The program to recycle waste produced by Penn State Wilkes-Barre was founded in 1988 by Dr. Thomas Winter. Since its inception, the recycling program has received three major awards: Most Outstanding Recycling Program of Educational Institutions in Northeastern Pennsylvania (1989); third place on a per capita basis of all college recycling programs in Pennsylvania (2003); and a Pennsylvania State Waste Watchers Award (2014). Noteworthy in this most recent award is the salvaging of discarded supplies for re-use.
Over 26 years, the program has facilitated the re-use of more than $40,000 in discarded supplies; brought 1,200,000 lb (1,100 truckloads) of paper, cardboard, metal, glass, plastic, etc. to market; donated $26,000 in cash income to the Annual Fund for student scholarships; and saved an estimated 3,000,000 kWhr of energy and an estimated 7,300 trees.
The recycling program is very time-consuming and hands-on, involving much sorting of low-grade, mixed paper into its many valuable components, as well as sorting of cans, bottles, molded Styrofoam (polystyrene), Styrofoam peanuts, Instapak (polyurethane) foam, Tyvek envelopes, plastic overhead transparencies, VHS tapes, CDs, diskettes, and electronic components. The program has clocked at least 20,000 volunteer hours over 26 years. The comprehensive program involves the participation of everyone on campus: faculty, staff, and students. Major support is provided by the maintenance staff, who collect recyclables throughout the campus and bring them to the recycling building, and, after sorting by volunteers, truck them to local recycling markets.