High School Utilising Total Quality Management to Drive Sustainability and Slash Waste Management Costs

Project Summary

Like many high schools across Australia, Marsden State High School had a number of issues with litter, waste management and morale within the Cleaning team. Sick leave rates were very high and there were dozens of Workplace Injuries within the Cleaning team each year.

Excellent Outcomes at a Glance

  • Waste removal costs slashed by 85%
  • Contaminated recycling rates reduced from 50% to 2%
  • 30% reduction in sick leave
  • $22,000  annual saving in labour waste

Something had to be done and the school decided to work with Brett Robb, a recognised expert in recycling and Total Quality Management (TQM). Brett introduced an innovative idea and that was to bring the principals of Total Quality Management into the school environment, something that had not been done previously.

The results have been impressive, the schools monthly waste management bill has been slashed from around $4,000 per month to around $500 per month, by removing recyclable items from the general waste. Now they are separating their drink containers, paper and steel products, the school is able to recycle these items and get paid! They are making around $1,000 per month on recycling. Sick leave and injury rates within the cleaning team have drastically declined and they have made productivity improvements that save around $22,000 per annum.

Lastly, many students have fully embraced the program and volunteer their time regularly. These students are learning valuable skills that make them job ready and safety aware. Litter in the school has dramatically reduced and has almost been eliminated in high visibility areas.

Cultural Change

In order to bring about the cultural changes that were needed within the Cleaning Team, some analysis was performed to identify the deeply ingrained issues. Total Quality Management tools were used to diagnose the problems and uncover solutions.

The cleaning team attended training and learnt to use tools like Value Stream Mapping and Root Cause Analysis to identify problems. During the training, team members were given a voice to discuss their concerns and empowered with the tools they needed to own the issues and be part of the solution. Although difficult at times, the process transformed the team and created a united culture.

Many of the Cleaning team are now thoroughly committed and accountable for the work they do, they are proud of the value they add to the school. They are no longer invisible to the students, in fact, they are often thanked by the students who regularly volunteer to help around the school.

Teachers have noticed the transformation and have asked: “What has happened to them as they seem so happy?”

Results in the cleaning team have been impressive, sick leave has been reduced by 30%. Cleaners are more engaged in school life, their jobs are easier and injuries rates have drastically declined. “In the past year, the school has seen an 80% reduction in lost time due to injury,” said Mr Robb.

Early results

After a few months, they were able to halve the amount of waste going to landfill and improved the contaminated recycling rates from 50% to 2%.

The project team were invited to present their impressive results to the school staff and that generated a great deal of interest from a number of departments keen to participate.