Topic of the Month: Waste Audits

June 10, 2022

What is a Waste Audit?

A waste audit is defined as a thought-out process that is implemented to adjust the quantity of waste, especially the different types of waste being produced by a particular company.  According to many experts, completing a waste audit will provide valuable information and benefits for a company. Some of the benefits include saving money, meeting certification standards, and access to better and more accurate data. 

How can a Waste Audit Benefit a Company?

In many countries it is necessary to conduct a Waste Audit within 6 months of the creation of a new business or within 6 months of the regulation being imposed by the government. Furthermore, a company can independently impose a waste audit in order to collect valuable datasets. The question arises: How can a waste audit benefit a company? First of all, a waste audit provides a lot of data points that can pinpoint how a company can reduce its waste, the effectiveness of its waste management and conclude if a new waste strategy needs to be implemented in order to be sustainable.  

Additionally, a waste audit can assist a company whilst examining which waste management system is the most effective, in order to do so it analyzes trends. These trends can then be broken down into segments that highlight several aspects, such as, for example, how to save more money by implementing the right waste management system. Given this example, one can reevaluate purchasing in order to buy less of what's being wasted. 

A waste audit also has several other benefits for a company, including the fact that it can measure the success of a company – Once a waste audit has been completed it can be used as a benchmark in order to improve in the future and set a quantifiable plan to reach certain goals. After a company has done several waste audits over time one can use these audits in order to see the companies trends and discover further areas of improvement. 

There are a lot of beneficial factors of a waste audit, especially for big companies! A company can advertise these trends and allow the public access to the information. Moreover, it shows the public that the company is becoming sustainable, by activating its workforce.

A Simple Checklist 

In today’s world an employee wants to help its business with sustainable practices. Hence, the more you throw out the more money you need to spend on trash and replacement materials. 

Before trying to solve this problem all at once, the best way to tackle this problem is by conducting a plan. If you do not have any information at disposal, the best way forward is to complete a waste audit. 

Should I DIY or Hire a Service Company? 

DIY audits are very beneficial for small educational events to highlight the types of waste generated. However, waste audits that are being generated for a specific purpose should always be done by experts. Audit Service Companies are experts in their field and know what to look out for and how to analyze the data and present it in a professional way. 

First of all, businesses that produce a small amount of waste (offices, retail stores etc.) or businesses that simply want to gather simple datasets can conduct their audit by themselves. There are no external costs that are being generated with an DIY audit. Hence, below you will find a simple step by step approach to an DIY waste audit. 

Assemble a Team & Set a Date 
  1. Create a Survey that will be send out to each department within a company, in order to find a volunteer from each department to form your “Waste Audit Team”
  2. Transform this Team to a “Sustainability Committee” so that they are able to oversee any changes you want to make as a result of the audit. 
  3. Next find a suitable date for the audit to take place. You want a clear picture of your current waste management, hence choose a week where there are no important events, meetings or a week where most of your staff are on vacation. If you have daily or weekly cleaning staff, make sure to inform them not to come that week. 
Determine waste category 
  1. Before the infamous “Waste Audit Week” make sure that you have a list prepared that lists all the categories you want datasets on (e.x. list of the most common trash types). 
  2. Common Waste Audit Categories:
  • Cardboard 
  • Paper 
  • Plastic 
  • Glass 
  • Food waste 
Gather your Tools 
  1. Before the event you need to make sure that you have all the necessary tools at your disposal. 
  2. For example tools that are needed for your waste audit can be: 
  • An open area for sorting the trash.
  • Rubber gloves for each volunteer.
  • Face masks for each volunteer.
  • Tongs for each volunteer (optional).
Sort you trash 

It’s time to get to the real hands on work. Here’s a good idea on how to do a waste audit:

  1. At the end of the week make sure to round up all the trash and recycling that has been produced. 
  2. If you want to analyze what department has generated what trash, make sure that you label the trash with the corresponding department. 
  3. Weigh all the trash to get a baseline for how much you throw out per week. 
  4. Weigh all the recycled products in order to establish how much you recycle per week. 
  5. Wearing gloves sort all the trash to the corresponding categories. If you labeled your trash by department, make sure that you have separate boxes at disposal. 
  6. Once every category has been sorted, weigh each category. 
Analyze your results 

Now that you have conducted the hard part, you are now able to analyze your results through simple mathematical calculations. Calculate and record your waste diversion rate using this process 

  1. Divide the weight of your recyclables by the combined weight of all your waste (trash + recyclables).
  2. Multiply the result by 100.
  3. This gives you the percentage of waste you divert from the landfill each week.

Look at the weights you recorded for individual waste categories.

  1. Which categories are highest?
  2. Did the highest categories differ between departments?
  3. Did you find any recyclables mixed in with the trash?
  4. Were there categories you didn’t realize you had?

Do not lose this report as it's your waste audit, which is very important. 

Next Steps 
  1. Determine whether your dumpster size and pickup frequency still matches your needs. If your trash output changed, a different size or number of pickups may be more cost-effective. 
  2. Hire a recycling service if you don’t already have one. If you’re only recycling a few items, consider recycling more—either through your current service or one that specializes in waste from your industry.
  3. Set a goal for increasing your recycling rate.
  4. Create recycling guidelines for meeting that goal and share them with your staff. 
  5. Set a goal for reducing the amount of waste in your largest categories. 
  6. Determine the steps to meet that goal and let your staff know. For example, you might switch to online bill pay to reduce paper. Or buy a different coffee maker to avoid wasteful coffee pods.
  7. Identify any items you can reuse. For example, can you repair or recycle your electronics instead of purchasing new ones? Can you repurpose any of your packaging materials? 
  8. Decide on a timeline for meeting your recycling and reduction goals. One or two years usually makes sense. Plan to conduct another waste audit at that time to see if you met your goals.

Now you have officially done a waste audit for your company - congratulations! Did you enjoy the task? Did you find useful information that can help you? Let us know if you are planning on implementing a “waste audit week” for your company.  We are looking forward to seeing some great ideas. 

Do you already have an idea when you will start your waste audit? With Clime you have the opportunity to directly link your role as a recycling buddy and help your company become more sustainable!



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