Guide To Conducting a Trash Audit

by Megan Kioulafofski
 woman conducting a trash audit for the waste in the house

Conducting a trash audit is a great way to get a better idea of how much trash you go through on a weekly or monthly basis. It can also help you to identify wasteful habits, such as purchasing items in bulk that you don’t really need or throwing out food before it’s expired.

Conducting a waste audit is very simple, but in case you need any assistance, don’t worry. We’ll take you through all the necessary steps in the rest of this article!

Why Should You Conduct a Trash Audit?

Do you want to make your house more sustainable and eco-friendly? One of the steps to going green is limiting your unnecessary waste. And to quantify precisely how much garbage you and your family create, you must first conduct an at-home trash audit. You can only adjust your lifestyle when you’ve already studied your outcomes. 

For example, you might be surprised to learn how much of your garbage is recyclable or compostable. Instead of simply throwing them away, you can recycle them so they can be reused or repurposed in a beneficial way. This way, you’ll save energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and make the most of nonrenewable resources.

You’ll also be able to find ways to reduce the amount of garbage you create by seeing a common pattern. A great example here is if you find you use a lot of plastic wrap; a creative solution to this is to invest in reusable bees wraps! Or maybe it’s filled with wads of paper towel… again, a solution here could be to have a basket of rags to use for spills or cleaning, and they can be reused by throwing them into the wash. 

By going through your trash, you’ll get a better look into your habits and find the weak spots that need fixing.

Start By Making a Plan

Before you get started, you should come up with a strategy for conducting the trash audit. First, decide how many days worth of garbage you will examine. This is significant because the more you inspect, the more precise your results will get.

You should also think about where the audit will take place. You’ll need a lot of room to sort through all the waste. You might be able to do it outside, but don’t forget to check the weather conditions beforehand.

Get Supplies

During your trash audit, you’ll be digging through garbage full of bacteria, mold, pests, and viruses. To avoid infections and such, you should purchase protective equipment beforehand. You’ll need a tarp or floor covering and heavy-duty gloves. Consider buying protective eyewear and something to protect your clothes if you anticipate there will be liquids within the trash. Grab a notebook and pen, and make a chart with the three types of garbage at the top: Trash, Recyclables, and Compost. Find a way to identify these easily, either by memory or having this page on hand.

After completing the audit, you’ll need to clean with disinfectant. Make sure you have some on hand. However, keep in mind that most disinfectants come in unsustainable plastic bottles, so if there’s any way to replace them with something more sustainable – go ahead!

Start Going Through Your Trash

After you’ve finished all the prep, it’s time to dump all your products onto the ground. An excellent way to stay organized is to start sorting through your trash immediately. Sort them into the grouping categories you’ve chosen beforehand (recyclable, compostable, and trash) or get even more detailed with product types (milk cartons, q-tips, paper towels, etc). You can either count the items as you sort or wait until everything is sorted and then start counting.

a person in maroon taking notes, representing a guide to conducting a trash audit

Organize Your Data

When you’ve finished counting the items in your trash, the next step of conducting a trash audit is to organize your data. Sort your list so that the things you found most are the first on the list. This will provide you with a helpful visual road map for reducing your waste. You’ll be able to choose where you’ll start your zero waste journey.

Going Zero Waste

It’s hard to go zero-waste overnight. Most changes take time, so you’ll likely start seeing the results only weeks or even months after your trash audit. However, to go zero-waste, you have to make conscious decisions to lower your waste actively. For example, to achieve a zero-waste bathroom, you have to change your shopping habits. You need to exchange all the plastic items for more sustainable, greener options. You can start by using reusable produce bags instead of those flimsy plastic ones at the store. And while you’re at it, get yourself some food saver bags to ensure that your produce stays fresh and moist for longer.

You won’t be able to do this in one day. And, you actually shouldn’t do this in one day. For example, instead of throwing away your plastic toothbrush in favor of a bamboo one, first, make sure you’ve gotten enough use out of the plastic one. Otherwise, you’d just create more waste, which isn’t very eco-friendly.

Making Other Changes

If you haven’t already, now’s the time to start recycling! Although it might be daunting at first, getting into the recycling game is easy. All you have to do is look at the wrapper or container and find the numbers that suggest how you should recycle it.

And even better, you can reuse and repurpose objects in addition to recycling. For example, you may repurpose old, worn-out clothes into tote bags or cleaning cloths instead of tossing them away. You can also make storage containers out of glass jars. Finally, instead of throwing away your food with the rest of the trash, you can start to make compost. If you have any plants in your house, this is a great way to make fertilized soil that your plants will love!

Repeat The Process

Your garbage is likely to fluctuate from week to week. That’s why you need to repeat the trash audit and keep an eye on your waste and recycling to identify where you may make improvements. 

An important thing is to note that you’ll always have some unavoidable garbage left over. No matter how low waste you go, you’ll always have to get rid of your medication packages. Or, you’ll have to get rid of an old, worn-out carpet that you can’t reuse anymore. That’s totally fine. Just don’t forget to dispose of your items safely every time. You can consider hiring a junk removal service to ensure all the waste from your home is taken care of the right way.

Lowering your waste is essential to making your household greener and more sustainable. And to achieve that step, you must first figure out what you throw away by conducting a trash audit. That way, you’ll get a better insight into your habits and figure out areas for improvement. 

After the trash audit, you should start making changes in your life, like recycling, reducing, reusing, and composting. After a few weeks or days, you should consider doing another audit to check in and figure out if you’ve improved. This will also help you figure out your next steps in going zero-waste.

If learning how to conduct a trash audit has raised your interest, follow our blog for more helpful tips on how to make your home eco-friendly.

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