UW Recycling and Building Services Department: Leaders and partners in waste reduction, providing great service
Friendly, hard-working, courteous: all words used to describe UW Building Services Department (BSD) custodial staff, in response to the 2017 TAP campus-wide survey. Also indicated in the survey results: a desire for more of custodians’ time, to tackle building issues beyond daily cleaning and tidying.
Enter MiniMax, which provides individual desk-side bins, and larger, public area waste bins. Users empty the contents of their desk-side bin into the public bins as needed, which increases individuals’ awareness of the trash they generate, and drastically reduces the daily work of custodians, freeing them up for other tasks.
The program was first piloted by UW Recycling at the UW Tower in 2008. It began as a way to raise awareness about personal waste generation, and has evolved into a campus-wide program. Since the pilot, nearly 300 academic departments and more than 11,000 workstations on campus have adopted the program.
New participants have responded positively to their MiniMax conversions. As Molecular Engineering & Sciences Building Coordinator Christopher Adams noted, “The changeover was so fast and unobtrusive, and the conversion so immediately thorough, that it just doesn’t make sense not to get on board!”
And the program is expanding: UW Bothell has rolled out MiniMax to its buildings and is looking to introduce the system in its leased facilities.
Saving money, time and…the planet
It contributes to saving the University over $1.8 million in annual disposal costs.
UW Recycling leads the way toward 70% waste diversion by 2020 through the expansion of MiniMax
The switch to MiniMax offers many benefits, not least to the planet. Estimates show that 95% of UW’s waste can either be recycled or composted. In the past decade, the UW’s waste diversion rate has risen from about 40% to about 64%, ever closer to the 2020 goal of 70% diversion. Not to mention, these efforts contribute to saving the University over $1.8 million in annual disposal costs.
UW Bothell Custodial Supervisor Barney Harvey expanded on this benefit: “Time we used to spend emptying, changing liners, and cleaning…personal waste and recycle containers is now spent actually cleaning and maintaining the buildings. Less liners are going to landfill. Less chemicals are being used to clean waste and recycle containers.”
The switch to MiniMax also allows custodians to clean more effectively, swapping time per day spent emptying office trash bins for an increase in essential cleaning, a common request in the 2017 TAP Survey feedback from campus. As Building Services Department Director Gene Woodard points out, "There are thousands of offices on campus, so the added time allows custodians to clean for the health of the University by focusing on restrooms and surfaces in high-traffic areas.”
Re-thinking our work in ways that fits our values can bring broad benefits to the UW community, as well as to the broader environment. Expanding MiniMax reduces how much the UW sends to the landfill, which saves on disposal costs, expands custodial availability and upholds UW Facilities' response to the campus feedback provided in the 2017 TAP Survey.
Note: content adapted from the November 8, 2017 article by Allison Nitch on the Facilities Services blog