According to the Waste Business Journal, “By 2021 there will be approximately 15 years of landfill capacity remaining, representing an annual rate of loss of 2.6%.” As such, it’s highly important for companies to pay attention to their waste production and cut back wherever possible. A great way to do so is to conduct a waste audit. The objectives of a waste audit typically include: determining areas where waste production can be decreased, addressing the type and quantity of current waste generation, and assessing the efficiency of current waste management policies. If you’re interested in improving the waste management strategies at your company in order to save time, money, and the planet, here are seven steps to conducting a waste audit in your company.
Step 1: Plan
Conducting a successful waste audit will take a bit of planning. Before launching into an audit, you should take the time to put together a team and clearly communicate the mission’s objectives. You will also need to set a date and determine the time frame of your audit. Typically, one week is enough time to get a good idea of your company’s waste habits.
Step 2: Categorize
After you have assembled a team and set a date, you should determine the most common types of trash that your business produces. Create a general list of the waste categories you’ll audit for; common categories may include paper, cardboard, glass, plastic bottles, and other plastic.
Step 3: Gather equipment
Before you start digging through your trash, you’ll need to gather some important equipment. Necessary equipment for conducting a waste audit will include garbage bags, rubber gloves, labels, boxes, protective clothing, weighing scales, and a chart to record your data.
Step 4: Sort
Next, it’s time to sort through your findings. Collect the trash that has accumulated throughout the week and sort it based on your pre-determined waste categories. You may find that you need to add extra categories you didn’t initially account for. While sorting, make a note of any recycling contamination—i.e., unrecyclable items that have been put into a recycling bin.
Step 5: Weigh
Once you have properly sorted your trash, you’ll need to weigh all the trash and recyclables. Doing so will give you a general idea of how much waste employees are throwing each week. Then, weigh each individual category of waste.
Step 6: Analyze
Now that you’ve recorded all your data, you should address any trends in the waste habits of your company. Consider which categories reported the highest amount of waste and the level of recycling contamination that you uncovered. To calculate the percentage of waste that your company diverts from landfills each week, use this formula:
(weight of recyclables ÷ (weight of trash + weight of recyclables)) × 100 = Diversion Rate
Step 7: Assess
Lastly, you’ll need to assess the results of your findings to determine any changes you want to make regarding waste management in your company. You may find that waste needs to be collected less frequently, or that you may need more-efficient waste handling systems. Based on your findings, you should also set new recycling goals that you hope to accomplish by the time of your next audit.