How to Conduct Your Own Waste Audit

Cecilia Wilborn, Recycling Program Manager, shows us how to conduct our own waste audit at home!

Now that you’re spending more time at home, you may be noticing your weekly collection of recycling and trash is increasing. Gather your family and work as a team to take part in a week-long household waste audit. The audit may reveal {better} solutions for some of the products you’re purchasing (think: bars of soap vs. liquid body wash).



Video transcript:

Hi everyone! My name is Cecilia Wilborn and I am part of Bridging The Gap’s recycling team. Today I am going to show you how to do an at home waste audit. A waste audit allows you to observe all of the items your household produces as waste and see what items can be diverted through reuse or recycling alternatives that you may not have explored before. And for anyone who is currently homeschooling children, this would be a great way to engage them, possibly include some math or science education.  Let’s get started!

Getting started on your waste audit is easy! You will dispose of your trash and recycling as you typically would the only difference is you want to keep all of your food waste in a separate container so that after the seven days everything isn’t a dirty, smelly mess. As your items collect, you’ll want to take them to a dry place, such as your garage. Just be sure everyone in your household knows that they need to stay there and not get taken to the recycling center or the curb. You’ll want a full seven days of materials to properly audit.

Okay! I am at the end of my seven days journey of all the things I have collected. I am excited! I have it all out on a tarp with the exception of the organics that we placed in a separate container to keep everything clean those will be composted. So, diving right in I have some paperboard I will add that to my pile of recyclables. I have some styrofoam containers from takeout that will go in the trash.  I have plastic film which will go in our collection to take back to the grocery store drop-off. Quick note on that the easiest way to tell whether the plastic film can be recycled is if it stretches while you try to tear it. I’ve got some very thin plastic containers that kind of tear that are not recyclable that go in our trash. Paper will be recyclable. I’ve got glass that we can take to our Ripple bin. We’ll take that to the Ripple drop-off once that gets full. I’ve got some more paperboard. I’ve got plastic containers. Aluminum cans are of course recyclable. Some more multi-material items that are trash. I am going to go through the rest of this and see what I’ve got.

Okay, so I have my trash, I have my recycling that will go curbside, I have my specialty drop-off items, and that is what I have collected in seven days in our household.

The point of this waste audit is to see what trash you produce and then find recyclable and/or reuseable alternatives for some of those items. In our case, we have styrofoam containers from takeout. In a normal scenario, we would go to the restaurant, eat our food, and if we have leftovers we would have our own reusable container with us to take home the leftovers. Some items you may not find an alternative for but there is always room for improvement.

Conducting the waste audit was a lot of fun and a very enlightening experience. Seeing the waste up close and personal really allowed me to explore what alternatives I can find to those items going to our trash. I hope that you find it helpful and find some alternatives as well. If we each make small changes, we can make a big difference! Thank you for watching and good luck with your waste audit!


Download the handout Cecilia mentions!