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One of the team at ISL has just returned from the Falkland Islands and Ascension Island after conducting a waste audit. Conducting a waste audit sounds like you have to get a bit dirty! In fact they are extremely useful things indeed. Waste audits are used to identify the materials being deposited in bins with a view of establishing recycling options. The audit allows an estimation of the volumes of different materials being produced.
They were used a lot during early 2000s to help local authorities understand what waste was being produced and whether it varied according to demography – for example, leafy suburbs versus high rises, student populations, tourism, etc. The Government actually banned waste audits in 2010 for being too intrusive! However they are still used by large organisations and private sector businesses to understand what waste is being produced. Organisations like the NHS and MoD are likely waste audit users. There is no legal obligation to do one but they enable organisations with recycling targets to gain a benchmark and allow for a targeted approach to waste minimisation as well as recycling options. For example, you may find that you produce copious amounts of plastic cups from a canteen when perhaps investing in glass and a dishwasher may be more sustainable. So what is involved in conducting a waste audit?
Firstly you need to set the objectives – what is the target area of the business? Will it be a business wide audit, or targeted to specific departments. The waste then needs to be collected and sorted into the various components. Depending on the size of the organisation the audit could take a day for something fairly straightforward, or up to 5 days if you are targeting different sectors. An enclosed building is used for the waste sort, but other than that it is straightforward, just need containers, bags, scales and lots of PPE!!!