Conducting a Waste Audit

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Knowing what materials are typically disposed will help your business reduce waste, recycle more, and save money both on purchasing and on disposal costs. This information is usually collected by conducting a waste audit.

Follow the steps below to conduct your audit.

1. Evaluate the Composition of the Waste Stream

The first step in the audit process is to look at what materials you are currently disposing of and in what quantities. In developing your program concentrate on high volume materials (cardboard for retailers, paper for offices). Also evaluate high value materials such as toner cartridges and aluminum cans.

2. Calculate the Weight/Volume of Materials

Review the weight and volume of the materials you currently dispose of that could be recycled or reused. This is easily accomplished by reviewing current disposal containers, their volume, and the charges for weight and/or volume assessed by disposal companies. The frequency of pickup will give you the volume generated on a monthly and yearly basis.

Restaurants and clubs generate large quantities of glass and are often charged a surcharge for collection due to the weight. Retailers generate large volumes of cardboard that can quickly fill dumpsters. A sight survey of waste containers can often give the proportions of various materials.

3. Review the Sources of Waste Generation

  • Reduced (e.g. make two-sided copies)
  • Reused (e.g. reusing packing materials)
  • Recycled

Some haulers will collect recycled paper at a discount. In addition, businesses generating a high volume of cardboard may find it pays to bail the material; increasing its marketability.

4. Establish a Collection System

Always locate collection containers where the recyclables are being generated. The easier it is to recycle, the higher the participation rate will be. It is very important to clearly mark all collection containers and make it hard as possible to contaminate the recyclables. For example, use lids with only a hole in the top for the collection of aluminum cans. Locating the recycling containers near trashcans can cut down on contamination.

5. Compare Costs

The main reason for starting a recycling program is to reduce waste collection costs. After implementing your recycling program, conduct a second waste audit to see if your program has significantly reduced the amount of waste generated. If it has, you may want to reduce your trash collection schedule or the size of your container, which will save you money.

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