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WASTE AUDITS - Top 4 Reasons Why Businesses and Municipalities Invest

Written By: Philip Breault

Posted: February 11, 2015

Waste audits are important for building the foundation of an effective waste management strategy. Without it, it can feel like you’re navigating through a jungle without a compass and without knowing your bearing, it’s nearly impossible to find your destination. Here are four top reasons why investing in a comprehensive audit is a smart choice for your waste diversion strategy:

  1. You’ll know the lay of the land. 

By identifying which products and packaging are being discarded, you can better focus your communications outreach strategy to promote, educate and change consumer waste disposal habits.  In the past, we’ve seen companies spread their resources out in order to increase their waste diversion rates however, it makes sense, both financially and environmentally, to target key material capture rates that have been underperforming.  This will improve problem areas as well as increase the efficiency of your waste management plan. 

  1. You’ll set a benchmark on which to monitor future improvement

The first audit can be seen as the baseline. Once you have this data, you will be able to measure your progress against your goals and re-evaluate your approach moving forward.

  1. You’ll be able to report on your success

With hard numbers, you can monitor trends year-over-year. Waste audits will provide you with the information needed to share your outcomes in a transparent way. This can be a good public relations tools for communicating your commitment and success to key stakeholders. 

  1. You can reduce operating costs

Audits can optimize your waste management strategy resulting in cost-savings and higher efficiencies within your operations. For example, you may decide to increase the garbage collection frequency, increase the amount of bins/size of bins, etc.

Tips from the Experts

Detailed Planning

Hire a waste audit expert who can help generate the scope of the work to ensure that you have included the necessary steps for planning, executing and delivering an accurate report, and this is something that will set the tone for future audits. 

*Note that residential waste audits are significantly different from commercial building waste audits and it is vital to have expert knowledge and experienced staff to guide and direct the audit. 

Material Collection and Sorting

  • Hired auditors must fully understand collection frequency (e.g. daily, bi-weekly, weekly pickups) and typical operating procedures (where the material is stored, how they are handled after drop off, etc.) to ensure accurate data reporting.

  • Typically, the public should be unaware of audits being conducted because they can consciously and/or unconsciously alter their disposal behaviours resulting in skewed data. 

  • Sorting is best completed in a covered and clean working space. 

  • Selecting material categories must be carefully considered to allow analysis and insight into the material disposal trends that will help form management or remediation plans.  The material categories chosen should suit present and forecasted needs to allow for comparative studies.

Data Analysis 

  • The data gathered from the audit reveals waste generation and consumer behaviour information for consideration. 

  • More efficient planning and design can reduce overall costs by promoting best practices and reducing unnecessary collection practices (i.e. avoidable costs).  

  • The results will help shape future initiatives to improve material capture rates. 

Philip Breault is a consultant for Reclay StewardEdge, an environmental consulting company, and he specializes in planning, implementing and managing waste audits for a number of packaging producers and municipalities across North America. Audits planned and executed by RSE have helped clients achieve their performance targets, increase their efficiency rates and lower their overall operating costs. 

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