May—10

What is a Waste Audit and Why do We Need One?

All your questions answered, plus how to get it done.

While there are a lot of uncertainties when it comes to workplaces, one thing that is a given is that all organisations produce waste. From business-related waste to food scraps from your employees, there is no escaping it. But by understanding what waste is produced and where, your organisation will be better equipped to handle and reduce waste, saving you money and helping your company become more sustainable. That’s where a waste audit can help.

A waste audit is a systematic review of all waste that is generated within a workplace. It gives an organisation a clear idea of what they are throwing out, how much, and what common contaminants people are producing. It helps determine how effective a waste management system already is, and identify areas for implementing new strategies.

How does a Waste Audit Work?

Waste auditors will come into a workplace and physically go through the bins by hand. They will weigh each stream and sort through the rubbish to understand what sort of materials are being discarded where, and if there are any materials that contaminate the bins.

Waste audits can be done as a one-off, but if you are implementing a new system or looking to report on waste, it is best to do them regularly to ensure your system is working and your company is improving.

Benefits of a Waste Audit

The benefits of completing a waste audit will vary depending on your company goals, but some benefits include:

  • Gathering specific data for waste reporting.
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the system already in place.
  • Finding ways to save money on waste costs.
  • Establishing the need for additional waste streams and staff education if contamination is found.
  • Determining if there is a need to cut back on buying certain products that may be going to waste. For example, you may notice that milk is going off before it is being used, so you can adjust your supply.
  • Meeting certification and ESG standards.

In-House vs External

Depending on the size of your organisation, your company needs, and how agreeable your leadership team is, you may either want to do a simplified in-house waste audit or hire waste management consultants to come in and perform the audit for you.

The benefits to an in-house one are that it’s more affordable, you get to see the process firsthand, and it can be a great experience for the team. For smaller offices that are just looking to get some basic data, an in-house audit is probably sufficient. However, it will probably not be as thorough and you won’t get the expert insight and suggestions that you would get from an external waste specialist.

If you are pursuing any external certifications, such as NABERS or B Corp, paying for an external, comprehensive waste audit will help significantly. Additionally, by having an external consultant who is knowledgeable in waste management, you may get suggestions for things you hadn’t considered before.

Once your organisation decides what is best, it’s time to get to work. If you’ve chosen to do it yourself, check out our DIY waste audit guide which will guide you through the steps necessary, and provide some worksheets to help you get there.

If you decide to go external, find a reputable company that is willing to work with you to find solutions tailor-made for your organisation.

External Providers – How to Choose?

Waste audits, when provided by an external provider, can be very beneficial for an organisation. But choosing the right one can be confusing, so there are a few things to consider before making your decision.

Make sure you choose a reputable company and read reviews. Not all waste audits are created equal, so find a provider with good reviews or one that comes recommended. If you’re not sure, check if the local council offers any advice – sometimes they have preferred providers. Otherwise, if there are any sustainable business networks in your area, you can ask them for recommendations.

When you first reach out, ask them who they’ve worked with before, what the waste audit covers specifically, and if it includes consultation on ways to improve afterwards.

Follow Up

After you’ve completed the waste audit, you can then use what you’ve learned from the experience to enact solutions to the issues that arose during the audit. Then, schedule your next audit to see if it’s working.

A waste audit doesn’t have to be a tedious and costly process. From the simple in-house check to the more thorough external ones, there are solutions for every organisation. It can provide a lot of value to a company, including finding ways to save money on waste costs, as well as evaluating the effectiveness of a system.

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