Managing a waste stream efficiently is not easy. Well, it is easy enough if you are just relying on trash haulers to pick up waste from the various dumpsters in your facility and not giving much thought about where the waste is going post that. But this is not a sustainable way to deal with waste.
Regulatory requirements and cost considerations, as well as other aspects such as environmental concerns, dictate that you have to pay more attention to waste. Your waste stream management should be efficient and should ensure that recyclable materials are recovered and recycled.
A solid waste management strategy is the need of the hour. Effective waste management cannot happen without a design and strategy. Here’s where waste audits come in. This is a process where you collect and analyze the current waste you produce and look at the data to understand what the sources, quantities, and volumes are.
An audit can often throw up quite a lot of surprises, and these insights are valuable when you are formulating your waste stream management strategy. So, what are the benefits of a waste audit and how can you ensure you get the best results from an audit? We are here to help. This blog will cover some of these aspects in detail. Read on!
What’s a Waste Audit?
A waste audit is a deeper look at the waste that you produce in your business. There are various ways to classify the different types of waste that you produce. Typically, organizations categorize waste into various waste streams. Some of the common categories are
- Paper and cardboard waste
- Organic and food waste
- Hazardous waste such as chemicals
- Metal scrap
- Textile waste
- Signage and display materials etc
It may also be a good idea to categorize it further as per departments, locations, and processes. This helps you understand the amount of waste of each type that is being produced and broken down across the various departments and locations.
The audit results will tell you the volume and quantities of waste you produce. It will also give you information such as diversion rates and recycling rates. This is critical information to help you plan out your waste management process. It is often the case that you are paying a lot of money for waste disposal while some of these waste materials could be recyclable or even reusable as is. Finding this information is key.
Why Audit Waste?
A waste audit has several advantages. Here are some of the top ones.
Cost saving is an important part of waste management strategy, especially in a time of economic downturn or turbulence. You cannot afford to pay more than what you should for your waste disposal. A waste audit will help you reduce costs significantly.
You may be transporting half loads in some cases or you may need more capacity in the case of other types of waste. Adjusting the pickup frequencies will fix these issues and will reduce the amount you are paying to your haulers.
You may also find that you are disposing of recyclable materials or waste commodities that can fetch a price in the market for you. Uncovering these opportunities can often happen through a comprehensive waste audit.
The Reduce-Reuse-Recycle is a mantra at the cornerstone of all waste management systems. Your waste management process needs to take care of these elements too. Through a waste audit, you will uncover insights regarding how much waste you are producing and how much of it is actually avoidable by making small changes in your process.
You can eliminate some forms of waste altogether in some cases. In other cases, you can easily find ways to reuse some of the waste that you are producing by being a bit creative. An audit is an essential starting point for this journey.
Sustainability and Regulatory Compliance
Both of these aspects are important for your business. You need to have well-defined sustainability goals, as an environmentally conscious business. Waste diversion is an important aspect of sustainability. By reducing the amount of waste that is being sent to landfills, you can prevent greenhouse gas emissions which can lead to global warming. Organic waste can mostly be dealt with on-site by composting and creating manure or biofuel. Selling off recyclable commodities like baled cardboard waste can be an income source.
Recycling is also important in meeting your sustainability goals. By introducing a recycling program in-house or partnering with one, you can reduce the amount of waste that is being disposed of. This is important for regulatory compliance too. Federal regulations by the EPA and state legislation have diversion goals for businesses and not meeting these can lead to fines and other actions.
A lot of businesses today are also looking at certifications like LEED ratings and Zero waste certifications. An audit is important in establishing a current baseline of your waste generation at this time and you can plan out your waste management process further to meet the criteria for these certifications.
Understand the Efficiency of Your Waste Stream Management
If you have a waste management process currently in place, an audit is still a great idea. It will help you assess the quality and efficiency of your waste management process. The audit report will tell you how much waste you are currently producing and how much is being disposed of. Understanding the quantities and the volumes at regular intervals will help you stay on top of your waste removal arrangements and your overall strategy.
How To Do a Comprehensive Waste Audit?
Performing a waste audit for your business is a task that involves multiple stakeholders and continuous monitoring over a period of 2-3 weeks in most cases. Here’s how you do an audit.
Get a Team Together
You need an effective cross-functional team to do a good audit. The first step is to assemble this team from the various departments. This includes senior leaders as well as housekeeping and the janitorial staff in this team. Often, audits will need to be a continuous analysis where the process is carried out every quarter or maybe semi-annually to figure out if there are significant changes to the waste output. So it can be a good idea to make this a permanent team.
Schedule and Plan
Fixing a schedule for your waste audit and planning the process out would be the next steps. Find a convenient time for the audit based on all the locations and other aspects you may want to consider. Publicize this date across the organization so that your employees are aware of the audit and lay out what their roles and responsibilities are for the audit.
Planning for the audit is equally important. Narrow down the various categories of the waste you want to quantify. Look at other parameters that are important to your business too. What are the various departments by which you should categorize the waste? How long do you want the process to take? Planning these details out will help the audit team run the audit smoothly.
Get the Necessary Equipment
You need the right equipment and safety tools for the audit too. Face masks, Gloves, goggles, and PPEs are important for a safe audit process. You will also need weighing scales, trash bags, markers, labels, and other such equipment. It is important to train the audit team on safety and how to conduct the audit without compromising on the safety aspects of it.
Collect and Sort the Waste
Collect all the waste that is being produced in your facility across the determined period. Typically audits are conducted over a week. The waste that is generated across your business for one week is collected, sorted, and analyzed.
Sort your waste according to the pre-determined categories. You should measure and label each type of waste and also the department or the process that has produced it. Sorting the waste is very important to determine accurate quantities of the different types of waste being produced.
Tabulate and Analyze the Result
It’s data time. Tabulate all the results of the audit into a spreadsheet and analyze the data. You should also be looking at additional data points such as the number or recycling bins and trash bins in your facility and the volumes they can hold as well as the hauling frequencies for the various types of waste. Looking at this data can uncover many insights that will help you determine the efficiency of your waste management process.
It is also a good idea to repeat the process at random intervals over the next couple of weeks to assess the accuracy of the data you have collected. Are the daily numbers within range or is it varying? Understanding this also helps in establishing the accuracy of the results.
Getting a waste audit done has massive benefits for your business. You save costs, you establish a benchmark for your waste management efforts and you make your process more efficient in the long run through a thorough audit. Like any process, waste management also needs constant attention and tinkering in order to ensure that it is delivering the best results.
We often get asked if a waste audit can be an in-house project or if you need experts to help you. The best way to get the most accurate results is of course taking help from experts who know what to look for and how to complete the audit. Waste Control’s work with leading organizations has helped them achieve significant cost savings through comprehensive audits and single-vendor waste management services. Get in touch with us today to schedule a waste audit for your business!