Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Waste, Recycling, Composting

Recycling & Waste Management Program

PCC has over 600 classroom recycling bins, 42 outdoor recycling collection stations, 30 indoor recycling collection stations, and some 2,500 signs installed.

Outdoor Public Space Recycling

  1. Trash/Landfill (soda beverage cups, to-go containers, coffee cups, plastic film, foods, liquids, lids, caps, napkins, paper plates)
  2. Glass (glass bottles and glass jars)
  3. Plastic Bottles, and Cans (aluminum and tin cans, plastic bottles and tubs)
  4. Mixed Paper & Cardboard (cardboard, newspaper, office paper)

Indoor Public Space Recycling

  1. Trash/Landfill (soda beverage cups, to-go containers, coffee cups, plastic film, foods, liquids, lids, caps, napkins, paper plates)
  2. Glass (glass bottles and glass jars)
  3. Plastic Bottles, and Cans (aluminum and tin cans, plastic bottles and tubs)
  4. Mixed Paper & Cardboard (cardboard, newspaper, office paper)

Classroom Recycling

  • Accepted: Aluminum and tin cans, plastic bottles and tubs, cardboard, newspaper, office paper.
  • Classroom recycling is comingled: all recyclables go in one container.
  • Not accepted (trash): coffee cups, foods or liquids, lids and caps, napkins and paper plates, and “NO GLASS IN CLASS!”

How and Why We Recycle

Recycling can be confusing and there are different rules for recycling in different areas. The rules for what to recycle at PCC are the same across the Portland Metro Region. Recycling correctly ensures reduced contamination in the recycling stream with non-recyclables. Contamination can risk sending the whole recycling load to the landfill instead.

Who should recycle?
  • Everyone can recycle! It is important to first try and reduce your purchasing of single-use materials, then try to reuse what you have, and then recycle as your last choice of disposal. You should recycle on campus and at home.
Why should I recycle?
  • Recycling correctly helps you reach your own sustainability goals as well as PCC’s, it saves money and resources by creating a circular economy. Make sure to check what is recyclable in your area on your city’s waste website.
How does recycling work?
  • When you put your recyclable item into a recycling bin at home or on campus, it starts its long journey to be recycled. Recycling dumpsters are picked-up by a waste hauler, who takes your recycling to a Material Recovery Facility (MRF), where your recyclables are sorted by type. The sorted materials are then sold to producers who make new products out of the recycled materials.
Tips and Tricks
  • Rinse or wipe out your recyclables. If there is any food residue left, the container is too dirty to be recycled. Recycling facilities cannot process food contaminants.
  • Any material smaller than a credit card is too small to be recycled. Small items can slip through the machinery and cause malfunctions. This includes shredded paper, loose bottle caps, and small pieces of plastic.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. If you are unsure if an item is recyclable it is safer to throw it away because if it goes through a recycling facility, it will contaminate the whole batch.

Mini Max

I'm Mini Max, your landfill bill! Don't forget to empty me and all your recyclables at your closest centralized waste location. Empty me frequently to avoid pests and smells.Thanks for your support for this sustainability initiative! The Mini-Max System is co-sponsored by the Sustainability Office and the Custodial Department which we have implemented college-wide. The Mini-Max trash bins are little black boxes that hang on the side of your desk-side recycling bins (in place of what used to be your normal desk-side trash bins).

How it works
  • Your desk-side trash can is replaced with the Mini Max can. Place your landfill garbage into the Mini-Max, and all your recyclable materials into your normal desk-side recycling bin.
  •  When they’re full, or when you want them emptied, take them to the closest centralized trash and recycling area and empty them. Custodians empty these larger units daily.
  • We are suggesting that people take their food and wet trash directly to their central bins, to avoid dirtying the Mini Max. This also helps reduce pest issues! No liners are provided though reusable towels for cleaning are available.
  • Now that you have your Mini Max, the custodians will not empty your desk-side container; you will need to do it yourself.

Why we are doing this
  • The program is intended to help meet PCC’s sustainability goals.
    • Studies suggest that when people handle their own waste, they are more mindful of it and ultimately produce less waste and/or recycle more.
    • In fact, a Recycling at Work study found that mini trash cans improved recycling by 20%!
  • It reduces plastic consumption.
    • Most trash cans hold plastic liners. District-wide there are approximately 1,400 desk-side trash cans, which means up to 7,000 plastic liners go to landfill each week.
    • Eliminating the desk-side trash cans and the need to purchase liners will divert nearly 15,000 pounds of plastic from the landfill alone, totaling almost fifteen metric tons of CO2 annually (which is like taking four cars off the road for one year).
  • Custodians have more time to focus on other cleaning tasks.
    • Custodians have the responsibility of taking care of all the buildings on campus and cleaning up after more than 90,000 students, faculty and staff (on an annual basis).
    • Per campus, they spend 8-12 hours a day/40-60 hours a week emptying desk-side trash cans, most of which hold only a few items.
    • Centralized trash collection will cut this time significantly, allowing custodians to focus on other important work, such as cleaning restrooms and dining areas and tackling deep cleaning.No custodial positions will be eliminated as a result of this initiative.

