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 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.
  1.  After you’ve 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


  • Aluminum Packaging = Bottles, cans, foil, pie plates, trays.
  • Aseptic Containers = Boxes and pouches (e.g. contained juice, soy milk, broth/stock).
  • Gable Top Containers = Cartons (e.g. contained juice, milk, creamer).
  • Glass Bottles & Jars = Clear, brown and green glass.
  • Plastic #’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 = Containers that held food, beverages, body care, household products, etc.
  • Steel / Tin Bottles & Cans = Containers that held coffee, fruit, soups, vegetables, aerosols, etc.
  • Paper = Catalogs, magazines, newspapers, mail, office paper, etc.
  • Cardboard = Corrugated cardboard, chipboard, paperboard, carrier stock (e.g. shoe boxes, dry food boxes).

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.
  • Non-Recyclable Paper = Napkins, tissues, plates, cups, etc.


  • Textiles = Clothing, uniforms, linens, towels, etc.
  • Electronics = Ink cartridges, batteries, TVs, stereos, computers, cell phones, etc.
  • Other Metals = Scrap metal (e.g. hangers, bars, pipes).
  • Other Glass = Glass other than bottles and jars; ceramic; Pyrex; light bulbs; drinking glasses; dishes; windows.
  • Other Plastic = Plastic #6, bags, wrap, film or containers that held hazardous products.
  • 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.
  • Compost food waste at home.