How to Conduct a Waste Audit

Waste Audits
The waste audit is one of the first steps in starting a recycling program. Elements of a good waste audit are as follows:

1. 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 the high volume materials (in retail it would be cardboard and with offices it would be paper). Also look at high value materials such as toner cartridges and aluminum cans.

2. Determine Weight / Volume
Look at the weight and volume of the materials you currently dispose of that could be recycled or reused. Restaurants and bars 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. If the establishment generates a high volume of cardboard it may pay to bail the material; this can also help increase the marketability of the cardboard.

3. Sources of Waste
Look at your overall operation and determine where the waste is being generated and if this material can be:
  • Reduced (e.g. make 2-sided copies)
  • Reused (e.g. reusing packing materials)
  • Recycled (e.g. collect and recycle office paper)
4. 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 the contamination.

5. Current & Projected Costs
The main reason for starting a recycling program is to reduce waste collection costs. After implementing your recycling program you need to 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 collection schedule or size of your container, which will save you money.

Sample Forms