Penn State's newspaper recycling effort saves, earns green resources

University Park, Pa. -- In 1997, when Penn State developed its Newspaper Readership Program -- now a program model for colleges and universities nationwide -- a complementary program was developed with the environment in mind. The University's newspaper recycling program, another innovation replicated across the country, has saved landfill space and energy and also benefited students.

Through its first 10 years and beyond, Penn State's newspaper recycling program, operated through the University's Office of Physical Plant, has sold its newspapers for use as animal bedding and as a component of recycled paper mulch. The funds derived from those sales have been returned to the University in the form of student scholarship funds.

As of September 2007, newspaper recycling earned $84,000 in scholarship money.

Cost savings and energy conservation are added benefits of recycling newspapers. By recycling 1,774 tons of newspapers as of September 2007 (an estimated 7 million newspapers, with the approximate weight of at least 235 adult male African elephants) Penn State saved:

-- 5,332 cubic yards of landfill space;

-- $99,344 in landfill tipping fees;

-- nearly 12 million gallons of water (to "pulp" virgin trees for making paper), enough to University Park's outdoor pool about 12 times;

-- 30,158 trees;

-- 6,740 gallons of oil;

-- 106,000 pounds of air pollutants;

-- more than 7.3 million kilowatt hours of energy, enough to heat 739 homes for one year;

-- emission of 486 metric tons of greenhouse gases, equivalent to about 55,000 gallons of gasoline.

"Penn State's newspaper recycling program is a win-win solution for everyone -- for the University's cost savings, for the preservation of our natural resources, and for the students who read and recycle newspapers," said Al Matyasovsky, a supervisor in Central Support Services of Penn State's Office of the Physical Plant who spearheaded the recycling program. "The very people who learn from the newspapers they read are able to benefit a second time through scholarship money to help them further their education."

In addition, several universities and professional organizations have either modeled or requested information about the University's newspaper recycling program. Modeled by Arizona State, Notre Dame, West Virginia and the University of Missouri, Matyasovsky said, the program also has shared its practices with college and university peers at Carnegie Mellon, Connecticut, Gettysburg, Lock Haven, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Temple, Tennessee and Virginia, as well as the Air Force Academy and West Point. Outside higher education, the University has shared its practices with the likes of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans, the United Way (at state and national levels) and the Pentagon.

A video about the newspaper recycling program is online here. For more information about Penn State's Newspaper Readership Program, visit http://www.newspapers.psu.edu online.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010