About Campus Recycling

Campus Recycling is responsible for managing a comprehensive waste management system that focuses on reducing, reusing and recycling with disposal as a last resort. We are also actively engaged in outreach activities to involve the entire campus community in this mission.

Oregon State University has had some form of recycling on campus since 1970. Beginning as a student volunteer organization that gathered paper from a few buildings on campus, Campus Recycling now employs over 30 students (in conjunction with Surplus Property) and three full time employees who collect from all buildings on campus and process millions of pounds of recycling and compost per year (see below for the most up-to-date statistics).

Explore the menu links above and to the right to learn more about our program, services, and outreach activities.

Together Campus Recycling and Surplus Property make up a department called Materials Management, which is joined with Procurement and Contracts under the unit of Procurement, Contracts and Materials Management (PCMM).

Campus Waste Statistics

Below are the waste weight and recovery rate estimates from the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years (fiscal years run July 1st through June 30th). These results do not include construction and demolition weights and are based on estimates. The reduction in tonnage in 2019-20 is largely the result of the move to virtual classes and work during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Waste Stream 2018-19 Estimate 2019-20 Estimate
Recycled 825.7 tons 689.4 tons
Composted 475.3 tons 345.2 tons
Landfilled 2,057.2 tons 1,835.4 tons
Recovery Rate* 38.7% 36.0%

*Recovery rate is a calculation of the percent of waste that was recovered (recycling + compost) in proportion to the total amount of waste generated (recycling + compost + landfill).

In comparison, in the 2018 calendar year, the Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality estimates that the statewide municipal recovery rate was 40.8% and Benton County's recovery rate was 35.3% (source). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in the 2018 calendar year, the national municipal recovery rate was 32.1% (source).

Campus Recycling also estimates how much material OSU reuses through the sale of surplus goods and collection of donations from residence halls at the end of each year. In 2018-19, at least 560 tons were reused, making that year's estimated recovery rate including reuse 47.5%. In 2019-20, at least 500 tons were reused, for an estimated recovery rate of 45.5%. 

All of these statistics demonstrate that the university is performing comparatively well but also has much room to grow in the areas of waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting.

History of Recycling at OSU

More than fifty years ago, communities came together across the country on the first Earth Day to collectively address the many environmental crises the country faced. Here at Oregon State University, students hosted an entire week of events and a public recycling collection event, efforts that led to a campuswide recycling collection program that served as a model and driver for recycling efforts at OSU, in Corvallis, for the state of Oregon, and even across the country.

On the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day at OSU, we hosted a three-part virtual event to hear from panelists who played lead roles in the first Earth Day and recycling programs at OSU in the 1970s, followed by current OSU students who will share highlights from waste and materials management today. It was hosted on April 22nd, 2020.

Event recording now available here and embedded below