HOW TO CONDUCT A TRASH AUDIT

When you're first starting out on your path to zero waste living, it's good to know what type of waste you're creating in the first place. It's also important to really learn your waste management system, so you know that you're sorting your waste properly. It can be surprising how easy it is to 'contaminate' the waste stream by sorting improperly for your local system.

Waste Management

It’s important to know how to sort your waste properly. Find an easy way to learn which items can be recycled, what can be composted, and what goes into the garbage.
It takes a lot of time and energy for waste management staff to re-sort waste. Unfortunately, contaminating the waste stream is more common than we realize. Food items can easily ruin otherwise recyclable items, such as paper, meaning that it will have to go to the landfill.

 

To avoid making it harder and more expensive for sorting at the facility, we need to properly sort our waste. If your municipality doesn't compost, home composting is an option. It’s also important to know what is considered hazardous waste, and to learn if you must drop certain things off in person or if there are special pick-ups available.

 

You may be able to find all of this information online or on a mobile app. If you can’t find waste sorting information using these resources, try calling for this information instead. You may be able to get a hard copy (or print it from the website) of your sorting list to put on the fridge. Keeping these details visible will make it easier for everyone in your household to sort waste. Knowing your waste management system will also help you with your trash audit!

The trash audit

It’s really common to kick off your zero waste journey with a trash audit. A trash audit is a task in which you collect all of your trash, recyclable and compostable items for a certain time period to analyze what types of waste you’re
creating at home. The purpose of this activity is to help you determine areas where you can improve on and reduce your trash. Here are the steps:

  • Grab a notebook or use a spreadsheet and add relevant categories: landfill, recycling, organics, hazardous waste

  • Establish a set period of time (e.g. one month) to audit your trash or it can be ongoing

  • You can list each item as your throw it in the trash, or grab gloves and sort through waste that’s already in your bin

Next steps

  • Review your findings and tally up all of the results
     

  • Create a chart or graph to help show what your main types of waste are (is it mostly Landfill? Organics? Recycling?)
     

  • Use this information to find ways that you can reduce your waste

 

  • Involve all family members or roommates in the discussion, so you can get everyone contributing ideas and buying into the solutions

 

  • Now that you know your recycling system, are there ways you can reduce your landfill waste and recycle better? Take some notes and set goals

 

  • Are there ways you can reduce your recycling contributions as well?
     

Think of some changes your household could make. For example, if you eat a lot of cereal and you have a lot of plastic cereal bags (trash) and cereal boxes (recycling), you could find ways to shop in bulk (avoiding trash and recycling altogether) or choose less wasteful breakfast options.

 

If you don’t already compost, would you give it a try? If your municipality has compost available, you’re set. There are many ways you can make sure your organic waste gets composted even if your municipality doesn’t offer this service, you can compost at home or find a community garden to contribute your food waste.
 

Trash audits can be ongoing and even recurring. For example, you could choose to do a home trash audit annually, which would help you to determine if you’re successfully reducing your waste compared to previous years. Ultimately, this information will help you get started on your zero waste journey!

 

Are you ready? Click here to define what zero waste means to you.

About the Founder

Hi! I'm Tara McKenna, Founder of The Zero Waste Collective. Based in Canada, I have created this community as a hub for all things zero waste! Take a look around, and join this global conversation. You can also follow my zero waste journey on Instagram at @mindfully.tara. Thanks for stopping by!

 

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