Recycling, Composting and Waste Management


Penn State continues to advance sustainable materials management, circular economy, and overall sustainability efforts across all our campuses. Find out more about our approach to waste management (3Rs- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle/Compost) as shown below.



Reducing what and how much we consume is the most difficult part of waste management, but it’s the most effective. Penn State takes pride in the programs and efforts taking place to reduce waste across the University, but we know we’ve only just begun. The following are some of our waste reduction initiatives:

  • Water Bottle Refilling Stations - Currently, there are 403 water bottle refilling stations (also known as Hydration Stations) installed at University Park and several at the Commonwealth Campuses. Strategic placement of these stations around the University mean that Penn Staters have easy access to clean, good-tasting water for their reusable water bottles. Learn more about water bottle refilling stations
  • Food Services - With numerous eatery options on campus, Penn State Food Services team focuses on reducing waste, educating our students about sustainable practices, and encouraging a sustainable lifestyle. Some examples include: 
    • Reusable Dining Containers - PSreUse reusable container are available across campus in the buffet locations. This convenient option provides a reusable take-out container and helps reduce styrofoam waste in our operations. 
    • Food Reduction - Various efforts include tracking and auditing food waste, providing various serving size options, and instituting a food recovery program that benefits food banks. 
    • Composting - All dining commons are equipped with composting stations to aid in the capture of food waste. This compost is then sent directly to the on-campus composting facility. 
    • Cooking Oil Recycling - In collaboration with an approved vendor, Penn State recycles used cooking oil meeting all FDA standards.
  • Purchasing - From furniture to lab equipment, Penn State Purchasing handles the procurement of goods and services across all campuses. Purchasing Services continually seeks opportunities to maximize purchasing value by making wise choices that benefit both the University and the environment. The team prioritizes sustainable purchasing decisions at the earliest stages of the lifecycle of the products and services. 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. The original case study for the Smarter Carpet Initiative provides more information.



After reduction, reuse is the second most important element of waste management. It is critical both at the personal and institutional level. A couple reduction initiatives happening at Penn State include:

  • Student Move-Out Donations - Partnering with Goodwill, the University provides on-campus collection sites for students to drop off any unwanted items during move-out. These items will then be picked up, transported, and sorted by Goodwill. This upcycling initiative significantly reduces landfill waste and University’s costs.
  • Lion Surplus - Located on Services Road on the University Park campus, the Lion Surplus store is open to the public. The team handles the removal and resale of University-owned equipment through sales, bids, and auctions. Any University department may send University-owned equipment, supplies, and/or materials that are obsolete, surplus, or simply no longer needed to Lion Surplus. The Lion Surplus team has a recycling program for items that are broken or not able to be sold. 



While recycling is often the most recognizable of the 3R's (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), it should be the last resort. Reducing and reusing are more effective at overall waste stream reduction. 

Click on the poster below to learn more about what is acceptable in the recycling stream at Penn State.



  • Batteries
    • Non-rechargeable batteries - Alkaline batteries, which are non-rechargeable, should be disposed of in the regular trash. 
    • Rechargeable batteries - Batteries that are rechargeable, including Nickel Cadmium, Nickel Metal Hydride and Lithium-ion batteries, should be dropped off to your building's Battery Collection leader. If uncertain who that is, contact Penn State's Environmental Health and Safety team for guidance. As a reminder, this only pertains to batteries used for University-related business. Check for local battery recycling locations in your area or visit In the State College area, contact the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority



Read more about Penn State's Waste Stream Task Force.