What is MiniMax?

*The MiniMax Effect Fact Sheet

MiniMax is UW Recycling’s desk-side, self-service waste collection system based on the concept “minimize waste, maximize recycling”. MiniMax is a set of bins consisting of a 28-quart recycling bin and a smaller 3-quart mini garbage bin that can hang from the side of the recycling bin.

MiniMax is self-service, which means that building occupants take responsibility for emptying their bins into centralized recycling and garbage containers. The self-service model builds awareness around recycling and promotes personal responsibility for waste generation. It also allows custodians to redirect their collection efforts to tasks more essential to the health of the University. Also, the bins are unlined, which significantly reduces the number of plastic liner bag that go to the landfill.

Converting a building to MiniMax is about more than just bins. The entire building’s waste infrastructure is reviewed and bins are moved, removed or added to allow for best coverage. The goal is to ensure there are common area bins (recycling, garbage, or even compost) available to all building occupants for emptying their desk-side MiniMax bins.


MiniMax began in 2008 at the UW Tower with great success. It soon became the standard for all renovation and new construction projects on campus. In 2011, the MiniMax program incorporated the addition of centralized compost bins, serviced by custodians, as a standard component of MiniMax installation. This addition greatly increases the public area composting options available on campus.

How to Use MiniMax

Taking care of it, you’re aware of it: that’s the concept behind the self-service nature of the MiniMax program. Use of MiniMax promotes personal responsibility for waste generation, building awareness around how much or how little waste we each generate. Self-sorting waste into appropriate recycling, composting and garbage bins further educates individuals about recycling best practices.

When your mini garbage bin is full, you are responsible for emptying it into the nearest common area receptacle; custodians will no longer enter individual offices to empty garbage bins. Your desk-side recycling bin will continue to be self-service, as it is currently. Custodians will still empty the common area bins and UW Recycling will add additional bins as appropriate.

Keeping your MiniMax clean is easy. Be sure to empty your MiniMax as often as possible. Occasionally, it’s a good idea to wipe out the bins with a damp paper towel. You can also reuse an old grocery or produce bag to line the bins. Some people like to use their mini bin to collect food scraps and approved compostable serviceware. This is great! If you do, you may want to line the mini bin with newspaper or a paper towel.


Wondering what UW colleagues have to say about their building’s conversion to MiniMax? Click here

Bin Options

Quick Reference Bin Guide

Desk-side Bins

For staff with a black, plastic waste bin that’s in good condition, your existing waste bin will be repurposed as a recycling bin and you will be given a mini garbage bin. Your desk-side paper recycling bin will be removed and it and all contents recycled. For staff with any other type of waste bin, your desk-side garbage and recycle bins will be removed and replaced with the MiniMax set. If you would like to keep your existing bins, you can. However, once a building has been converted to MiniMax, the custodians will no longer service any desk-side containers.


Common Area Bins

Conference Room Bins
These 10-gallon bins are placed in conference rooms and come in sets of 3 – garbage, mixed containers and mixed paper recycling.

Classroom Bins
These 23-gallon bins are placed in centralized areas where they are convenient for staff to empty their materials. These containers come in sets of 3 – garbage, mixed containers and mixed paper recycling.

Compost Bins
These 23-gallon bins are placed in centralized areas, typically in a kitchen or break room. One compost bin per floor (where applicable) is added to a set of recycling and garbage bins. After a building is converted to MiniMax, custodians will service this container.

Public Area Bins
These bins are usually found in the hallways and lobbies of buildings. We typically do not add these bins when converting a building to MiniMax. However, these containers can also serve as centralized collection locations for staff of the building.

How to Get Started

Email us to let us know you are interested in converting your building to MiniMax. UW Recycling will work with you and your building coordinator to conduct a site visit to assess your building’s space for MiniMax desk-side bins and any common area bin needs. Please note that UW Recycling prefers to partner with building coordinators to ensure that education and communication about MiniMax is shared with everyone in the building. After the site visit has been conducted, the installation of bins will be scheduled for time that works best for everyone involved.