I had no idea what a household waste audit was until I took the Plastic Free July challenge.
What I was doing before was pretty simple.
Each time I emptied a packet, I discarded it into my plastic recycling bag. Each time I was done with a sheet of paper, it found it’s way into the paper recycling pile.
I segregated the waste I created and I was proud of it.
But there was a problem with that…
I never kept an account of how much waste my household produced. You see, I thought that my responsibility was to make sure the waste gets recycled and that’s the best I could do.
And then somehow, I stumbled upon Plastic Free July on the Internet. At the same time, I’ was doing a survey to find out the challenges of a sustainable lifestyle.
It turned out that 26% people surveyed felt that they couldn’t get rid of plastic packaging and said that this was the hardest part of trying to live sustainably.
I felt like these two discoveries were pointing me in a new direction – to examine my own relationship with the waste I created each day.
I decided to take level 1 & 2 of the Plastic Free July challenge – the idea was to refuse all single-use plastic & avoid plastic packaging for the entire month of July. Around the same time, I was wrapping up an assignment and the deadline was looming large over my head. In the middle of this rush, I really had no time to do any prep for my new plastic free lifestyle.
But I did one little thing and this was the game changer.
I kept a bag full of all my recyclable & non-recyclable dry waste from June instead of sending it away for recycling.
And I did something similar to what is shown in this video (except that I didn’t weigh the waste):
I emptied the big bag full of dry recyclables & non-recyclables onto the floor and came face to face with several plastic packets, a plastic bottle, stickers, cling film, plastic boxes, a can , takeaway boxes, disposable plastic cups, random bits of plastic, paper bags, newspaper, paper packages and aluminium foil.
I sorted all these into separate piles on the floor. Phew! It felt like I was living very wastefully.
As I sat looking at this waste, my shoulders felt heavy and my body suddenly seemed tired. All this rubbish felt like a burden. A burden others had carried and passed on to me. And now I was going to pass it onto Mama Earth.
While I was busy being perplexed, a LIGHT BULB turned on in my head.
I started listing down the number of all the waste items and jotted down alternatives for them.
What I didn’t know back then was that I was doing a sort of waste audit. I think you should consider doing one too.
3 Reasons To Do A Household Waste Audit
I think going through the waste you produce at home will help you to:
- Find out the quantity of waste your household produces each month
- Track your consumption patterns
- Identify where you can cut down your waste
Now with a bit of research, I’ve refined this process so that you can do an audit too.
What You’ll Need For a Household Waste Audit
You’ll need only 3-4 things to do a household waste audit:
- A household waste audit worksheet (I’ve made one especially for you)
- Newspaper (to spread on the floor)
- Weighing scales (if you want to weigh the waste)
- And of course the trash you’ve been hoarding!
7 Steps To Do a Household Waste Audit
1. Hoard your waste
The journey to plastic free & zero waste living begins at home. Hoard your household waste for a timeframe of a week or a month. You could keep your dry waste in cardboard boxes, bags, whatever works for you.
If you’re already composting or have a daily collection service for food waste (scraps, peels etc), no worries. Just make a note of the quantity of food waste you have in the bin at the end of the day.
2. Spread the waste out – It’s best to do this on the weekend when you can spare 30 minutes. Spread a bunch of newspapers on the ground and start emptying the dry waste onto them.
The idea is to sit down with this waste and stare at it for a few seconds (and don’t zone out just yet)!
3. Segregate, count & list
Segregate the items according to different categories – plastic, paper, metal, glass etc. List down the numbers of all categorised items. Instead of doing this alone, do it with your flatmates, partner or family (especially if you share your home with them). Make it a fun exercise, put on some peppy music, segregate, count and list.
4. Fill the audit worksheet – To make your life easier, fill this quick & easy household waste audit worksheet that I’ve created for you. To be less wasteful, you can either copy it in your notebook or print it on the blank side of a used sheet of paper.
5. Pack it up – Put all the waste back into its storage space.
6. Take a break – Once you’re done packing up, pat yourself on the back and give yourself a break. Take a walk. Drink a cup of tea. Eat a snack.
Dealing with all your waste at once and thinking of alternatives can be VERY overwhelming (I’ve been there and I know how it feels).
7. Think of alternatives
Come back to your worksheet and think of all the potential alternatives for each of the waste categories. Ask yourself these questions as you think of an item:
- Do you really need this?
- Can you reduce the quantity you buy monthly?
- Can you replace it with something that comes in 100% recyclable packaging?
- Can you get it without packaging in bulk?
- Can you swap it for something that is natural & biodegradable?
- Can you buy it locally made instead of imported?
- Can you find something that lasts much longer & can be reused?
Brainstorm with your housemates and family members about switching to alternatives. Do some research online. List down your new options.
Doing a household waste audit will help you prepare in advance before you take on the challenge of reducing your plastic consumption. This will also help you move towards zero waste – slowly and steadily.
I hope this post about how to do a household waste audit will help you track your trash without losing your mind or motivation. If you want others to do a household waste audit and make this world a less trash-filled place, share this on Facebook and pin it on Pinterest.
I’ll be back very soon with a post on the lessons I learned from doing Plastic Free July. Until then, do good, feel good and look good!