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How to Conduct Your Own Waste Audit.

It’s time to pull on the rubber gloves and root out waste in your work environment.A workplace waste audit can reveal how much and what types of waste your small business creates every day, and may uncover opportunities for reducing waste pickups and related costs.Consider this: a team of 20 people working in an office produces an average of nearly 5,000 pounds of waste each year! But don’t fret. According to the National Federation of Independent Business, up to 90 percent of workplace waste can be repurposed or recycled.

Waste audit infographic – average employee waste percentages

Ready To Get Started?

You’ll need a project leader, some rubber gloves, garbage bags or boxes for categorizing and sorting your materials, a scale for weighing the contents, and a worksheet to record your findings. If your garbage is picked up every day, plan on sorting each day’s waste over the course of five days. If your garbage is picked up weekly, one assessment at the end of the week should do the trick. Smart Tip: For true-to-life results, conduct your audit during a week when most of your employees are on site and not on vacation.

Define Your Categories:

At most workplaces, cardboard, paper, plastics, metals and food (including coffee grounds) make up the majority of what goes in the garbage. Depending on your business, you may want to add categories for packing materials, chemicals, electronics, and disposable products like pens, pencils and toner cartridges. Smart Tip: Create a category for questionable items such as batteries, and fluorescent and CFL bulbs – there are recycle-by-mail kits to handle these types of waste.

Collect and Sort:

Collect and sort your wasteGrab your rubber gloves and start digging, dropping items by category into their labeled bag or box. Make a scavenger hunt of it to make the task more appealing. Be sure to weigh boxes or crates prior to filling them to get an accurate measure.

Weigh and Record:

One by one, place each sorted category container on your scale, subtracting the weight of the container itself. Mark each category’s weight in your worksheet. Now it’s time to see how your waste adds up. If you’re doing a daily audit, multiply the weights of each category by the number of days your business is open each year. For example, if you’re open 300 days a year, multiply each category’s weight by 300. For a weekly audit, multiply each category’s weight by the number of weeks you’re open each year. How did your business stack up? Smart Tip: Don’t feel like doing it yourself? Waste Management offers a waste audit for new customers.

Now What?

Now that you have a true assessment of the types and amount of waste your business is generating, it’s time to do something about it. If your audit revealed that cardboard, paper, plastics and metals outweighed your regular garbage, you should definitely consider adding recycling service to your regular waste schedule. If you find that electronics waste and hazardous materials make up a good percentage of your regular waste stream, Waste Management has programs that can help you deal with them responsibly and environmentally. Finally, try integrating a “one last use” mindset into your business culture – stapled together, used copy paper makes for excellent doodle pads.

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