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Waste Audit: Why does my facility need one?


I’m constantly being asked why does our facility need a “Waste Audit”?  The answer is simple.  A “Waste Audit” sets the baseline from which, all future activities concerning waste and recycling, including process, performance and cost can be measured.  The baseline has become even more important in order for federal agencies to meet the requirements stipulated in Executive Order 13514.

The Waste Audit begins by developing a characterization of the waste and recyclables, as well as to the handling processes or flow within a facility.  In addition the human behavior associated with waste and recycling needs to be analyzed. This two-pronged approach enables the facility, to create a strategy to achieve operational efficiencies or “Best Practices” at each facility and modify human behavior or drive “Culture Change”, the keys to long-term success.  The Waste Audit is used as the cornerstone to build an overall plan to improve waste and recycling processes and management. 

A Waste Audit captures the uniqueness of each facility with respect to variables including, but not limited to personnel, size, volume, facility age, geographic location, demographics, visitors, etc. A Waste Audit will also identify precise plans to meet each facility’s specific requirements. Recommendations and suggestions issued in each Waste Audit Report begin the process of developing unique plans for the facility.  Each facility has its own personality and specific issues.  Programs often differ to suit the needs of the facility while accommodating the space available.

The first task of the Waste Audit is to review the waste and recycling data currently on file for the facility.  A field audit team will review all vendor contracts, twelve months worth of invoices, shipping papers, internal reports and any policies and procedures dealing with waste management, recycling, waste minimization or sustainability initiatives.  Once a preliminary baseline is established, members of the audit team, through site visit(s), will collect additional data.  The site visit(s) will include analyzing and observing waste generation and disposal and recycling accumulated over a 24-hour period. This process may be repeated several times until there is confidence in the accuracy of the information gathered.

Interviews and site visits are scheduled with staff responsible for operations, and those that are involved in activities that help generate or manage the waste or recyclables.  This may include personnel from janitorial, purchasing, shipping/receiving, maintenance or contracting.  To prepare for the site visit, the audit team will prepare and submit a detailed questionnaire and documents request to the staff so that relevant documentation can be collected prior to and during the site visit.

The audit team will schedule site visits to coincide with the building’s operation staff schedules and optimum times for field observation.  For example, staff interviews may be conducted during business hours or at a time least disruptive to operations. Data collection will sometimes continue after the site visit(s) are complete. 

A Waste Audit team should be guided by an audit checklist, which specifies information needed to evaluate current waste management practices and the feasibility of replacing existing practices with more sustainable protocols.  A good waste audit report will become a road map forward for the facility to meet its goals and requirements.

By: Peter S. Lobin, Garbologist

Solid Waste Solutions Corp.

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