In spring 2013, UW Recycling collaborated with Custodial Services, Libraries staff, and students from EcoReps to pilot an 11-week-long restroom paper towel composting program in Allen, Suzzallo and Odegaard libraries with the goal to divert paper towels from the landfill. These particular areas were chosen due to their high traffic locations.
Guided by best practices identified by Cedar Grove, UW’s composting vendor, the team converted all 63 restrooms in the libraries to paper towel composting. Large existing garbage receptacles were relined with compostable bags instead of plastic ones and were labeled for “paper towels only.” Additionally, a smaller container was added to each restroom for garbage (labeled “landfill”) since only paper towels can be composted. A major component of the conversion was developing and posting adequate signage to educate users about the new protocol. The intention behind labeling the smaller containers “landfill” as opposed to “garbage” was to raise the community’s consciousness about where their waste is going.
EcoReps surveyed library users to measure public opinion on the new composting program. Of the 43 users surveyed, 98% said they would like to see this program available in all restrooms on campus. In total, nearly 8 tons of paper towels were diverted from the landfill when the pilot concluded.
Due to the pilot’s success and the enthusiastic receptiveness from the UW community, restroom paper towel composting is now a standard element of the MiniMax program today and is continuing to expand into more buildings on campus. This is another initiative that will help the UW reach the goal of 70% waste diversion by 2020.