Student Recycling Staff Attend Zero Waste Conference

“Zero waste.” Maybe you’ve seen the term while scrolling through your Facebook feed or heard about millennials fitting a years worth of trash into a mason jar.

Zero waste has been defined in a number of ways. The quest is for a more sustainable lifestyle with a reduction in discarded resources. Still, it is important to recognize that fulfilling the goal of zero waste will take more than individualistic behavior changes.

At a conference with inspiring students and organizations from around the world my understanding of the fulfillment of zero waste transformed. The message became clear that this was not just the latest lifestyle trend; it was a movement.

With over 400 attendees at the Students For Zero Waste ‘16 Conference, a total of two pounds of ‘waste’ was generated. A measly TWO pounds. It is estimated about 4.6 pounds of trash is accumulated everyday by a single individual. Without the determination of attendees and Post-Landfill Action Network’s encouragement, around 1,800 pounds of waste could have been produced. But this sea of strangers took zero waste seriously.

Among the various eco-reputable organizations, Michigan State University was invited to inform students on the vision and process of creating a campus surplus store. MSU manages its waste through a comprehensive program that focuses on its Surplus Store.

We were able to talk with students individually on the environmental and financial benefits of implementing this type of comprehensive program. In the early 1990s, MSU Surplus was handled and sold through a warehouse with no heat or bathrooms. Today the store is a facility that welcomes students, faculty, alumni and community members. The store now generates over $3.5 million annually to fund waste diversion programs on campus. We hope to inspire other campuses to take initiative and realize the potential of a surplus store in moving towards a zero waste goal.

Rethink, repurpose, recycle and remember. Rethink your daily purchases and ask yourself if there are alternatives. Repurpose unused items into art pieces to decorate your home. Recycle materials that can be broken down and turned into new products. Remember someone in the world may not have the resources your garbage bag is filled with. Set the bar high, be the change you wish to see and educate others.

If you’re not for zero waste, how much are you really for?

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From February 1 to March 28, Michigan State University will compete in RecycleMania, an annual recycling competition between more than 400 colleges and universities across North America.

Over the course of the eight-week competition, students are encouraged to be on their greenest behavior because MSU’s Sustainability department will be handing out prizes to students who are “caught green-handed.”

The “Get Caught Green-Handed” initiative rewards environmentally-friendly behavior by giving those “caught” recycling on campus a prize. To support the campaign:

  • Promotional tables will be placed in high-traffic campus areas featuring recycling-related activities, interactive displays and prizes.
  • Staff members will engage students, staff and faculty to increase knowledge of what can be recycled.
  • The Be Spartan Green Facebook and Twitter accounts will recognize students “caught” green-handed.

According to Brad Kurzynowski, student recycling coordinator, “A program like ‘Get Caught Green-Handed’ is great because it rewards those who are recycling properly and motivates others to think about recycling and develop good recycling habits. I think that it will really resonate with students and hopefully will lead to increased recycling on campus, even after RecycleMania is over.”

Additionally, faculty and staff are encouraged to participate by scheduling an office clean-out. The Surplus Store and Recycling Center have everything you need to host your own office clean-out and offer a variety of containers and methods to fit your needs.

Visit for information regarding the competition.

Compost Troubleshooting Problems

Have you tried or considered trying you hand at home composting? We would love to help. Don’t let apparent problems stand between you and recycling your household organic waste. Instead, consider troubleshooting your composting problems with some solutions below.

Symptoms Problem Solutions
Compost has unpleasant odor. Not enough air due to overwatering. Not enough air due to compaction. If odor of ammonia, too much nitrogen. Add dry materials such as cornstalks, leaves, or wood chips to soak up excess water.
Turn the pile to aerate. Cover pile if rains continue. Turn the pile to aerate. Add carbon materials and turn the pile to aerate.
Pile not heating up. Pile is too small. Insufficient moisture. Not enough air. Lack of nitrogen. Compost may be finished. Make pile bigger. Add water while turning. Add water by sticking a garden hose into the center in several locations. Poke holes into the pile and add water using a watering can. Turn the pile to aerate. Mix in nitrogen materials. Add 10-10-10. Use it and start over!!!!
Compost is damp and warm only in the center. Pile is too small. Add more material.
Pile temperature exceeds 160°F. Not enough air. Lack of carbon. Turn the pile to aerate. Mix in carbon materials.
Large, undecomposed items are still in the mix. Low surface area. Remove items. Chop or shred before adding.
Rodents. Presence of meat scraps. Only add items recommended for your pile and remove offensive material. Animal-proof bin.
Compost pile has flies, earwigs, slugs and/or other insects. I find white material throughout my pile. Good! Pile is composting correctly. Insects are a sign of a productive compost pile. The white cobweb material are actinomycete, part of the microbial community. If there is an abundance of flies, bury your food scraps as you turn the pile.

Holiday Light Recycling Collection

November 17th – December 5th

Not sure what to do with your old strands of holiday lights? Starting November 17th through December 5th, we will be accepting light strands for recycling at our public recycling drop off center. Light strands should be placed in the specially marked collection containers located at the drop off site, and we ask visitors to remember packaging, extra bulbs, plastic bags, string reels, and other items should not be placed in these container with the strands.

5 Reasons to Visit MSU Recycling’s Drop Off Center

Whether you are a veteran recycler or new to the concept of sustainability, here are 5 reasons why you should visit MSU Recycling's Drop Off Center:

1. Free Recycling Service

That's right; its free! Our facility provides public recycling drop off services at no cost to visitors. Also, while our first priority is to provide recycling options for the MSU campus community, we do not restrict access to our drop off center, but instead encourage everyone to be "Spartan Green" and recycle.

