Everything we throw away is something that we don’t need. That may seem self-evident, but combined with life-cycle thinking it means an opportunity to reduce manufacturing emissions, energy consumption, transportation, and even raw materials extraction associated with whatever object we didn’t need. “Reduce, reuse, recycle” remains a powerful hierarchy of solid waste management, but there are even more details of product and materials management, economics, and urban ecology that can receive both our research attention and our operational attention.

Target actions for 2022

View actions for past fiscal years

Sustainability plan guiding principles

  •  Ensure students achieve sustainability literacy
  •  Choose our research conscientiously
  •  Keep equity and inclusion at the center
  •  Use resources responsibly
  •  Decarbonize

The UW landfilled 4,812 tons of material in FY2019; the 2025 goal is to generate less than 4,332 tons annually. Based on the 2018 waste characterization study, we estimate that 19% of our landfilled waste is compostable paper and 14% is food waste. UW generates about twice as much compostable waste compared to recyclable waste. While UW recycles 63% of recyclable materials that are discarded, only 46% of compostable waste is composted on campus (48% of it is landfilled and 5% of it contaminates our recycling). The UW generated 1,933 tons of mixed recycling. Based on the same study, we estimate that the recycling is contaminated by 7% food waste and 6% compostable paper.

Recycling has been available in many forms on campus for decades but compost is relatively new. By focusing on increasing access to and awareness of compost on campus, the UW can not only reduce the amount of landfilled material and the corresponding carbon footprint, but also ensure our recyclable items are clean and recycled successfully.

Steps we will take in FY 2022

  1. Increase compost capacity.

  2. Increase outreach/awareness for proper waste sorting.

Responsible party

UW Recycling

Statuses and linkages

There are compost bins in every kitchen, dining area, and restroom in every building on campus. Most buildings have compost bins in lobbies, public areas and hallways as well, but there are still several that don’t meet new waste infrastructure guidelines with expanded compost collection. UW Recycling currently advertises the importance of composting on digital boards in Residence Halls, Dining Halls and the HUB. UW Recycling also provides free training and resources about composting to all UW Seattle staff, faculty and students and can be leveraged for use by Bothell and Tacoma campuses.

Financing

  • UW Recycling’s operating budget should cover the work of increasing awareness and improving infrastructure so people can compost rather than recycle/landfill their compostable material.

Metrics

  • Compost rate/# of buildings with added composting facility (37 buildings in Seattle).

  • Number of outreach events and number of attendees.


By FY2023, HFS will seek to have all UW Dining kitchens transition to low-waste by reducing waste volumes by 10%. Current kitchen waste levels are a result of over-production and over-purchasing due to a lack of robust historical data, analysis, and forecasting tools. Increased data creates more informed forecasting, which in turn allows UW Dining to more accurately estimate the volume and needs of patrons. HFS will take Actions to increase the accuracy of these estimates which will ultimately result in a 10% reduction of over-production and over-purchasing, to be maintained in perpetuity.

Steps we will take in FY 2022

  1. Identify all non-HFS dining locations.
  2. Create training materials for low waste kitchens.
  3. Provide training materials and meet with non-HFS dining leaders.

Responsible party

UW Recycling and Housing & Food Services

Statuses and linkages

Over-production and over-purchasing tracking is currently being manually facilitated within HFS Dining units with some limitations including but not limited to comprehensive cost tracking, production scheduling, and automated menu-driven ordering. Weekly inventory data is also being recorded via mobile inventory and is routinely reviewed for appropriate stock levels. In order to achieve automated data retention, tracking and analysis, HFS Dining must complete implementation of CBORD FSS within its dining units.

Financing

  • Implementation of manual over-production and over-purchasing tracking necessitated a nominal investment and is currently being utilized in units. The purchase and implementation of weekly inventory occurred in fall of 2019. Implementation of the menu management software required to achieve low-waste in perpetuity will require a budget of approximately $171,000, requested and approved in April 2019. These costs include software and technology investments as well as implementation consulting and staff training; additional costs will be reassessed as they arise.

Metrics

  • Number of dining units provided information.

Waste Diversion Through Donation

Besides reducing our kitchen waste, we also have a plan for better handling the waste that we do have. Some high-quality food waste can avoid either landfilling or composting, and instead be donated to other organizations. 2019 food recovery for donation was 15,000 pounds (9,000 pounds from Housing & Food Services/Dining, and 6,000 pounds from UW Recycling’s student moveout collection program). Our goal is to reach 16,000 pounds collected for donation by 2022.


The University of Washington has partnered with the Post- Landfill Action Network for an Atlas Fellowship to complete a holistic assessment of the UW’s waste reduction across the three campuses. With the report, the UW will have a better understanding and benchmarks of what systems we have in place and what systems are needed to reduce waste.

Steps we will take in FY 2022

  1. Complete and review a tri-campus zero waste assessment report.
  2. Share results with stakeholders and identify opportunities.

Responsible party

UW Recycling

Statuses and linkages

The zero-waste assessment will provide us information on our entire waste infrastructure, and the findings will inform our efforts to reduce single-use disposables, as well as other current and future Actions under this target.

Financing

  • UW Recycling’s budget will include the work of reviewing the assessment report and sharing results with stakeholders.

Metrics

After the assessment is completed, we will evaluate possible measures and determine metrics.