A waste audit measures the quantity and types of waste that is generated, providing insights on how the waste you generate is being disposed of and helping identify potential strategies to reduce the quantity of waste sent to landfill.
It is also a great opportunity to assess how you may be able to reuse or recycle particular items or materials that would otherwise go to landfill. As we have found at Planet Ark, making the transition from ‘waste’ to ‘resource’ requires behaviour change from all stakeholders, and getting started with the simple stuff makes future change easier to undertake.
Planet Ark’s workplace toolkit is a great resource to help those who haven’t conducted a waste audit before get started with identifying areas of potential improvement and strategies to begin taking action.
You can also get started with some of the toolkits more basic tips, which are outlined below.
Office Supplies and Electronic Waste
Setting up a recycling station for tricky items like printer cartridges, electronic waste, stationery, or coffee capsules is a simple strategy to improve your workplace's footprint. These stations will allow your colleagues to recycle products that cannot go in their regular co-mingled recycling bin, helping them keep critical resources in circulation and influencing positive behaviour in their recycling habits. You can set up these recycling systems at your workplace with a couple of boxes and our signage before taking the items to recycling drop-off locations or sign up to one of the many recycling programs that are free to use.
One such scheme is Cartridges 4 Planet Ark, which provides easy access to printer cartridges and printer disposables recycling. This is a free scheme and a prime example of how industry leaders like Brother, Canon, Cartridge World, EPSON, HP, and Kyocera can take responsibility for their products so we can all reap the benefits of the recycling process. Solutions for electronic products like computers, computer accessories, and mobile phones are also free and can be found through Business Recycling.
You can also sign-up for programs like Batteries 4 Planet Ark which, for a nominal fee, provide a safe pathway to battery recycling. All of these are examples of product stewardship schemes that take the hassle out of recycling on an individual personal or professional level and makes it a collective effort for the whole industry.
One of the simplest changes you can implement to reduce workplace waste is encouraging staff to check packaging for the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) every time they are at the bin. The ARL is an evidence-based system that provides information on how to recycle each component of packaging. It also helps to identify products that are more sustainable; if all components are recyclable, it’s a good sign the brand is taking responsibility for their product’s environmental impact. Conversely, refusing to buy products that have excess amounts of non-recyclable packaging can send a strong message to manufacturers.
Unnecessary plastics are firmly in the firing line with single-use plastics being phased out across Australia, but there is still more to be done. You can learn how to tackle plastics at work with our interactive guide, which provides information for small to medium sized businesses looking to reduce plastic consumption.
Organising a compost collection point at work is a great reminder that living sustainably is a group effort that is also rewarding. Food scraps hold a lot of value and are highly damaging when sent to landfill due to the methane emissions they produce. Instead of chucking them straight in the bin, see if people in your workplace are willing to share the responsibility of taking organics home at the end of the week.
If there is a community garden near your workplace, you can also check whether they will accept your food waste for composting. It’s also worth checking directly with your local council or via our food scraps page to see whether you have a council provided service for food organics in your area.
The benefit of these waste audit ideas is that they’re not exclusive to the workplace, use these resources as an opportunity to turn your office into a sustainability hub for these types of products from both the office and at home. All you need to do to get the ball rolling is begin!
Australian businesses have a big opportunity to improve our management of plastics and more difficult forms of waste through reuse and recycling. Doing so will boost our economy, provide more green jobs, and preserve our natural resources.
A waste audit is a great activity to get your office involved, especially as National Recycling Week, November 13 – 19 2023, approaches. Check out our National Recycling Week Workplace page for more.