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Bin Audit

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.

The Impact

  • 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.

More ideas

What others do

Glass of lemonade, bunch of straws and a plastic juice bottle

To find plastic free ideas, take the Plastic Free July challenge

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