2. Open 24/7

Don't worry about getting here before we close, because our drop off services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even when we close our main drop off location for temporary servicing, we still provide temporary drop off options across the street.

3. Wide Variety of Items Accepted

Our drop off center houses 13 permanent collection containers, accepting the following materials:
  • 3 Cardboard Containers - where visitors can dispose of any cardboard items they can fit within the container
  • 1 Boxboard Container - where visitors can dispose of any freezer packaging, or other boxboard items
  • 1 Paper Container - where visitors can dispose of all their mixed paper types together
  • 1 Newspaper Container - where visitors can sort out their old newspaper collection for disposal
  • 1 Glass Container - where visitors can dispose of any colored, non-tempered glass
  • 1 Metal Container - where visitors can dispose of clean, non-hazardous metals, such as household tin and aluminum cans
  • 3 Plastic Containers - where visitors can dispose of clean, non-hazardous plastic items #1 - 7; please note that this does not include Polypropylene (Styrofoam), nor should plastic bags or film be disposed of in these containers
  • 2 Plastic Bag Containers - where visitors can dispose of clean plastic bags
  • 1 Milk Jug Container for Cloudy #2 Plastics - where visitors can separate their cloudy #2 plastics, such as milk jugs, for disposal
In addition to the materials we can collect at our drop off center, we are also able to provide limited drop off services for specialty item at our Surplus Store across the street. Items that can be collected at our Surplus Store include:
  • Confidential paper documents for shredding
  • Oversized recyclable items (such as large boxes full of books)
  • Reusable surplus items

4. LEED Certified

Along with providing public recycling options, our drop off center is part of our larger, Gold Level, LEED Certified facility, and contains multiple LEED features, such as:
  • 5 solar powered light poles
  • Rain gardens with native Michigan species
For visitors interested in learning more about our LEED facility, consider scheduling a facility tour.

5. Great Location

Located on the northwest corner of Farm Lane and Green Way, the MSU Recycling Drop Off Center is a bit off the beaten path for most MSU Spartans. However, don't let its distance from central campus keep you from missing all that this delightful resource has to offer. In addition to being located directly across the street form MSU's Surplus Store and Recycling Center, our drop off site is also within walking distance of the following local attractions:
Now that you know what you've been missing, why delay? Plan your visit to MSU Recycling's Drop Off Center today and help support campus recycling efforts. For more information on what items we accept, visit our Disposal Guide, or call or email us at (517)355-1723 or

Sign-Up For The New Vermicomposting Class

Register Today!

Looking for something to do this Wednesday evening? Why not check out MSU Recycling's Vermicomposting class on October 29 from 5:30-7PM? The class will meet inside the Education Center at the MSU Surplus Store and Recycling Center, and will involve both lecture and hands-on activities. Participants will even go home with their very own worm bins! To register for this event, please complete the checkout process through our online Surplus Store, or call (517-355-1723) or email ( MSU Recycling for more information on this and other upcoming classes.

10 Ways to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle this Halloween

Reduce Reuse Recycle Halloween

With Halloween just a week a way, we wanted to arm every Spartan with tools for having a “Spartan green” holiday by reducing, reusing, and recycling.


Tip #1 – Reduce energy use in your decorative lighting by using LED lights.

Tip #2 – Buy a reusable “trick-or-treat” tote, or reuse an old pillow case for collecting candy.

Tip #3 – Once Halloween is over, recycle your old pumpkins in a compost pile or by bringing them to the MSU Surplus Store to compost.

Tip #4 – Reduce carbon emissions by choosing a “trick-or-treat” location within walking, biking, or bussing distance from your home.

Tip #5 – Save old Halloween costumes  or donate them to places like the MSU Surplus Store so they can be reused.

Tip #6 – Recycle any leftover paper or plastic packaging from your Halloween candy.

Tip #7 – Try to match the amount of candy you buy to the number of “trick-or-treaters” you expect to reduce the chance of excess candy going to waste.

Tip #8 – Choose reusable decorations that you can keep year after year or donate.

Tip #9 – Support recycling markets by purchasing holiday decorations and party wear made from recycled materials.

Tip #10 – Get crafty and make you Halloween costume and decorations out of upcycled or repurposed items.


For more ideas on having a “Spartan Green” Halloween, visit the following resources: Ten Green Halloween Tips; 25 Unforgettable Homemade Halloween Costumes Made from Recycled Materials; Recycled Halloween Crafts. Or, come to the MSU Surplus Store to find locally grown pumpkins, or that perfect accessory for your DIY Halloween costume.





Bike-in Movie Night

Bike-in Movie Night

Bike, walk, bus, run, skateboard, or even drive (if you must) to the MSU Bikes Service Center at Bessey Hall, on Saturday, September 13th, for MSU Sustainability’s first-ever Bike-In Movie Night. The movie chosen for this event is “The Clean Bin Project,” a story about two people who attempt a year of waste-free living. The movie will begin at 8PM sharp and will be projected onto the back exterior wall of the Bike Center. Guests are welcome to sit in the grass between the Bike Center and the Bessey Hall parking lot, and are encouraged to bring their own blankets or folding chairs.

Admission is free and open to the public, and starting at 7PM the Eat at State On-The-Go Green Food Truck will be on site for guests wishing to purchase concessions items. But remember that we are trying to make this a zero-waste event, so please bring any drinks or snacks in reusable or recyclable containers and dispose of any waste items in the recycling and compost containers provided during the event.

In case of rain or inclement weather, the event will be rescheduled for a later date. For more information regarding this event, call (517)355-1723 or email