Editorial: Why waste health checks deliver on the triple bottom line

Industry Updates

June 7, 2019

Highlights

A waste check can reveal a lot about the health of your waste – uncovering potentially expensive and wasteful disposal practices, unlocking opportunities for new revenue streams and maximising the effectiveness of sustainability programs.

What is a waste health check?

Think of a waste health check (or waste audit) as a kind of deep dive into the rubbish you’re throwing away. Quite literally, it’s about going through your waste and recycling bins, looking at each piece of rubbish thrown away, and understanding what type of waste it is, how it got there, and how to improve its recovery.

Because sustainability is about implementing best practices throughout the organisation, starting with a waste health check is the first step to setting up a good waste management plan. Without it, you would be operating in the dark without tangible, accurate data to set goals, identify waste reduction strategies and training opportunities.

The benefits of a waste health check

1. Ensure compliance to proper disposal behaviours

Recycling only works if the right materials are put into the right bin, free of contaminated items. Using the commingled stream as an example, this usually means only clean and dry paper, cardboard, hard plastic, aluminium and glass. Waste health checks help identify the contamination in your recycling bin, investigating how it got there in the first place, and steps to ensure everyone has the right knowledge to prevent incorrect disposal in the future.

2. Recover more resources and save costs

If a waste health check reveals a considerable amount of cardboard waste in the commingled stream, this builds a case for a dedicated cardboard recycling bin to maximise the quality of this material for recovery. Similarly, wet, heavy organic material such as food waste in general waste has incredible potential to be diverted into an organics bin – reducing the weight and cost of general waste while increase recycling rates through organics recovery.

3. Reveal opportunity costs

Waste audits often reveal wasteful stock management or issues with manufacturing that directly result in lost revenue. For example, is a store missing out on sales by disposing of expired produce rather than proactive stock management? Or is material being damaged in transit and unable to be sold when it could easily be recovered through a simple design change? Taking a good hard look in the bin can reveal how you’re letting potential sales go to waste.

4. Engage employees in sustainability goals

Waste health checks are also an excellent tool to communicate your goals to the whole team and get their buy-in for sustainability targets. By engaging team members in the audit process, everyone is made to understand the impact of their waste on the organisation and are likely to take that knowledge back to positively influence their co-workers, departments, families and communities they live in.

Everyone can benefit from regular check-ups

1. Large organisations with multiple branches

Cleanaway provides general waste and recycling services to Officeworks – Australia’s leading office supplies chain with over 200 stores nationwide. Since working with Cleanaway in 2017, our waste audits have significantly increased their diversion rates from 64% in April 2017 to 82%.

2. Small to medium sized businesses

A café in Adelaide, Argo discovered that they were diverting less than 20% of their waste from landfill. Following Cleanaway’s waste health check, an organics recycling service was started by the café. This resulted in Argo substantially increasing their diversion rate from 19.3% to 70% in just two months. To add to its green credentials, Argo could now claim that it was recycling food waste into high quality compost and mulch to nourish soil.

3. Councils, schools, universities, community groups

Cleanaway collaborated with James Cook University’s (JCU) TropEco team for a health check of the campus’ commingled recycling stream in Townsville. At the end of the process, the team discovered the potential for a new cardboard recycling stream (40% of all recycling was cardboard) and the need to further educate students on proper disposal practices (10% of recycling was being disposed of in general waste).

Ready to get started with a waste management plan? We can help.

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