019, giving specific attention to supply chains, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), environmental product declarations, health product declarations and a process for tracking the useful life of carpet. Contracts will be awarded in Fall of 2019. 

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

recycled carpet fibers

Duplex Printing 

To reduce the amount of paper you use:

  • 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

Questions? Email



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 about 18 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.

In 2018, the 17th Trash to Treasure Sale collected 35 tons of waste and generated about $51,000 for the local United Way agencies.


Lion Surplus

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

Lion Surplus is a store that handles the removal of University-owned equipment in environmentally responsible ways, such as sales, bids, and auctions. The store is open to students, faculty, staff, and the public.An office can get rid of their furniture or usable equipment by completing a DISP form in IBIS.  When the form is submitted, it will alert us that an item needs to be picked up. Units interesting in finding materials can also contact them to visit the warehouse and choose the furniture they would like.  Contact Glen Feagley for more information.

Questions? Email



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 poster below for everything we recycle at Penn State. To learn about changes to the plastics and miscellaneous recycling bins that began in Fall 2019, please visit this page

For information on the Waste Stream Task Force, including updates and reports, click here.

How to Recycle:

Not sure about what goes where? 

University Park's Recycling Game:

University Park's Recycling Video:

Questions? Email



For your organic waste, click the poster below for everything we compost at Penn State.

*Note: Paper towels are no longer being composted in restrooms across the University Park campus. See our recycling FAQs (on the right of this page) for more information.


Compost for Sale

Penn State's compost is available for purchase at Lion Surplus, located on Services Road behind the Law School.

It is open Monday through Friday 6:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. You can buy half of a cubic yard for $10.50 or bring a five gallon bucket, where an employee will work with you on a price.

Questions? Email