Conducting a Waste Audit

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What is a Waste Audit?

  • The process of collecting, sorting, and measuring waste generated from your environment (household, workplace or classroom).

Why Should I Conduct a Waste Audit?

  • It allows us to see our waste from a different perspective.  By understanding what’s in our waste and how much there is, we can develop a waste management plan that is specific to our needs.

How To Conduct a Waste Audit

  1.  Separate Waste BinsCollect one day’s worth of waste and weigh it.  Tip:  Using a bathroom scale, weigh yourself holding the bag(s), then weigh yourself alone.  Subtract your weight from the weight of you and the bag(s) to get the weight of your daily household, workplace or classroom waste.
  • Multiply this by 7 to determine how much you throw away in one week.
  • Multiply by 365 to determine how much waste you generate in one year.
  • To get a more accurate estimate of your annual waste generation (because your waste may change daily), weigh your waste every day for one week, then multiply your total by 52 weeks.
  1.  Sort through your bag(s) of waste and separate into various categories.  For a simple audit, separate your waste into three categories:  recyclables, compostables and trash.  For a more comprehensive audit, separate your materials into sixteen (16) categories.  Download a Waste Audit Worksheet from below to record data:

For the Household, for the Workplace or for the Classroom

  1.  Review your results and determine which items you can reduce, reuse, recycle or compost.
  1.  Write down your goals to reduce, reuse, recycle or compost and how you plant to achieve these goals.
  1.  After you’ve studied how to  lower your waste and implemented a waste management plan for your household, workplace or school, repeat the waste audit and compare your before and after results.

Description of Waste Categories

Recycling: Stick With the Six!

  1. Paper – Mail (windowed envelopes okay), magazines & catalogs, newspaper (sleeve removed), office paper, notepads and coloring books.
  2. Flattened Cardboard – Shipping boxes, paperboard, shoe boxes, dry food boxes.
  3. Plastic Bottles & Containers – soda and water bottles, empty cleaning supplies, bathroom shampoo, conditioner, soap and lotion bottles, empty condiment bottles.
  4. Glass Bottles & Jars – Bottles and jars that held food & beverage items.
  5. Metal Food & Beverage Cans – soda, sparkling water and beer cans, vegetable, soups and fruit cans, balled and clean foil, pie plates and trays.
  6. Food & Beverage Cartons – Soups, broths, juices and milks that come from the refrigerated or shelf aisle.  (No ice cream cartons!)  

Recycle concept

For a full list of items that can be recycled in St. Louis City households, visit What Bin Does It Go In.


  • Food Waste – Food scraps and peelings, expired and rotten food.  Learn how and why it’s important to compost from our blog post “Why Compost.”
  • Non-Recyclable Paper – Napkins, tissues, some plates and cups.

Other: Beyond the Blue Bin!

  • Textiles – Clothing, uniforms, linens, towels, sheets, etc.
  • Electronics – Televisions, printers, DVD players, batteries, ink cartridges, stereos, computers, cell phones, etc.
  • Other Metals – Scrap metal (e.g. hangers, bars, pipes).
  • Other Glass – Glass kitchenware, glass other than bottles and jars; ceramic; Pyrex; light bulbs; drinking glasses; dishes; windows.
  • Other Plastic = Plastic bags and wrap such as produce bags, wrap around water bottles, toilet paper or paper towels, clean zip top bags and newspaper sleeves.  For a full list of films that can be recycled at  your local grocery or retail sore, visit  
  • Other = Anything not listed.

Waste Alternatives:

  • BASE INGRIDPurchase products with the least amount of packaging.
  • Purchase products made from recycled content (e.g. printer paper, pens, bottles).
  • Plan meals ahead of time and shop with a grocery list to reduce food waste.
  • Use reusable dinnerware for meals and snacks rather than disposable (e.g. ceramic mugs, plates, non-disposable forks).
  • If a product requires packaging, choose packaging that can be reused, recycled or composted.
  • Start recycling.
  • Start composting food waste at home.

Join Your Neighbors and Pledge to Recycle This Year!

St. Louis residents recycle 61 lbs of material every minute, but we can still do better. Will you help us recycle even more?


Young girl holding recycling bin
No thanks.