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How to Conduct a Waste Audit



Assess the Composition of Your Waste
Conduct a Waste Audit
Weight/Volume Conversion Tables
Oahu - Amount Recycled by Year
Oahu Waste Composition
Waste Audit Worksheets

Assess 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. Oahu’s 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.

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Conduct a Waste Audit

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 facility’s waste receptacles. Look into the trash cans in work areas and into the facility’s 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 company’s 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 company’s 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?

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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 Acrobat Reader).

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© 2005 City & County of Honolulu's Department of Environmental Services.