Trash Audit

A couple of weeks ago we performed our first audit of the trash in our building. You may recall that a month ago we were ready to audit the trash, but someone in the building, obviously an overachiever, took the trash out early that morning. We were lucky enough to nail down the trash this time, however, and we were set to go.

Sorting trash

The procedure basically encompassed emptying the trash onto a tarp and sifting through it to determine real trash vs. incorrectly placed items. We put everything into piles – paper, glass, metal, etc. Then we photographed all of the piles and recycled what we could before putting the trash into its correct bin. Laurie Catey, our chief labs scientist (and mechanical engineer by trade) developed an awesome Trash Audit Google Doc Workbook that I encourage you to look through. Make sure you open all of the tabs at the bottom, and you’ll find the very scientific and detailed approach Laurie takes to her work. You’ll find a description of the purpose of the audit (awareness and eventual reduction in trash output), our procedures, results, analysis, pictorial summary, and finally our to-do’s before the next audit.

Here’s a look at our incorrect trash streams by number. Metal ranked higher mainly because of the presence of some rogue screws that bumped the numbers up even though their presence was tiny in size.


We learned a number of things. First, we seem to be doing pretty well overall in trash output, but there’s room for improvement. We need to get a container for bottlecaps. We are concerned about the use of compostable paper cups, as they need a compost pile that gets to at least 160 degrees, and most home composters don’t achieve that temperature. So we need to discuss this with Matt at Recycle Here and get his thoughts. And we need to do a small seminar on trash and recycling at the Green Garage before the next audit, and then see if the results come up a bit improved. Our overall goal is to not only reduce trash output but to also reduce the amount of materials that we are recycling, but the first step is awareness….and that’s where we are now.

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