Waste Audits ... A Valuable Economic Tool
  by : J. Michael Huls
Oftentimes, a simple waste audit can be the first step toward reducing waste, and ultimately reducing disposal cost. By performing a waste audit, a business can evaluate how much recyclables are in its waste stream and how much can be recycled or reduced. The less you throw away, the less your refuse’s that simple.

The Road to a Successful Waste Prevention and Recycling Program

First, you need to understand your waste stream, i.e., the materials placed in your waste containers, and how you generate such wastes.

Where does the waste come from and what is recoverable?
Walk through your facilities and note how and where waste is generated. What type of work is done in each area? What activities produce waste? What waste can be prevented, reused, or recycled? Look for materials which are potentially recoverable through a reuse and recycling program. Use a copy of a floor plan or a map of your facility to write down which materials are generated and where. Also, peek inside your waste containers, those both inside and outside your facility. Remember, different businesses and production areas will generate different types of discards. For example, an administrative office may generate mostly office paper, while a retail operation may generate shrink wrap and cardboard boxes.

What materials are commonly purchased and discarded?
Ask purchasing and maintenance staff about current purchasing and disposal practices to get a better idea of the flow of materials through the business. This will enable you to gauge your options and alternatives. Make an effort to purchase materials that do not utilize over-packaging. Buy in bulk. Reuse materials whenever feasible. Train staff to always recycle paper, plastic, cardboard, glass, shrink wrap, beverage containers, etc. Donate usable items, or participate in a materials exchange program. Make sure your landscape company recycles or composts all green waste. You make the choices!

Understand your waste hauling system. It is important to know your waste hauler and to understand what services they can provide. Share the findings of your waste audit with your waste hauler, and request their assistance with recycling program implementation. Once a waste prevention/recycling program has been successfully implemented, you should see a reduction in the amount of waste you generate. At this point, you may be able to eliminate a trash container (cost savings!) Or, you may be able to reduce the number of pick-ups you receive each week (cost savings!). Also consider delivering your recyclables to a local recycling center and collecting the proceeds. Visit to identify local recyclers and the materials they accept. Some recyclers will agree to furnish your business with a recycling bin, empty if for you as needed, and share the proceeds with you.

Want to know more? Plan to attend an upcoming Green Business workshop and learn what you can do to implement green practices at your place of business. Workshops will be scheduled in the following cities this spring:
  • Fontana
  • Barstow
  • Lake Arrowhead
  • San Bernardino
Look for dates and locations in upcoming newsletter issues. Also look for e-mail announcements and flyers. A webcast is also in the works for those that can’t attend a workshop.