Waste: where to start?

Start small, think big

To improve on waste segregation, it’s a good idea to engage employees in a waste audit. This will give everyone an understanding of the issue and their part in tackling it. It will help to ensure everyone feels part of the process. Start small with things like removing disposable items in the canteen and think big with a goal like aiming for zero waste to landfill in 2 years time. Look for the quick wins, like improving recycling rates by 25% or getting a food waste bin. Look to others for inspiration, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel!

Waste Audit

We often dispose of things without a second thought as to where it ends up. A waste audit is a way of measuring your immediate environmental impact. A waste audit gets people involved in understanding what level of waste they generate and what can and cannot be recycled. It’s a great job for Green Team bonding too!

What to do 

  • Empty the bins onto the floor, one at a time, and start categorising the waste into the right streams, one for landfill, one for recycling and one for food waste 
  • Log the contents as you go, making sure to make a note of the item and which bin it was put into and which bin it should go in 
  • Also have a column for the items that come up the most often 
  • Check what items are accepted and recycled by your provider, so you know what can be put into the correct bins 
  • An optional step is to weigh the contents of the bins, so you can see how much you are sending to recycling

Tips for success

  • Tackle the task in sections, maybe by floor or by department
  • Make sure cleaning staff don’t empty the bins on the day of your audit
  • Only do small areas if you only have a small team
  • Check the location of the bins, they might need to be moved to increase usage


The ultimate aim is to integrate a waste plan into your overall sustainability objectives. The plan should include both incoming potential waste into your business (from packaging and suppliers) and outgoing waste streams (from employee activity and packaging of goods). Once you have a baseline from your waste audit, you can measure against future initiatives. 

Discuss your plan with employees and invite their input for how best to achieve your goals, afterall they will be the ones implementing them. Allocate responsibilities for reviewing the waste audit and training for employees. Start with simple actions – food waste composting in the kitchen or canteen can be easily made part of the routine with a countertop bin at the tea/coffee station.

Once you get the idea of auditing, what not try our free Green Zebra Audit to build your greener business.