Conducting a Bin Audit - General Waste


Waste is unavoidable. No matter how well intentioned our efforts are, every individual produces waste everyday. But what if we were to become more aware of every item we throw into our general waste bin? Instead of creating waste in an absolutely unconscious manner, we might start considering alternatives to the creation of that waste in the first place. 

A bin audit is just as it sounds ... it's an examination or study of the kind of waste we create on a daily basis. It is incredibly helpful for anyone starting out on a zero waste journey. It highlights your problem areas, gives you a place to start and an area to focus on first. When I did an audit on our waste a few years ago, I was shocked by the amount of food packaging waste that was going to landfill. This was where I needed to start - you might be different, we all are. But we need to start somewhere.

So let's get started ....  :) 

1. Choose a time frame

When I started, I audited every item for one week and that was sufficient time for me to figure out what I needed to do to eliminate at least some of that waste. It's up to you though, choose a time that's long enough to give you a good insight into your waste output. I think a week should be ok for most people. 


2. Start with just your general waste bin

The recycling bin can be looked at separately but if you're just starting out, the general waste bin needs to be tackled first! 


3. Jot it down 

Take note of every item placed in your general waste bin for one week. Continue to recycle and compost as usual, if you have those facilities. You can simply add notes to your phone or keep track on a piece of paper. Divide the waste into categories if you like, it will make it easier when analysing the data later.


4. Gather your data and analyse the results

Think about each piece and think about whether you could have avoided creating that piece of waste and how. Before sending it to landfill, double check that there is definitely no way that it could be recycled/reused/repurposed.

Check here to access which is Ireland’s official guide to managing your waste. Here you will find everything you need and want to know about managing your waste responsibly, efficiently and in the way that suits you. Browse this site for your local waste services; bring banks, recycling facilities along with ways to help you prevent waste, reuse and upcycle. Yon can find an A to Z guide here

WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) is anything that has a plug or a battery and is at the end of its useful life. Considering the average home has 193 electrical appliances and 110 batteries lying around, we definitely need to be aware of how and where we can recycle our electrics / battery operated appliances. Check their website out here


5. Remove unavoidable waste from the equation

You may not be able to eliminate certain waste due to health reasons etc. This is perfectly fine, just move on to where you can make a difference.


6. Alternatives & Eliminations

Start looking for alternatives for the items of waste you have identified as something you could potentially reduce or eliminate. Think if you really need an alternative at all or if you could just go without.

See if you could DIY it, make it, bake it etc. It is something you could try to source in bulk or package free? Is there a reusable option you could swap for any single-use disposables?

Pinterest is a great resource for upcyling ideas and DIY. I've learned how to make most of my household cleaning products from Pinteres and now I buy zero cleaning products. The Zero Waste Ireland FaceBook page is full of inspiration and how to upcycle/repair/reuse any item you can think of. 

If you're feeling overwhelmed, take the top three offenders and work from there. Taking on too many changes at once can leave you frustrated. 

Don't focus on any failures, celebrate the wins instead and keep trying. 💚