Mission & History


The mission of MSU’s Recycling Operation is to develop, provide and nurture environmentally, socially and economically sustainable solid waste management solutions for Michigan State University and the local campus community.


  • Students petition the MSU Board of Trustees to focus on recycling.
  • The MSU Board of Trustees forms an administrative task force to develop a comprehensive plan for waste reduction.
  • MSU receives a State of Michigan Grant to implement an office paper recycling program.
  • Solid waste reduction becomes a focus for students and administration.
  • The University establishes the Office of Recycling and Waste Reduction (ORWR) to identify responsible solutions to solid waste problems.
  • The ORWR develops a campus-wide waste management strategy, working with all University departments on waste reduction education and providing waste reduction resources.
  • The first waste collection containers are distributed to administrative offices for white paper recycling.
  • The list of recyclables continues to grow with the addition of phone directories, catalogs, magazines, bound books and other paper products. The amount processed by ORWR increases exponentially year-after-year.
  • The recycling collection fleet expands to meet demands with the addition of a rear loading packer truck for cardboard collection.
  • A recycling drop off center is added to the University Apartments.
  • The Student Move Out collection program, Pack Up, Pitch In, begins. Clothing, food and household goods are donated to several local charities. Loft lumber is donated or resold.
  • MSU expands ORWR’s mission to include a comprehensive approach to recycling, waste reduction and waste management.
  • ORWR is renamed the Office of Recycling and Waste Management (ORWM), and is realigned under the university’s Physical Plant Division. With this reorganizations, all trash collection duties which were originally housed within the Grounds Department of the Campus Park and Planning Division are combined with the recycling services, and ORWM begins to provide comprehensive refuse and recycling services for Michigan State University.
  • The Salvage Yard is renamed the Surplus Store and is aligned under the University Services Division.
  • The Surplus Store focuses on landfill diversion through reuse and increases the annual revenue returned to departments from the sale of reusable goods by 800% over the next 5 years.
  • Non-traditional recyclables including toner cartridges and pallets are collected.
  • Electronic waste recycling initiative begins. The program originated in partnership with Federal Prison Industries and would later move to a private contractor.
  • The Office of Recycling and Waste Management is renamed MSU Recycling and is combined with the MSU Surplus Store to create a vertically integrated comprehensive solid waste management system on campus.
  • MSU sets a campus-wide goal to reduce energy use by 15%, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15%, and reduce landfill waste by 30% by 2015.
  • The Board of Trustees authorizes construction of a new $13.3 million dollar facility to house MSU Recycling, Surplus Store and Storage, and Waste Management.  The newly formed department will pay for the facility over several years with savings from gained efficiencies and revenues from an increased focus on reuse and recycling.
  • Plans for the new building include environmentally friendly features such as rainwater collection tanks on the roof to provide toilet water, rooftop photovoltaic solar panels to produce 10% of the building’s electricity, and a large number of windows to increase the use of natural lighting throughout the facility. Some additional features include an education center to host outreach programs, a compost and metal scrap bunkers, and a truck scale and space for roll-off and semi-trailer storage containers.
  • Construction of the new 74,000 square foot facility is completed, bringing MSU Recycling, Surplus Store, Storage, and Waste Management functions under one roof.
  • MSU Recycling begins advanced sorting and baling of recyclables, allowing the separated materials to be sold at higher prices to processors and generating more revenue for MSU.
  • The new facility collects 3.6 million pounds of recyclables in its first year.
  • The new facility earns the coveted U.S. Green Council LEED gold certification.
  • MSU Surplus Store continues achieving record setting annual sales approaching $3 million in gross sales.
  • A program implemented to provide short and long term storage options to students.
2011 – 2012
  • MSU Recycling and MSU Surplus Store continue working in tandem toward achieving independence from solid waste disposal. Programs in waste reduction, reuse, and recycling help MSU use resources more efficiently, simultaneously reducing the volume, cost, and environmental impacts of the University’s waste.
  • MSU Recycling, Surplus Store, Storage, and Waste Management combine with MSU Bikes and join MSU’s Office of Campus Sustainability to form a holistic waste reduction and sustainability team, MSU Sustainability, which reports to MSU’s Infrastructure Planning and Facilities Department (formally known as the university’s Physical Plant Division).
  • MSU Sustainability establishes a new volunteer organization, the Be Spartan Green Team, meant to encourage student participation in campus sustainability and waste reduction efforts.