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Executive Summary

This project seeks to meet two objectives.  First, it will directly measure the efficacy of two new systems of solid waste management offered by UW Recycling by directly quantifying the benefits of these systems in a devoted case study.  Second, it seeks to use the results of these efforts as a means of advocating for administrative and user-based change in solid waste management at UW.

Efforts to address the first goal will be undertaken through a detailed study of Denny Hall’s waste stream.  This work will begin by characterizing the efficiency of the current system of waste disposal in Denny.  Importantly, this system does not currently provide compost bins, and this is a major problem since 1) composting is a more sustainable waste-disposal strategy than landfilling, 2) composting is cheaper per ton of waste than landfilling ($55 versus $145), 3) the UW sends about 4990 annual tons of waste to landfills (costing about $1.3 million annually), and 4) previous work shows that most of what UW sends to landfills is compostable.  Next, UW Recycling will install two systems designed to improve the efficiency of solid waste collection – and composting in particular – in Denny Hall; these systems are the MiniMax system and restroom paper towel composting.  The second half of this work will then measure whether these systems improve Denny’s waste efficiency, including improvements in both sustainability and financial expense.  Results will then be reported to UW Recycling to aid this office in convincing buildings across the UW campus to adopt these systems.

Efforts to address the second goal will be undertaken through a broad program of student involvement and project outreach efforts.  These efforts will include diverse student participation in the project proper, as well as the dissemination of results to students through social media and our website, an educational video, campus events, collaboration with student environmental groups, and presentation of results and insights to a broad range of UW classes.

This project will be conducted by the University of Washington Garbology Project (UWGP;, a student-led initiative operating in partnership with UW Recycling and the UW Anthropology.  In carrying out this project, we will draw upon the resources of these offices as well as existing ties with the Burke Museum, UW Housing and Food Services, the UW Program on the Environment, SEED, SAGE, Eco Reps, the Environmental Stewardship Committee, UW Bothell, and Shoreline Community College.  Lastly, a portion of the funding requested will support dedicated efforts to expand our network of connections as a means of increasing the positive campus-wide impacts of the proposed project.

We are requesting a total of $9000 to conduct this project.  The majority of this money ($6000) will be devoted to hiring two students as part-time employees devoted to managing project analysis and outreach efforts.  The remainder will be devoted to materials and supplies needed to implement the proposed systems in Denny Hall, conduct waste analysis efficiently, cleanly, and safely, and support outreach efforts.

Primary Contact:
Jack Johnson