I encourage everyone, no, make that, urge everyone to do a household waste audit. Unless you know what you throw, you won’t know how to lessen your environmental footprint.
By being more sustainable, you’ll also save money by rejecting the throw away consumerist mindset that is so common today.
So roll up your sleeves, put on those gloves and get dirty problem solving a real life, real world problem. Do a waste audit and change your world.
Progress is impossible without change.
Choose a day when your bins are full to do a household waste audit.
You’re going to need some equipment to complete this challenge. You’ll also need a dry outside area without wind and sheltered from the sun.
For the audit, you’ll be sorting, classifying and weighing rubbish. Once this is done the next step is to record your results and think about what your household can do to reduce the amount of waste produced.
- Your full bins
- Gloves, reusable latex gloves are preferred over disposable plastic
- Newspaper to use as a tarpaulin
- Pencil and paper, and/or a camera, to recording findings
- Scales, if weighing rubbish
- Take your full bin and equipment needed for the task to your chosen sorting area.
- Line the floor with newspaper
- Divide the newspaper into five areas: soft plastics, recycling, organic/food waste, e-waste, and landfill rubbish.
Not Sure What Goes Where?
Here’s the run down on what to put in each of the five categories.
- cling wrap
- silver chip packets and biscuit wrappers
- plastic snack wrappers such as muesli bars
- bread bags
- plastic bags
- pasta and rice bags
- old green bags
- cereal box liners
- frozen food bags
- bubble wrap
- chocolate bar wrappers
- netting produce bags
- snap lock bags
- wine bladders
- squeeze pouches
- plastic Australia post satchels
- potting mix bags
- plastic film wrap around items such as toilet paper
- pet food bags
- glass bottles and jars
- clean paper and cardboard
- aluminium and steel cans
- empty aerosol cans
- hard plastic containers with the triangle recycling symbol including yoghurt, ice cream and take-away containers
- milk and juice cartons
- pizza boxes
- aluminium foil and trays
- rigid household plastic items like kitchen storage containers and plastic toys
- steel pots and pans (no glass lids)
- CD cases
- ink cartridges
- food scraps
- garden pruning, weeds, and flowers
- stained paper lunch bags and dirty tissues
- used paper towel
- kitty litter
- pet manure
- egg shells
- human and animal hair
- coffee grinds
- oil and fat
- mobile phones
- large appliances such as a microwave
- small appliances like an iron
- TVs, computers and printers
- lighting equipment
- electronic tools
- radios, and consoles
- ceramics, crockery and glassware that can’t be donated
- disposable nappies, tampons and pads
- polystyrene foam
- disposable/take-away ‘coffee’ cups (paper cup lined with plastic)
- tea bags (the bags contain plastic)
- plastic pens and straws
- disposable plastic razors (plastic and metal fused together means it can’t be recycled)
- Clothing, or anything made of fabric, that can’t be reused or donated
Record Your Results
After you have sorted your household waste into the five categories. It’s time to have a long hard look.
It may be confronting to see the waste produced by your household laid out like that but unless you know what you throw, then you won’t know how to make a change for the better.
There are many ways to record and track your household waste. How in depth you do go is completely up to you.
Here’s some suggestions for collating your waste data:
- Count each item and keep a tally for a final figure. You could count each individual item or count as a category grouping.
- Weigh each item type or each group category
- Do a combination of counting and weighing depending on the item
- Take photos
- Record a video with commentary
- Keep all your data on a spreadsheet and complete a household waste audit at a regular interval
- If you’re into visual data, create a pie or column graph
- Figure out the percentage of each waste type: waste type divided by total waste multiplied by 100 (waste type/total waste x 100)
Find a method that works for you and that you’ll be happy to replicate in the future.
Check out the huge difference Kiama High School was able to make by completing a waste audit and making changes. This kind of comparison would not have been possible without tracking data.
What Can You Change?
It’s time to ask some questions.
What is your biggest category of waste? Why is it your biggest category of waste?
How much of your waste is preventable?
Did you throw away a lot of food? Could that food have been eaten as leftovers, incorporated into another meal, frozen for later, fed to pets?
Can you buy an item without packaging or have bought the item with recyclable packaging? For example, purchase food items or cleaning products such as dishwashing detergent in a reusable container/bottle. Put your fruit and vegetable purchases in reusable bags rather than grabbing a disposable plastic bag.
Can you swap an item for something that is natural or biodegradable? (Instead of shampoo in a plastic bottle, buy a solid shampoo bar wrapped in paper.)
Is there a large amount of tissues, paper towel, cleaning wipes, plastic bags, disposable razors, napkins, nappies, sanitary products? Can you swap them for reusable items?
Were there many unnecessary single use items? For example, plastic straws, cling wrap, plastic water bottles, disposable coffee cups…
Did your landfill or recycling bin have items in them that wasn’t landfill? For example, uneaten food, batteries, soft plastics?
Are you recycling everything that is recyclable?
Did your green organics bin only have organic waste in it? For example, tea bags are lined with plastic and are not recyclable, or fruit peelings with a plastic sticker on it.
If you had e-waste, was it taken to an e-waste collection point?
Are all your soft plastics being taken to a REDcycle bin? These are found at many supermarkets across Australia.
Was anything thrown out able to be donated, reused or repaired?
By doing a household waste audit, you’ll know what you throw.
When you know what you throw, you’ll be able to make beneficial environmental changes.
These changes will also improve your bank account and savings as you’ll be buying less products to throw away.
A household waste audit is such a WIN-WIN! Better for the environment and better for your finances.
Please share below any changes you’ve made to reduce your household waste.