Waste Audit Instructions
What's in your waste? Have you ever looked at your garbage dumpster and wondered what fills it up so quickly? Or perhaps you are trying to reduce the waste your facility produces and want to know where to start. If you are a school, community facility or a small business, a waste audit might be perfect for you.
If you are a larger facility or want some extra help, try calling the Metro Vancouver Sustainable Business Services Department at 604.451.6575.
Waste Audits are a great way to figure out exactly what is going into your garbage and what materials you should focus on reducing or recycling to have the largest impact on the amount of waste you produce.
The following are a basic set of instructions for preforming a waste audit of the materials going into both the garbage and recycling on one specific day.
By auditing both garbage and recycling, you can determine your current diversion rate (the percentage of the total waste your facility produces that is kept out of the garbage).
These instructions are best suited to a larger facility, such as a school or business, but can be adapted to suit your specific needs.
- *Tarp (size depends on amount of garbage)
- *Scale (Digital Bathroom Scale works well – have a designated helper stand on scale with material and record displayed weight. Weight of helper can be removed from final weight during data analysis)
- Clear Garbage Bags
- *Recycle Bins (Bins optional for holding open bags)
- *Signage for each category
- Tracking Sheet
- Pen and Clipboard
- Hose nearby
- Some helpers
*Available to borrow from North Shore Recycling Program. Simply email Jenn to see if the supplies are available (minimum 2 weeks notice).
- Collection containers: includes any containers purposed for collecting garbage or recycling
- Waste: includes garbage and recycling
- Recycling: Paper, Cardboard, Newspaper, Beverage Containers (any materials collected for recycling). Does not include recycling put in garbage containers
- Garbage: Any material put in Garbage Cans
- Day 1 night: make sure all collection containers are empty
- Day 2 during the day: Collect waste as normal
- Day 2 night: Collect all waste and set aside (recycling in one area and garbage in another).
- Day 3 during the day: Perform Sorting
Sorting Area Setup
- Find outside area (or well ventilated area) and spread out tarp
- Place empty bags in recycle bins and place around edge of tarp
- Place category labels on each bin (best to put similar categories next to each other)
- Explain each category (listed below)
- Designate one person to weigh garbage (and record their weight)
- Designate one person to be the recorder (and provide them with tracking sheet, clipboard and pen)
- Dump all garbage onto centre of tarp
- Sort materials into bins
- Weigh Bags containing sorted materials one by one and record weight
- Dispose of sorted materials appropriately
- Repeat process for all categories (i.e. Recycling, other areas, etc.)
- Compostable paper (Paper coffee cups, napkins, paper plates, etc.)
- Compostable foodscraps (Fruit scraps, old sandwiches, etc.)
- Blue Box Materials (including plastics 1,2,4,5)
- Other plastics (3,6,7 and film)
- Refundable Drink Containers
- Mixed Paper (including cardboard)
- Newspaper (and newspaper inserts such as flyers)
- Reuse (Clothes, books, pens, etc.)
- Product Care/Hazardous Household Waste (HHW) items (ink cartridges, electronics, milk containers, etc.)
- Residuals (Garbage that can’t be recycled through municipal programs – includes, chip bags, candy wrappers, etc.)
- Any other categories for which you would like data
- Bag all materials and dispose of appropriately
- Hose down tarp and any dirty bins
- Set aside at least an hour for sorting (May take more or less time depending on the help available and the amount of material)
- To gather data from different areas of your facility, simply mark the bags with their origin (e.g. “Cafeteria”) and perform a separate sorting and weighing exercise for each area
- If you have a number of helpers, assign each person to one material to increase efficiency (i.e. “You are responsible for picking out all beverage containers”)
- The very last bit of material can be hard to sort as it is usually bits of small materials. This can just be swept up and added to the residuals bin.
- Care should be taken to make sure all garbage made during the day is collected (i.e. all garbage bins in building emptied and included in audit). Recycling can also be collected, put in a separate area and weighed to determine your current diversion rate.
- Categories can be broken down further to provide more detail (e.g. separate blue box materials, sort out shopping bags, collect coffee cups etc.)
- Numbers collected during the waste audit can be used to decide where to focus your waste reduction program.
- Process can be repeated after a waste reduction program is implemented to determine program impact.
- Further accuracy can be achieved by collecting garbage for a longer period of time to reduce any anomalies.