What is möbius? Penn State bolsters efforts to reduce waste

September 05, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State has committed to "closing the loop" on its solid waste through a new program called möbius. University Park currently diverts 65 percent of its solid waste from landfill. With a new and unprecedented program, which includes campus-wide composting of organic waste, the University will reach 75 percent.

August Möbius

In 1858, German mathematician August Möbius gave a strip of paper a half twist and joined the ends to create an elegant loop — a mysterious, continuous surface. Solid waste isn’t a stream that starts in one place and ends in another. It’s a loop of valuable resources. The Möbius Loop, like Penn State’s waste system, has no beginning and no end. Find out more about Möbius, his loop and how it all became associated with recycling here.

IMAGE: Penn State

This is a University-wide commitment. Along with the paper, plastic and metal recycling bins already in most buildings at University Park, new “möbius stations” will include organic waste bins. “For the first time, all incoming freshmen have a suite of options, including composting, to divert waste in their residence halls,” said Ryan Steinberg, assistant director for Residence Life and chairperson for the Residence Life Sustainability Committee. “The same möbius stations are being installed in many Student Affairs buildings on campus, including the HUB-Robeson Center.”

Faculty and staff are also seeing new stations across University Park as part of the office composting initiative. “This is a huge step for us,” said Al Matyasovsky, supervisor of Central Support Services in Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant. “Before 1990, Penn State recycled less than a ton of its waste. Now, more than 100 types of waste are recycled and almost 10,000 tons are diverted from the landfill.” Every building at University Park will have a möbius station in 2014, and a full roll-out schedule for office composting is available at sustainability.psu.edu.

Intercollegiate Athletics is part of the initiative as well. The new Pegula Ice Arena has möbius stations. At Beaver Stadium, the President’s Suite and Legislative Suite will be showcases for möbius, with 100 percent compostable bio-products for their food service and customized collection stations. What can be composted? The list includes food waste, paper towels, coffee filters and pizza boxes. Office and residence hall food waste is collected and turned into nutrient-rich compost. Everyone at Penn State can download the recycling guidelines for a complete list of what and how to recycle and compost.

The möbius initiative is also about more than simply recycling. Penn State certainly wants everyone to recycle (and compost) — but as a last resort. The first steps to closing the loop on waste are reducing and reusing. Reducing can be the most difficult part of waste management. Hydration stations, “green” purchasing and reduced plate sizes in the dining halls are just a few initiatives that are already under way at Penn State. A signature effort of reuse is the annual Trash to Treasure sale, which diverts 42 percent of student move-out waste. Not only does the yearly sale help reuse items left behind, it benefits the United Way. Almost 75 tons of what would typically be sent to landfill were diverted in 2013.

möbius Watch Your Waste

Everyone is invited to join the discussion about reducing, reusing and recycling. Penn State’s möbius Yammer group is available to all Penn State students and employees for any questions regarding möbius.

IMAGE: Penn State

For additional information, visit möbius online or email mobi@psu.edu.

Last Updated September 06, 2013