Very little of what is thrown away on campus actually belongs in the garbage. The MiniMax program has been adopted by the University of Washington to make waste sorting easier for building occupants, reduce landfill waste, and allow custodial staff to spend more time on essential cleaning tasks. UW Recycling staff work with building coordinators, occupants and custodial staff to ensure that containers are accessible and consistent.

Offices and workstations

Desk-side garbage bins in individual offices and workstations have self-service MiniMax containers consisting of a 28-quart green recycling bin with an attached 3-quart black garbage bin. Both promote personal responsibility for waste generation. Staff are responsible for emptying their containers into the centrally-located recycling, landfill or compost containers.

Public areas

Garbage, recycling and compost bins are available in public areas across campus.

  • Centralized container sets offer convenient access for building occupants and patrons.  
  • All public area garbage bins coordinate with at least one recycling bin. Compost bins are included as needed for kitchens, breakrooms or hallways.    
  • Signs and labels clearly indicate what items should be placed in each container.


Paper towels are collected for compost instead of going to the landfill. Wall-mounted or standing compost collection containers are labeled “paper towels only”. Each restroom has a 28-quart black waste bin labeled “trash” for non-compostable waste.

Classrooms, teaching and computer labs

Garbage, recycling and compost bins are located near classrooms, rather than in them. This helps increase waste diversion and cleaning efficiency.

Research labs and patient care areas

The MiniMax program does not affect waste containers or service in research labs or medical patient care rooms.

Frequently asked questions

Why does the UW use MiniMax?

 Implementing MiniMax helps the University:

  • Support UW Presidential Executive Order Number 13 and the UW Climate Action Plan
  • Adhere to the City of Seattle waste ordinances banning recyclable and compostable materials from the landfill.
  • Decrease UW waste disposal costs
  • Increase awareness and responsibility regarding waste generation
  • Make waste sorting easier and more sustainable for building occupants
  • Help the UW reach its sustainable waste diversion goals
  • Allow custodial staff to focus on essential cleaning tasks

What evidence proves this program works?

“Mini-bin” programs have been successfully implemented at many public and private sector organizations. For example:

  • Recycling at Work study commissioned by Keep America Beautiful in 2014 found a 20 percent increase in office recycling.
  • A case study from 2002 focusing on two of the first institutions to implement “mini-bin” programs: the Ontario provincial government and the San Jose city government.
  • Dartmouth College, which increased its recycling rate by 33% and reduced the amount of waste sent to landfills by 200 tons within one year.
  • Sonoma State University, which increased its recycling rate by 55% within one year.
  • University of North Carolina at Charlotte, which increased its recycling rate by 20% and saved $13,000 annually on garbage bag liners.

Sources: Keep America Beautiful and Tufts University

How do we know the program is working?

The UW measures and tracks its waste through a landfill reduction metric. This data captures recycling rates and total waste trends over time.

Does this program affect all buildings at the UW?

All academic, administrative and facilities buildings on UW campuses in Seattle and Bothell have adopted or will adopt MiniMax. It’s also a standard in all new construction at the UW in Seattle.

How do custodial staff redirect the time that used to be spent emptying desk-side bins?

Custodians focus on essential tasks for the health and cleanliness of the University, such as restrooms and high-traffic touch points. They continue to enter offices to complete other cleaning tasks like vacuuming.

Why is the black MiniMax garbage bin so small?

The small garbage bin will typically suffice because most office waste is recyclable or compostable. Common items that do belong in the garbage are wrappers and chip bags. If you’re not sure how to dispose of your items, visit our Disposal Guide.

What do I put in the green MiniMax bin?

Only recyclable materials such as plastic and glass (bottles, tubs and jugs), aluminum cans and paper. If you’re not sure how to dispose of your items, visit UW Recycling’s Disposal Guide.

How do I dispose of food waste or compostable packaging?

Please put any food waste and compostable packaging/serviceware directly into a centralized compost bin. If you’re not sure how to dispose of your items, visit UW Recycling’s Disposal Guide.

Why are desk-side MiniMax bins unlined?

This reduces the number of plastic bags in the waste stream and the expense of plastic liners.

Where do I empty my desk-side MiniMax bins?

When your bins are full, empty them into centralized recycling and landfill (garbage) bins.

When am I going to find time to empty my desk-side bins?

Many people are surprised how infrequently they need to empty their bins. Do so whenever you need a break from the computer in accordance with recommended ergonomics guidelines.

What happened to the old garbage can under my desk?

Depending on the size and design, outdated desk-side bins are either reused elsewhere on campus, resold via UW Surplus, or recycled.

How do I get replacement or additional MiniMax bins?

Please submit a service request. We typically deliver within five business days.

What if I have more questions about the MiniMax program?

If you have any questions or concerns that are not covered in this FAQ, please review the Disposal Guide or contact