Step #2: Complete Solid Waste Survey
To establish an effective recycling program, a facility must first
determine the types and volumes of solid waste materials generated. Each
facility needs to perform an initial waste audit. This audit can either be
performed internally or by an outside service. Most states have Solid Waste
Minimization Programs that may be able to provide this service free or for a
If your approach is to internalize the audit, you need to be vigilant with regard to what type of items are being placed in the dumpsters and trash compactors. Tear open the trash bags and question the janitors about where the materials come from. Perform an audit of the landfill that your site uses. Plan a trip to the landfill to see what items represent the largest percentage of your waste. As part of your audit, take a lot of pictures both at the landfill and at your dumpsters and compactors when they are being loaded. (Note: These pictures are very effective visual aids that can be used during your management presentations and plant training sessions.)
Since the overall success of the program will require the cooperation from all members of the facility, specifics of the program will need to be communicated to the plant members. During your investigation/waste audit stage of the program, talk with the workers on the floor and in the offices to get a feel for the overall attitude towards the Company's responsibility to the environment. Knowing the existing culture and attitudes of your fellow workers will help you later in the implementation phase of the program. This is also a great time to write down the names of employees that have positive attitudes towards your efforts. You will need their help when you expand the program and they can also be considered for team membership. As you interview employees, don't forget to include the Bargaining Unit. Discuss the overall concept of the program with union leadership. Explain the overall benefit of your program and include concepts such as ownership of how we treat the environment and reduced impact on the municipal landfill which, in the long run, will help reduce taxes.
If you choose to outsource the solid waste audit, there are different groups/agencies that can assist you in conducting a solid waste audit for your facility. Remember that many recycling companies will conduct audits, but may concentrate solely on the commodities that they accept and may attempt to convince you that recycling additional materials is not necessary. Regardless of whether the audit is performed internally or by outside sources, the results of the audit need to be documented.
Some of the more prominent materials found in your waste may include:
- Plastic bags
- Cardboard/paper (computer, office newspaper, colored) books, magazines,
three ring binders
- Miscellaneous plastic (tubes, trays, bottles, cases)
- Packaging materials
- Interplant packaging
- Wood scrap/pallets
- Maintenance scrap, construction/demolition materials
- Cafeteria waste - Styrofoam cups, plates, beverage cans, food cans and
- Production Metals
- Ferrous (steel and iron)
- Nonferrous (brass, aluminum, copper) - Other
- Office Printer Waste - toner cartridges, printer
This list is neither all inclusive nor meant to limit materials that you should consider for recycling. Each business has solid wastes unique to its specific facility and operation. A creative and enthusiastic team may identify additional material candidates available for recycling based upon your regional markets.
After a baseline survey has been completed,
information from this survey can be used to estimate the volumes of materials
potentially available for recycling.
DUMPSTER DIVING -
The waste audit is one of the most important steps in the program due to the fact that the results of the survey will be your baseline to work from and to compare to later. You must have a documented starting point so that a plan can be developed. Even if you decide to have the audit done by an outside source, you need to go along for the education. This is also the dirtiest portion of the task so dress appropriately for the job. Wear gloves, boots, coveralls or old clothes that can be torn or stained. Remember to take along clean clothes for the ride back from the landfill because you may smell a little funny.
The waste audit at the landfill should be done at least three times for each dumpster/compactor at your site to get accurate information to base the program on. Variations in the production schedule may cause different waste streams to be generated throughout the month. By auditing each dumpster/compactor several times during the month, you will achieve a good cross section of the total facility waste stream picture.
Plan the visit to the landfill with landfill management and your waste hauler. Introduce yourself, your waste reduction plans and invite them to participate. Most landfills have policies against persons strolling around with cameras so ask if you can take pictures during your audit. When doing your audit, tear open the trash bags from your site and see what is really in there. Take photos, document material distinctions and estimate volumes.
Some of the items identified during our audit may not be a common recycling commodity but you may discover other outlets for these items through a Waste Exchange or Reuse Program, through a local rehabilitation facility outlet store (Goodwill, United Way, Salvation Army, etc.) or other outlets fueled by your own imagination. Document how much material you find that could be reused within your own facility (i.e., by capturing these items and reissuing these supplies back to the assembly lines). The results of your waste audit will make apparent the amount of bags, boxes, and trays and other materials that are tossed in the dumpster each day.
During your waste audit, also concentrate on special solid waste unique to your operation. An example could be special vendor packaging. Check to see how many of the cardboard boxes are not recyclable due to the foam padding that is glued to the boxes. Write down the part number, the vendor name and address, and any other information you can use. This is a great opportunity to reduce your waste simply by contacting your purchasing function and investigating if the foam really needs to be glued to the box or not. In several cases there may be no reason for the glue and the change will save your vendor a labor step, the cost of the glue, and the need for that chemical in the facility. Implementing this small change will remove more items from your waste stream, allow you to sell the cardboard box, and add another success story to your list of environmental accomplishments. In some facilities, vendors are very willing to pay the freight to have their original shipping containers returned. They realize the cost savings (i.e., the expense of purchasing new containers and freight versus getting used containers free and paying the return freight).The waste audit will also allow you to test the effectiveness of your hazardous waste/medical waste disposal program. Keep an eye out for any waste chemicals, chemical containers, chemical applicators, sharps, etc that may have inadvertently found their way to the landfill. Document your findings and notify the individual responsible for the hazardous waste program at your site. Remember that used batteries also need to be addressed. Used batteries should be turned in to the tool crib for new ones. Batteries are considered a hazardous waste, in some states, and steps need to be taken to prevent these from ever getting into your nonhazardous waste stream. A simple "old for new" exchange program at the tool crib can fix this.
If you were not convinced about the need for this
program, a tour of your landfill should make you a