the Composition of Your Waste
a Waste Audit
- Amount Recycled by Year
the Composition of Your Waste
Businesses face the challenge of controlling costs
and improving productivity in order to remain competitive in their marketplace.
Strategies that reduce waste can positively affect the way you buy,
use and dispose of materials and can reduce your operating costs.
A waste audit is the first step in setting up your business waste
reduction program. It tells you what types of trash you generate and
in what quantities, allowing you to target specific materials and operating
practices for waste reduction. Once you are better acquainted with the
composition of the waste your business generates, it is easier to identify
those materials that could be recycled and items that could be "used
less" or "used again."
Before beginning your waste audit, it is helpful to understand some
common terminology and to see some examples:
Waste Composition refers to a breakdown of the numerous
items found in solid waste. Typically, this breakdown describes waste
in terms of the material from which it is made and presents the relative
proportions of each material, usually in percentages by weight. Oahus
Waste Composition and Recycling is
provided as an example of waste composition summaries.
Generator Type refers to the specific type of establishment
generating waste, such as retail, office, restaurant, hotel, etc. Numerous
examples of waste composition by generator type or industry type taken
from EPA studies are presented in Tables 3 through 7 (Click to download
a PDF file containing Tables and Worksheets).
Waste Generation refers to the rate at which solid waste
is generated. It is usually expressed in terms of population, or the
number of employees, and a unit of time.
For example, office buildings generate 400lbs./employee/year.
Conduct a Waste
Develop a waste audit worksheet that suits your type of business.
The worksheet should list all products used in your operations by category
such as office paper, newspaper, cardboard, glass, metal, plastic, food
waste and yard waste. Numerous examples of waste audit worksheets are
presented in worksheets 1 through 4 (Click to download a PDF file containing
Tables and Worksheets).
You can use them as-is or adapt them to suit your business.
Conduct a walk-through investigation of your facilitys
waste receptacles. Look into the trash cans in work areas and into the
facilitys central dumpsters. Conduct the walk-through just prior
to janitorial collection and hauler service pickup. That way, you will
get the full picture of your companys waste stream. Repeat the
walk-through every day for a period of one or two weeks.
Estimate the relative proportions of each item
listed on the worksheet. Mark down how much of each item is being discarded
in each work area and in the central dumpsters. Work area data may identify
high generation areas for specific recyclable materials. Central dumpster
data will give you the big picture.
Cross-check your estimates against your companys
purchasing records. How much copy machine and computer paper do you
order each month? How many cases of beer and soda? How many cardboard
boxes come in? Estimate how much of all these items goes out the front
door with your customers versus the back door into your dumpster.
Consider seasonal or operational factors that may increase or
decrease your generation of waste and specific materials, and adjust
your data accordingly. Files may be purged periodically. Large volumes
of certain computer reports may be generated quarterly or annually.
The visitor and retail industries have designated high and low seasons
for business during the year. The rainy season encourages the growth
of greenery, which can increase your generation of lawn and garden trimmings.
You may want to conduct the walk-through investigation again during
these periods to gather supplemental data.
Assess your current waste collection and hauling service. Who
collects and transports the waste through your facility? What kind of
system and equipment do they use? Who hauls the waste from your dumpsters?
How many dumpsters? How often are they picked up? How much are you charged?
Waste Audit Worksheets
Numerous examples of waste audit worksheets are presented
in worksheets 1 through 4. You can use them as-is or adapt them
to suit your business. These worksheets are contained in a PDF
file which you can download and then read with Acrobat Reader (Click
to download PDF file containing Tables
and Worksheets). If you do not have Acrobat Reader,
you can download it and use this software for free (click to download