Old Main Welcomes Office Composting to ‘Close the Loop on Waste’

UNIVERSITY PARK — This week Old Main became the 50th building at University Park to launch möbius — Penn State Waste Management. This initiative includes office composting and expanded recycling to help the University divert 85 percent of its solid waste from the landfill.

“Penn State wants to demonstrate the same level of excellence in management of all its resources as it does in its education and research activities.”
— Provost Nick Jones

“Penn State wants to demonstrate the same level of excellence in management of all its resources as it does in its education and research activities,” said Nick Jones, executive vice president and provost at Penn State.

New möbius stations across University Park now include bins for composting and miscellaneous plastics (e.g., yogurt cups and other wide-mouth containers). The name möbius comes German mathematician August Möbius who, in 1858, gave a strip of paper a half twist and joined the ends to create an elegant loop — a mysterious, continuous surface. The Möbius loop, like Penn State’s waste system, has no beginning and no end.

“Solid waste isn’t a stream that starts in one place and ends in another. It’s a loop of valuable resources. Office composting and recycling help create a living lab of responsible stewardship where all of our students, faculty and staff learn about their ecological impact both in and out of the classroom.”
— Denice Wardrop, Sustainability Institute director

“Solid waste isn’t a stream that starts in one place and ends in another,” said Denice Wardrop, director of Penn State’s Sustainability Institute. “It’s a loop of valuable resources. Office composting and recycling help create a living lab of responsible stewardship where all of our students, faculty and staff learn about their ecological impact both in and out of the classroom.”

Office composting is a systematic way of collecting organic waste, and composting receptacles are being added to all existing and/or new recycling stations across University Park. As the program rolls out, occupants become responsible for transporting their own organic waste to one of the nearby stations along with the recyclable materials they already self-manage. Adding this last major waste stream to the system in place eliminates the need for desk side custodial trash collection service. Individual waste cans may remain in use as a collection container for recyclables, but they will no longer be emptied by custodians once office composting launches in a building.

“It’s easier than most people think to deal with their own organic waste and recycling. This initiative has certainly helped all of us in Old Main gain a better understanding of the value of what we might have been throwing away.”
— Provost Nick Jones

“It’s easier than most people think to deal with their own organic waste and recycling,” said Jones. “This initiative has certainly helped all of us in Old Main gain a better understanding of the value of what we might have been throwing away.”

Every building at University Park will have a möbius station in 2014, and occupants typically receive notice that office composting is coming 30 days in advance. A full roll-out schedule for all buildings is available at sustainability.psu.edu/mobius.

“This initiative is about reducing our overall landfill-bound waste stream. Before 1990, the University recycled less than a ton of its waste. Today, the University recycles more than 100 types of waste and diverts almost 10,000 tons from the landfill.”

— Steve Maruszewski, vice president for OPP

“This initiative is about reducing our overall landfill-bound waste stream,” said Steve Maruszewski, assistant vice president for Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant. “Before 1990, the University recycled less than a ton of its waste. Today, the University recycles more than 100 types of waste and diverts almost 10,000 tons from the landfill.”

Pilot projects at University Park have successfully demonstrated that promoting individual actions — such as office composting — can lead to 85 percent diversion of the University’s solid waste from landfill.

“Statistically, when office personnel manage their waste, the diversion rate increases an average of 31 percent in the facility. Clearly, Penn Staters are the reason the office composting program is a success.”

— Al Matyasovsky, program manager for möbius

“Statistically, when office personnel manage their waste, the diversion rate increases an average of 31 percent in the facility,” said Al Matyasovsky, supervisor of Central Support Services and program manager for möbius. “Clearly, Penn Staters are the reason the office composting program is a success.”

What can be composted? The list includes food waste, paper towels, coffee filters, pizza boxes and more. Office and residence hall food waste is collected and turned into nutrient-rich compost. Everyone at Penn State can download the recycling guidelines for a complete list of what and how to recycle and compost at http://sustainability.psu.edu.

According to audit data, existing recycling options at University Park have lead to 65 percent diversion. Campus-wide composting (particularly in offices) is expected to lead to 75 percent diversion by eliminating a significant remaining component of desk-side waste — organics. Finally, the recent addition of miscellaneous plastics to the Penn State’s recycling options can help the University achieve 85 percent diversion.

“Penn State’s level of diversion is one of the highest in the country, a distinction we want to sustain and improve. Individual participation is absolutely essential for our success.”
— Senior Vice President for Finance and Business David Gray

“Penn State’s level of diversion is one of the highest in the country, a distinction we want to sustain and improve,” said David Gray, senior vice president for Finance & Business. “Individual participation is absolutely essential for our success.”

For more information about Penn State’s sustainability efforts, including its waste reduction and the origin of möbius, visit www.sustainability.psu.edu.

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