Waste has become a huge part of modern society, it’s unavoidable. No matter how well intentioned your environmental efforts may be, you will produce waste of some form.
What is a Waste Audit?
A waste audit is a tool that helps to analyze your waste stream – it can identify what types of recyclable materials and waste you generate personally and how much of each category is recovered for recycling or discarded.
Why Should You Do a Waste Audit of Yourself?
Waste audits are incredible tools for understanding where you stand in terms of the waste you’re creating and how you can make yourself more sustainable!
Is most of your waste food/scraps? Is a large portion of your waste comprised of plastic, paper or glass? By conducting a waste audit you can answer these questions, but more importantly you can act upon this information!
If you conduct an audit and realize that the majority of your waste is comprised of food and scraps, then maybe looking into composting would be the next step for you!
If you finish your audit and it seems like a large portion of your waste is actually coming from plastic, then getting a recycling bin and dropping it off at the supermarket whenever you go may be the best move. Even better, this may bring to your attention just how much you single-handedly use and cause you to change your own habits!
Whatever your results, there is something to be learned and this invaluable information will build the foundation for your sustainability journey going forward.
How to Conduct a Quick and Easy Waste Audit at Home?
Get some supplies to help you being organized and clean!
- Trash bins
- Recycling bins
- A computer with excel on it (and someone that knows how to use it!)
- Pen and paper in case said computer dies
Gather up the waste that you want to audit
My suggestion would be to look at a working week, as your waste can change from day to day as we live our lives differently as each day goes by – so for the most realistic snapshot of your waste give it 5-7 days! I would suggest doing the audit every evening for the week and recording the data and then at the end you can compare the different days.
There are different ways that you can collect your waste to help you in your audit:
- Collecting all the trash each evening and sorting it afterwards
- Having the bins out all day and sorting as you throw each item away (easy to do when on your own or in a small family)
- If you do this, make sure you have weighed the bin and recorded it’s weight beforehand as a control value
Figure out how you want to separate the waste
If you hope to recycle, compost, or reuse more of your waste, your audit should measure the waste that falls into each of these categories.
My suggestion would be something like:
- Plastic (#1&2, as currently these are the only plastics that can be recycled in Cayman)
- Plastic (All other plastic)
- Paper and Cardboard
- Food/Compostable/Organic Waste
- Hazardous/Toxic waste
Recording your findings!
Whatever method you used to collect your waste, now is when you’ll record all of the weights of the different categories and enter this into your spreadsheet of data. Make sure you have weighed the bin and recorded it’s weight beforehand as a control value, as you will want to subtract this from the weight of the total to get your waste weight.
Make sure you document each value in an organized spreadsheet that includes the specific categories. If you conduct daily audits every day for a week, your documentation should include different sets of data for each day. Now you can organize your information according to day of the week, category of trash, and anything else you record.
Graph your results
Use all the data you’ve collected to map the information visually to make sense of all those numbers, using pie graphs or charts to show the stark difference between categories. If you have children, this could be a great learning opportunity!
What kind of trash do you produce the most? If it’s non-recyclable and non-perishable, there’s probably a more efficient alternative. For example, if plastic packaging makes up a bulk of your waste, phase out individually packaged food items by buying in bulk. If you waste a lot of textiles or rubber, there may be more durable or eco-friendly materials available for your home.
What can you do to shrink your collective carbon footprint together? Create recycling plans and systems in your home and make it easy for everyone to participate in conservation. Think about alternatives that could help reduce your waste, implement this and start living a more conscious, sustainable lifestyle.
If you have any questions about doing your own audit, or would like some advice on analysis and lifestyle changes after you’ve looked at your results please let me know – I used to be a professional waste auditor for a recycling organization and I miss it!