A week of waste auditing
We have been actively trying to reduce our household waste for years, and I felt as though I needed a bit of a prompt to step it up a notch. To do this I decided to do a waste audit for one week. Identifying where we could get make further changes, the starting point had to be knowing what we were throwing away.
I put a call out for volunteers, as these things are always more fun when you have someone to share them with – even if it is comparing your weekly rubbish. Two willing people, Melissa and Victoria, put themselves forward and off we went.
Why is waste reduction important?
UK households throw away an estimated 23 million metric tons of waste per year – to put that into perspective it is equal to 394kg per person*.
It is estimated that 20% of all food bought in the UK is wasted **
Landfill waste creates harmful gasses such as CO2 and Methane, which are damaging to the environment, so should be a last resort when an item is at the end of its life. Recycling, while not the answer to all waste issues, often uses less resources to create new products, so materials that can be recycled should be.
How we did the audit
I provided us all with a word document that asked for the following to be recorded.
The idea is simple enough, anything you no longer have a use for is added to the list and details about its destination be that standard bin, recycling, re-purposing and how many are jotted down.
The ‘alternative’ column is for review at the end.
How it went
It was an eye opener! Within 2 days of starting the audit I could see patterns with our household waste (snacking was a pattern!) I could not believe how much we were throwing away.
Victoria, Melissa and I kept in touch throughout the week and all said the same thing – it was incredible how writing down what we were throwing away was making us all so much more aware of it. It also made as all very conscious about alcohol, crisps, crème eggs (that was me) but all was free of judgement 😊
Victoria got in touch 3 days in having already made changes, and switching to refills for cleaning products.
At the end of the week, we all agreed it was a worth while exercise, with it being suggested that it is something every household should do, even for one day.
I have shared the line-by-line account of my audit below (I feel the need to point out the vodka bottle was from November, it was a badly timed Friday night tipple that finished it, I promise.)
The summary from my household is as follows, and to give some context, our household is made up of 2 adults and a cat.
I was shocked and disappointed with this, as I would have estimated this at half. However, now I have had time to reflect and go through the ‘alternative’ column, there have been some positive outcomes from this.
Changes because of the audit
These are some changes I am making, and they are not all about waste (but some for my waist!)
- We are getting a compost bin (we had one in the last house but didn’t replace when we moved)
- I am buying re-usable handkerchiefs (I sneeze a lot)
- I have not eaten any crisps this week, or crème eggs, or biscuits!
- I need to eat more fruit.
Melissa has shared her changes too, and also habits they picked up on. Melissa already composts too, and having looked at my own audit, it is a good move!
- Handkerchiefs for the husband who sneezes on a regular basis – save the trees.
- Try to source my cat food so it does not come in those plastic pouches (a bit awkward for one cat who is on special diet)
- I eat far too many KitKats.
- We drink far too much tea
Victoria, as I mentioned, made changes before we even got to the end of the audit.
- Refills for cleaning products and handwash
- Changing cats to tinned food.
I will absolutely be doing one of these again in the future. My focus was sharpened and our determination to make more changes is renewed.
If you have thought about doing an audit of your waste, I would definitely recommend it. Zero Waste isn’t possible, nor is 100% plastic free – but significant reductions are achievable and knowing where you can make quick wins and big impacts can give you the boost and encouragement needed to try to make more small changes.
Tips for doing your own audit.
- Excel is a great way to record what you found, both Melissa and I found a word document frustrating. Excel also has the added bonus of being able to sort and filter too so you can add up the totals of what is going where.
- Try not to be horrified. I was shocked on day two and felt a little flat about it, but I have some actionable changes to make which is what it is about.
- Get others involved. A big thank you to Melissa and Victoria for doing this along side me, it was really nice to have others to chat to about it (and not be judged on the alcohol and chocolate)
- Be realistic – it is impossible to go zero waste or 100% plastic free and changes take time. Don’t set yourself a target that you are bound to miss, it is more likely to throw you off completely – small achievable changes are better than none at all and are far more likely to be sustainable.
Good luck if you are doing an audit! I would love to hear how you get on.
My Results in detail
|Crisp Packet||Bin||Not recyclable||5|
|Peanut Bag||Bin||Not recyclable||1|
|crème egg wrapper||Bin||Not recyclable||3|
|Biscuit tray||Bin||Not recyclable||1|
|Cat Food Tins||Recycling||9|
|Noodle Pot||Bin||Not recyclable||1|
|Tissues (a lot)||Bin||Loads!||Re-usable hankies|
|Tin foil||Bin||Not recyclable||3|
|Plastic Take Away Tub||Kept||Use for freezing food||2|
|Cat litter||Bin||1||Scooped daily, full empty once per week|
|Breakfast Bar wrapper||Bin||Not recyclable||3|
|Cereal Bag||Bin||Not Recyclable||1||Find alternative or refill|
|Sweet Potato Peelings||Bin||1||Compost|
|Cardboard from new bike tires||Recycling||1|
|Milk Carton||Saved||Take to recycling centre||2|
|Cheese bag||Bin||Not Recyclable||1|
|Cat food pouch||Bin||Not recyclable||2|
|Kitchen roll||Bin||3||was 6 uses as we cut sheets in half|
|Bread Bag & Tray||Bin||Not recyclable||1|
|Pill Blister Pack||Bin||Not recyclable||1|
|Dental Floss||Bin||Not recyclable||5||Compost?|
|Roll Bag||Saved||Take to recycling centre||1|
|Glass oil bottle||Recycling||2|
|Paper from toilet roll wrapper||Recycling||2|
|Hand Wash paper top||Recycling||1|
|Cheese Wrapper||Bin||Not recyclable||2|
|Baking Paper||Bin||Not recyclable||2|
|Salad Box||Bin||Nor recyclable||1|
|Envelope||recycling/keep||1||Use for shopping lists|
|Night Repair Jar||recycling||1|
|Pasta Box||recycling/Bin||plastic window in bin||1|
|Garlic Bread wrapper||Bin||Not recyclable||1|
|Butter wrapper||Bin||Not recyclable||1|
|Carrier Bag||Saved||Take to recycling centre||2||No takeaways?|
|Foil food dish||Bin||Not recyclable||2||No takeaways?|
|Coke Cans (small)||Recycling||3|