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Recycling and Waste Reduction

Our approach to waste management begins with a focus on reducing waste and reusing materials. Several departments have moved to paperless processes: Human Resources has a new onboarding portal and an electronic document management system for all employees. The Facilities Department estimates that transitioning to a paperless work order system saves 12,000 sheets per year. In our dining halls, our trayless dining program helps to reduce food waste. We are creative in repurposing materials, reusing cardboard from move-in day for our annual Gassett After Dark: Cardboard Canoe Race.


In 2017, we expanded our recycling program to a single-stream system accepting paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, and metal. The dining halls and Salem Diner also compost food waste through our award-winning composting program.

Discover what materials can and cannot be recycled on Salem State's campus!

Single-Stream Recycling at Salem State

Item  Recycle?  Notes
Paper, Cardboard  Yes No dirty pizza boxes
Glass  Yes   
Plastic Yes #1-7 

No styrofoam or plastic bags

Metal Yes Submit a work order for bulky metal. 

Specialty Items

Electronics Email ITS Helpdesk
Office Furniture or Appliances Submit a work order. Items are evaluated and then stored for reuse, submitted to the state Surplus Property Program, recycled, or disposed of properly.
Batteries Collect these locally and submit a work order when collection container is full.
Lightbulbs  Submit a work order.

Questions? Contact Sustainability or the facilities helpline at 978.542.4357. You can also learn more by visiting the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's Beyond the Bin Recycling Directory.

Mattress Recycling: SSU and UTEC

What happens to the soiled or torn mattresses that must be removed from Salem State dorms each year?

Rather than have these end up in a landfill or incinerator, Salem State recycles about 125 mattresses each year through a partnership with UTEC, a Lowell non-profit organization whose mission is to “ignite and nurture the ambition of our most disconnected youth to trade violence and poverty for social and economic success.”

Mattresses are notoriously difficult to dispose of responsibly. Metal springs complicate compaction and the many different materials in a mattress make recycling an unattractive proposition. UTEC engages proven-risk young people in the workforce while also diverting mattresses from the waste stream. UTEC youth hand-cut the mattresses and recycle the steel, foam, wood, some of the toppers, and cotton. Ultimately they are able to recycle 85% of each piece, by weight.

Recycling Materials into Art

Art + Design Department Professor Ken Reker incorporates recycled materials into his classes and his art, using hundreds of plastic water bottles in sculptures such as the one below:

Plastic Water Bottles Structure

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