Other PCC Waste Reduction Initiatives

Solid Waste Management Policy

Read the College’s Solid Waste Management Policy

eCycling and hard drive smashing

Find out when and where we’ll be offering eCycling next!

Diverting Food Waste

As of 2021, all PCC campuses have pre-consumer food waste diversion programs. Although this is a behind-the-scenes process, commercial composting is an extremely important part of reducing waste and we are so grateful to Dining Services for making this initiative work in their kitchens. Sylvania and Rock Creek Campus also have post-consumer compost bins in office spaces and in dining halls. We’re hoping to add post-consumer compost options to all campuses and centers in the future. Dining Services is committed to sustainability!

Use a Mug and Save

Bring a mug to PCC coffee & soda stands and get more beverage at a 5 cent discount. Rock Creek’s waste analysis in January 2006 found that disposable beverage cups took up 12% of dumpster space. You can help! If everyone brought a reusable mug to campus for one week, we would keep over 50,000 cups out of the trash.

Need a mug? Look for mug boards near your campus cafeteria! On these boards, you will find clean reusable mugs hanging on hooks for your use. Grab a mug, use the mug and return it to be washed by food services.

Solid Waste Assessment Report

As part of PCC’s contract with Community Environmental Services (CES), the college requested in May 2013 that they conduct a landfill-bound waste assessment for our four largest locations: Sylvania, Cascade, Southeast Campus, and Rock Creek. (CES is a research and service unit within the Center for Urban Studies at Portland State University.)

Better World Books

Portland Community College collects unwanted books from students each year for Better World Books. It is an online bookseller of used and new books founded in 2002 that donates books or a percentage of its profit to literacy programs around the world. Better World Books donates one book to Feed the Children, Books for Africa, or smaller donation recipients for each book sold on BetterWorldBooks.com.

Better World Books provides additional support to literacy non-profits including: 

  • Books for Africa: Collects, ships and distributes books to African children
  • The National Center for Family Literacy: Provides educational opportunities and literacy programs to at-risk children and families
  • Room to Read: Builds libraries and schools and provides scholarships in impoverished areas of the world, including Southeast Asia and also publishes books for children in multiple languages
  • Worldfund: Provides resources to improve English-language skills in Latin America
  • Prison Book Project: A Quincy, Massachusetts-based nonprofit, which provides inmates with books and legal resources
  • Robinson Community Center: A University of Notre Dame-affiliated community center, which provides educational opportunities and tutoring services in South Bend, Indiana
  • National Literacy Trust: An independent charity based in London, England, that promotes literacy
  • READ International: A charity that aims to improve access to education in East Africa by relocating books which are no longer needed in UK secondary schools to Tanzania.

Better World Books has raised millions of dollars for literacy, saved millions of books from landfills, created jobs for hundreds of people, and provided wonderful books to millions of readers worldwide.

PCC Plastic Film Recycling Collection Program

Portland Community College is excited to be reducing its waste by participating in a plastic film recycling program. Key work areas (ex. bookstores, warehouses, dining services, print shops and others) throughout PCC that generate lots of plastic film, collect and store the material, which is periodically picked up and taken to a local grocery store depot. From there, the plastic film material makes its way to TREX, a major manufacturer of wood-alternative decking, railings and other outdoor items made from recycled materials.  

When we donate our unwanted plastic materials to TREX, not only are we helping to keep thousands of pounds of waste out of landfills, we are also helping them continue to create beautiful and environmentally responsible outdoor products. TREX provided PCC with collection containers and posters to set up our program, in exchange for us sending our material to them and reporting weight estimates of all our collected materials. And as an additional incentive for being enrolled in their University Recycling Program, PCC is  eligible for high-performance, low-maintenance awards and prizes, like a bench made from plastic film.

Plastic film material that is allowed in the program includes any type of stretchy plastic film, such as plastic bags, bread bags, shrink wrap, case wrap, air pillows, newspaper bags, ice melt bags, product overwrap and bubble wrap. All materials must be clean, dry and free of food residue. Material can be any color. If you think that your work area may be a large generator of plastic film and would like to join the program, please reach out to sustainability@pcc.edu.