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Everything You Need to Know about Waste Audits

Everything You Need to Know about Waste Audits

Waste audits can help many businesses become more profitable and more sustainable.

Waste audits help businesses better understand their waste streams so that better waste management practices can be put in place.

If you still need to decide whether a waste audit is necessary, consider the amount of paper waste disposed of by businesses annually.

garbage, garbage can, waste

According to the Australian Circular Economy Hub, Australia produced 5.8 mega tonnes of paper and cardboard waste. This is a lot, especially considering that most people have begun moving away from paper-based record-keeping.

Although many businesses will have trash bags set out for recyclable waste, this does little to reduce waste across the board.

A waste audit can help identify where waste management streams are failing. It can also help reduce a business’s overall waste generation and implement waste management systems that deal with hazardous waste.

While you can hire an outside business to conduct waste audits for your business, they can also be done in-house, so long as a capable team carries them out.

This blog explains waste audits, their benefits, and how to conduct one for your business. It also explores the risks involved and the employee benefits that a waste audit can bring to your company.

What is a waste audit?

A waste audit analysis of a business’s waste streams. It looks at how waste is currently disposed of and whether this is conducive to best practices in the long run.

A significant benefit is that less is wasted as the total waste generated is fully assessed. A waste audit’s goal is overall waste reduction and seeks to implement cost savings measures.

Cost savings measures involve identifying how much a business pays to dispose of its waste. Professional waste auditors can assess all the trash your company produces and whether the people handling it are doing so effectively.

Waste auditors can also help company owners better understand their own waste management systems by taking them through current waste disposal methods.

Waste audits seek to ensure that waste management best practices are conducted. Materials that should be recycled, for instance, should not end up in landfills to rot.

The Benefits of Conducting a Waste Audit

Some of the benefits of conducting waste audits are best seen through an example.

ai generated, computer, technology

Say your business currently disposes of all its electronic waste (also known as e waste) by throwing it in a skip at your local landfill. It might interest you to know that you’re throwing away money.

This isn’t just bad waste management. It’s bad economics!

Old electronic parts can be recycled into new parts. Like copper wires, scrap metals are a significant income source for many landfill operators. You’re effectively giving them free money by throwing away your old computers.

And it’s not only about money here. Just because a computer is old does not mean it has lost all its value. Schools or other local facilities would love many of these parts.

A waste audit can help you identify opportunities to give back to your community. This will appeal to local consumers and enhance your organisation’s corporate image.

A waste audit’s long-term benefit is that it will aid in environmental best practices. It can help businesses set up waste streams where food waste ends up in composting heaps and hazardous material far away from humans.

A waste audit can find optimal places for recycling bins and set realistic sustainability goals for any business.

How to conduct waste audits

Professional waste management companies can conduct waste audits for businesses and households. However, it is also possible to conduct audits without outside help.

skyline, skyscraper, skyscrapers

Clean River Recycling Solutions offers 5 easy steps for conducting a waste audit. They are:

  1. Planning
  2. Collection
  3. Sorting
  4. Analysis
  5. Reporting

Let’s unpack them individually.

Planning your waste audit

Begin by setting clear aims for the scope of your audit. It would help to only audit some of your waste in a single audit. Break it up so that specific data can be gathered for particular waste.

Collecting for your waste audit

Safely store and account for all your waste over a set period. This can be a week, a month, three months, or a quarter. While you do not need to separate your waste at this stage, it is advisable that hazardous waste is managed carefully and kept separate from non-dangerous garbage.

Sorting the waste

Using personal protective equipment and other necessary safety equipment, sort through your collected waste. Tally figures for plastic, paper, food scraps, and other rubbish. The more accurate your data, the better.

Analyse your collected waste.

Go through the general waste you have sorted into bins and capture accurate statistics on the volumes produced by different waste streams. Wearing gloves is advisable even if no human comes into direct contact with the waste.

Write a waste audit report.

Waste reporting will allow a business to better understand the total waste produced by various waste streams. Accurate reports are essential in implementing any recommendations found during a waste audit. Be sure to keep these records for the next audit.

Types of Waste Audits

energy saving, recycling, garbage

Knowing what type of waste audit to conduct is essential. This decision should be made in the planning stage and will help make the overall process more cost-effective.

Sustainability Victoria names 3 main types.

They also have an excellent checklist for conducting waste audits, so I highly recommend checking them out.

The 3 main types of waste audits are:

  1. Desktop audits
  2. Visual waste audits
  3. Physical waste audits.

Let’s unpack what they mean.

Desktop Audits

A desktop audit is the simplest type of waste audit. A team needs only assess the purchasing records and receipts from the current waste management procurer to determine how much a business is spending on its waste systems.

This figure will give a business a better idea of the amount and type of waste they produce.

Note that this is a purely statistical audit.

Visual Waste Audits

A visual waste audit takes this one step further. It involves inspecting a business’s skips, waste bins, and other waste storage facilities. The goal is to estimate the volume of waste produced.

It is beneficial when it comes to practical measures. Let’s use an example to explain this.

If a business sees that very little paper is being recycled, inspecting the recycling bin would give them a better picture. If, on inspection, they see that the recycling bins that have been put out are not easily accessible, then they can better understand their business’s recycling problem.

Physical Waste Audits

This type of waste audit is the most thorough. As the name suggests, it involves physically engaging with the waste. Remember that all necessary protective gear should be worn.

A physical audit combines statistics with visuals to indicate the state of a company’s waste systems.

Can I involve my Employees in Waste Audits?

man, business people, woman

Yes, you can. In fact, involving your employees in any waste audits your business conducts is highly recommended. This provides excellent training opportunities and will decrease costs. It also affects your employees in a waste audit’s overall waste reduction goals.

Employees deal with business trash daily. Getting their input through a waste audit will help implement the suggestions.