Waste Management and Recycling

Waste Management and Recycling

Waste Management and Recycling

Facilities and Real Estate Services is responsible for the collection of municipal waste and recyclables at Penn.  A Solid Waste Management Planning Committee was created in 2013 to evaluate our processes.  Our services and programs help the individual reduce their waste stream, reuse products to extend their life cycle, and recycle products at the end of their life cycle.  For more information on Minimizing Waste, please visit the Green Campus Partnership website.

Did you know?

We color code our waste to make trash collection easier (download complete details).  For example, trash is collected in white bags and co-mingled recycling is collected in blue bags. 

The Penn Process

You may see your trash and recycling get hauled away in one bin, but the bags are separated into two streams at the loading dock by Facilities staff.  From there, our trash is transported to a local landfill and the recycling is taken to a facility that has special equipment to separate Penn's co-mingled recyclables.  See a diagram of the process.

Single-Stream Recycling Works

The company, Waste Management, sorts our single-stream recycling at the Philadelphia Materials Recovery Facility and ensures that value is extracted from the materials.  Watch a video to take a tour of the facility and learn more about their practice. 

For more information on what you can recycle, click below:

If you need additional trash or recycling bins and bags for interior spaces, contact your Building Administrator.  For outdoor areas contact the Facilities and Real Estate Services call center at 215.898.7208.  The Facilities call center can also arrange for distribution of pictogram stickers for labeling the interior and exterior bins.

Landfill Trash - Use the GRAY or BLACK bins

Waste is considered landfill trash when no alternative disposal options exist, and includes styrofoam and (when composting is not available) food waste and food-soiled plastics/paper.  Hazardous materials, such as non-alkaline batteries and CFL bulbs, should not be placed into trash bins.  

Download the Landfill poster.

Single Stream Recycling - Use the BLUE bins

Penn uses single-steam recycling.  This means that all recyclable items can be placed together in the same bin.  Some areas on campus still have separate bins for "Mixed Paper" and "Plastic/Glass/Aluminum", but all recyclables go to a single stream recycling facility.  When the recyclables are taken to the recycling facility, they get sorted by machinery so that they can be recycled appropriately.  Below is a detailed list of what can be recycled on campus:

Paper, Cardboard, Glass, Plastics, Metals



  • All hard plastics (Plastics #1-#7), plastic containers
  • Polystyrene (Styrofoam)
  • Packing materials such as bubble wrap and packing peanuts
  • Plastic wrap and bags
  • All colors of clean glass food and beverage containers
  • All standard paper including books, office paper, newspaper, and magazines
  • Tissue paper, paper towels, wax paper
  • Hardcover books
  • All clean cardboard including milk cartons, cereal boxes, non-greasy pizza boxes, and to-go containers
  • Wax-lined or food-soiled cardboard and paper, including coffee cups
  • All metals including cans, tops, and aluminum foil and trays

Download the Recycling poster.

Compost (Food and Organic Waste) - Use the GREEN bins

Compost is defined as all food waste, soiled paper, compostable tableware and leaves.  Composting breaks down these materials so that they can be reused as fertilizer and soil amendments. Compost collection takes place at several locations on campus, including all campus dining halls and Joe's Cafe at Wharton.  Penn's composting contractor (WORC) accepts all food wastes, including meat, dairy, eggs, and oils.  Yard waste such as leaves is composted on campus.

Download the Compost poster.

Universal Waste (E-Waste)

E-waste is the unofficial name of universal waste which includes electronic equipment, mercury containing equipment, LED and CRT monitors, computers, CFL bulbs and other lamps, alkaline and lithium batteries and the devices that use them, cell phones, and televisions.  E-waste contains a lot of heavy metals and toxic materials that can seep into the water supply or poison the ground.  All of these materials can be contained, and most can be reused, if they are properly disposed of.  For additional questions and regulatory concerns, visit Penn's Environmental, Health, and Radiation Safety (EHRS) website.

Miscellaneous Waste

Miscellaneous waste includes books, bulk trash, writing instruments, shoes, clothing, office products and ink and toner cartridges.  The table below provides the appropriate resources for managing different types of miscellaneous waste.




Ben's Attic

Text books, Writing Instruments, AND Office Products (including ink and toner cartridges)

Penn's Green Purchasing 

Bulk Trash

Facilities Call Center, 215.898.7208

Shoes and clothing



There are also Goodwill dropoff boxes outside of Rodin College House and Sansom West.