Penn State is being recognized for its successful waste reduction strategies.

The National Recycling Coalition granted Penn State the 2014 Outstanding Higher Education Award for its state-of-the-art recycling and community outreach programs. Out of the 70 universities considered, Penn State’s waste management system was distinguished as one of the “Best of the Best.”

“We have a very diverse program,” Office of Physical Plant Program Manager for Solid Waste Operations Al Matyasovsky said. “We offer a lot of opportunities for people to participate. And in that offering, we have a very supportive university faculty, staff and students that pitch in.”

Besides the support from Penn State’s faculty, Matyasovsky said the new and highly efficient Möbius waste stream has significantly decreased the university’s landfill trash.

The Möbius Program expanded composting and recycling to every campus office and residence hall in order to promote proper waste reduction habits, Matyasovsky said. Essentially, Möbius filters out biodegradable, recyclable and reusable materials from a traditional single waste stream.

“Möbius puts everything under one umbrella,” Matyasovsky said. “Other than having pieces of a program where one piece is recycling and one composting, it’s about managing waste materials we generate.”

By separating trash into separate streams and reusing more than 100 materials, Penn State diverts 65 percent of its waste — more than 10,000 tons — from the landfill each year, Alex Novak, communications manager for OPP and the Sustainability Institute, said.

But Novak said Penn State wants to expand its current program. Composting and recycling Styrofoam can improve waste reduction by another 20 percent.

Collaborative efforts between housing, OPP and campus dining made the Möbius program’s success possible, Novak said.

“The key is getting everyone in the same room and giving them the mechanisms to do this,” Novak said. “It’s all about bringing like-minded people together to address this challenge. It’s a complete university-wide effort.”

Ryan McCaughey, manager of grounds and equipment for OPP, said Penn State’s program is different from other universities because it helps the surrounding community in its recycling efforts.

Compared to other large universities, Penn State does much more to promote recycling and waste reduction, McCaughey said.

“It’s not just the fact that we recycle and compost,” McGaughey said. “It’s the engagement we have with the outside community. It’s the help we give to the other communities around here.”

The National Recycling Coalition is a non-profit organization with more than 6,000 members dedicated to expanding waste management and conservation programs nationwide. Mark Lichtenstein, president and CEO of the NRC, said the award promotes organizations with exceptional recycling programs to accelerate the amount of waste diverted from landfills.

He said Penn State’s recycling program is “noteworthy” and “progressive.”

“We get the impression Penn State is more proactive than other universities,” Lichtenstein said. “They are a recognized brand — big school, very well known. When you see an institution like that doing a great job, you want to highlight it. And it does stand out.”

Lichtenstein noted that this was the first time in eight years the NRC gave an Outstanding Higher Education Award, which makes the recognition even more significant.

“Not only does Penn State deserve this award, but they won this award with this program not being around for a while,” Lichtenstein said. “It’s a big deal.”

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Meghan can be reached at or (814) 865-1828. Follow her on Twitter at @meg_garrity.