A bin audit is a great way to take stock of what waste you could be avoiding, and improve your composting and recycling habits.
What can you do
Conduct a bin audit to discover all the ‘waste’ that could be avoided, recycled or composted.
How you can do it
Whether at home or in your workplace, bin audits are a great way to understand waste you’re creating and discover any confusion about the alternatives. For example, if your bin audit shows that family members or co-workers are putting cardboard in the landfill bin, you can check to see if there is a service for it to be recycled.
Getting Set up
- If you’re at work gather together a team of colleagues who are keen to conduct a bin audit. It’s a much quicker and more fruitful process if conducted with a few people. Otherwise, at home, you can tackle the task by yourself or get the other members of your household involved.
- Pick a day not long after your bins have just been emptied (you don’t want to rummage through week-old waste). Make sure that you’ve given sufficient time for the bins to collect waste, but not too long that it’s started to go putrid.
- Find a location that’s sheltered, has good airflow and is easy to clean. Make sure that the waste won’t blow away in the wind, too.
- Source some tarpaulin from a friend, neighbour, or colleague.
- Optional: gather some buckets and scales to calculate the volume and weight of the waste you audit.
- Draw a table so you can keep a record of the waste you find. You may find you just need two columns: Category of waste and weight/volume. However, it’s always handy to prompt yourself to write the date, who helped with the audit, and what type of bin you were auditing (compost, general waste, recycling).
- Find some gloves (preferably washable) so that your hands stay clean.
On the day
- Gather your rubbish bin/s. Separate them by type (this may be: compost, recycling, general waste but it depends on the separation system in your home or workplace).
- Start with one type of rubbish and empty it all onto the tarpaulin.
- Separate the rubbish into piles. For example, you may separate the general waste bin into: batteries, paper, food, plastic bottles, plastic cutlery, soft plastic, cans, cardboard, glass.
- Estimate the volume or percentage of waste in each pile (or accurately weigh if you have scales) and write this in your table.
- If you have other bins, repeat this process with them, then clean up.
Taking the next steps
Once you’ve audited your bin, there’s a lot of useful information that can come from it. Start by taking note of the “low hanging fruit”; in other works, things that you can change quickly and still make a big impact.
Focus on those one or two items and figure out how you can improve. It might be eliminating a certain item or product that ends up in your waste a lot, or sourcing a local recycling centre for items that can’t go in the regular recycling bins.
Set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based) goals to reduce each item found in your bin audit. Reflect on these goals on a regular basis, and conduct a bin audit every 6 or 12 months to track your progress.
- Reduce waste that needs collecting and reduce transport pollution.
- Engage with family members or employees on their waste, helping them to share specific behaviours they can change.