Whether your business is big or small there is value in learning about the waste that your operation is generating. Waste is generated in every place of business, but the type and amount of waste can vary significantly from establishment to establishment. In order to best manage your waste stream, SWACO recommends that you conduct some type of “waste audit” to familiarize yourself with the waste that your business generates. A waste audit is an analysis of the types and quantities of waste that you generate, and where that material is generated. While a waste audit may be most valuable if no recycling is taking place in your place of work and you are planning to start a new recycling program, even if your business currently has a recycling program in place there is still value in conducting a waste audit.
There are different methods of waste audits that can be conducted. Each audit method will require different levels of preparation and supplies. The different audit methods also provide varying levels of detail and precision for businesses to analyze.
Audits can be as simple as a visual audit of select waste receptacles. The information gathered from this approach will be less precise as you are simply walking through your building taking an inventory of the location of waste containers and the types and estimated percentages of materials inside those containers. While the information obtained through this process isn’t as detailed, it will require less time and planning to implement while providing you with useful insights. If your team or operation is smaller this might be the best method for you.
SWACO has created a simple spreadsheet for businesses that are looking to conduct a visual audit.
A comprehensive waste audit is considered a best practice and will provide more detailed and precise information (often just referred to generically as a "waste audit"). When conducting a waste audit, the waste materials are collected, physically sorted into specific material categories and weighed. The results from this type of audit are detailed, quantified data that can be useful for helping develop a program and future evaluations on the program's success. It is also helpful information when determining the costs or revenues associated with recycling certain waste streams. While conducting a waste audit is probably more useful for a larger business or a business with a complex waste stream, it can be valuable data for a business of any size.
SWACO has created a tool to allow your team to input information related to your operation and show the opportunities for recycling and composting the waste that you generate.