Waste Minimization and Recycling at Penn

Since Penn's 2009 Climate Action Plan, waste reduction, reuse, and recycling practices have expanded dramatically. The university now collects over 10 types of specialty waste. Single stream recycling is now standard across the University, with many Schools and Centers offering specialty recycling options including e-waste, batteries, and shredded paper. Composting is standard at student cafes and many restaurants on campus, the Penn Garden, and other community spaces. In the face of such steady improvement, recent well-publicized global shifts across the entire recycling marketplace, from global to local levels, have led to a re-evaluation of recycling and diversion practices, putting more focus on holistic waste minimization and diversion approaches.

To download the featured waste pictograms and find additional information on waste management visit Facilities & Real Estate Services.

Landfill Trash

Waste that cannot be diverted through one of the other waste streams. Includes soft plastics (plastic bags, plastic wrap, etc.), Styrofoam, and (when composting is not available) food waste.

Single-stream Recycling

Glass, rigid plastics, metal, paper, and cardboard.  Rinse plastic food containers and empty liquids from bottles before placing in the bin.


Food waste and leaves.                               


electronic Waste

“E-waste” - electronic equipment such as computers, monitors, alkaline and lithium batteries, cell phones, charging cords, and more.



Miscellaneous Waste

Shoes, textbooks, writing utensils, etc. See our Special Recycling and Reuse Collections page for more information.


The creation of a Solid Waste Management Plan is important as the University continues implementing the Climate Action Plan, as it will:

  • Establish a comprehensive campus-wide waste reduction and recycling policy
  • Enable proper waste reduction and recycling practices through education and communication efforts, events and competitions, and improved transparency of the campus collection system
  • Expand the University’s focus beyond recycling by championing green purchasing practices, composting efforts, local food investments, and source reduction initiatives

So you think you know how to sort your waste?

Take our interactive sorting quiz below to make sure you understand which items go in which waste streams!

Additional Resources

Check out some additional resources on our website: