Furthering Your Zero Waste Journey: How To Do a Bin Audit

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A bin audit is a great way to understand the waste you are creating and why you are creating it. This helps you to find solutions and ways around particular kinds of waste generation you are struggling with.

Being mindful of what waste you are still sending to landfill enables you to consider where you could reduce your waste even further. The same applies to your recycling bin. You can also do a bin audit of your recycling bin to see if there is anything in there you could do away with by refusing or reusing it instead, or just reduce your use of.

Your landfill bin and recycling bin will most likely never hit zero due to the society we live in - not everything can be avoided - so don’t stress about the waste you create that you can’t eliminate or reduce due to health or other reasons; rather focus on the waste you could minimise further or remove from your life.

No zero waster is perfect! You’ll notice many have jars of landfill waste that they have created so far that year. These jars contain reminders of how a mistake could potentially be avoided next time or waste that was unavoidable due to their personal circumstances or a certain situation.

Everyone’s zero waste adventures are different as we all live in different cultures and live different lives with different needs. This is why doing a bin audit of your personal bin and the trash that you create as an individual can guide your next steps to further your waste reduction and continue your zero waste journey.

You can also do a bin audit of specific circumstances to see the difference it makes to your waste production and to try and figure out how to improve in these circumstances, for instance when you are traveling or when you are very busy at work.

A bin audit can also be a great way to start your zero waste journey! You can do a bin audit before you even start to help you understand how much unnecessary waste you - as a singular person - actually create each week (and understand why plastic pollution is such a massive problem by multiplying this by the 7.53 billion people in the world!) and help kick-start your desire to kick your single-use plastic habit.

It can also assist you when trying to decide where to start and what to focus on first. Look in your bin and see what you could have easily avoided and start there!

1. Create waste as you normally would

The point is to look at the waste you normally create, so don’t try to reduce your waste any more than you usually do. Continue your normal routine for the week, a few weeks or a month, depending on how long you want to do a bin audit for.

How long you collect waste for before you do your waste audit is up to you and will depend on how quickly you usually fill up your bin. If your bins are full by the end of one week, do an audit after one week. If you are already far along in your journey and only take your bins out every few weeks, do your investigation of your waste then.

2. Collect similar waste together

Collecting similar types of waste together simplifies the process when you get to the actual scrutinising of what goes into your bin. Use whatever receptacles or buckets you have available or a jar - the size will depend on how much waste you’re expecting yourself to make - and put them in convenient places.

Use one to collect waste created in the bathroom from your beauty and hygiene regime. Use one to collect any waste created in the kitchen that isn’t food waste, such as food packaging. In addition, bring home and place any waste created away from home in this bin, as well as any miscellaneous trash that doesn’t fit anywhere else. You can also collect any waste created while cleaning around the home and doing the dishes or laundry in this bin or do a separate one for this trash.

Most importantly, make sure you collect your food waste separately - you definitely want to avoid having to dig through a bin full of waste covered in food scraps and bin juice. Collect this in a container in the fridge or freezer. You can also go through your food waste at the end of the time period if you want to investigate ways you could be using or reducing this waste as well.

Or, if you are not interested in looking into this waste this time round, compost it as usual, or find a way to compost it (our Home Composting Not Going to Happen?: Where To Compost Your Food Scraps in Melbourne blog post can help you with this! - even if you’re not in Melbourne it’ll point you in the right direction).

3. Divide this waste into recyclable and non-recyclable

At the end of the time period you’ve decided on, take each bin and separate it into waste you can recycle and waste that will have to be sent to landfill. Complete the steps below for each bin.

4. Look at the non-recyclable waste you are creating

Pick up each piece and think about whether you could have avoided creating that piece of waste and how. You can make notes on your phone or a scrap piece of paper if you want or just make mental notes.

Before binning it and sending it to landfill, double-check that there is definitely no way that it could be recycled. Look beyond your curb-side recycling programme and see if there is somewhere else that will take it (our Things You Didn’t Know You Could Recycle (And Where to Recycle Them blog post is a good place to start!) or someone who may want to reuse it.

5. Look at the recyclable waste you are creating

Do the same with your recyclable waste if you are ready to start reducing this too - pick up each piece and think about whether you could have avoided creating that piece of waste and how and take note of what trash ends up in your recycling.

Before recycling it, think about whether there is maybe a way you or someone else could reuse it.

6. Put the waste you can’t stop creating to one side

Take any waste that you can’t avoid or reduce for whatever reason out of the equation. You are allowed to have a too-hard basket!

You may not be able to eliminate this waste because it is necessary for your health, due to cultural reasons, it being out of your control (for instance, automatically printed receipts), or geographical reasons. Make peace with making this waste and move on to where you can make a difference.

7. Look for alternatives

Start looking for alternatives for the item/s of waste you have identified as something you could potentially reduce or stop generating. Search the internet for a solution or ask other zero wasters on social media - in Facebook groups or via an Instagram post or DM (you’re welcome to ask us!) - if they have the answer for you.

Think if you really need an alternative at all or if you could simply go without. Find out if you could DIY it instead. It is something you could try source in bulk or package free? Is there a reusable option you could swap for any single-use disposables?

Find a solution that will work for you in the long term so it will stick. If it takes a while to find the perfect resolution, that’s fine. Rather take the time to find the right fit for you.

And only take on as many changes at one time as you can handle. If you’re stuck on and struggling with one particular thing, put that change on hold and focus on another you know you’ll have success with. This will keep you motivated. Taking on too many changes at once can leave you frustrated and can be very stressful, as does continuously failing.

Try to not focus on any failures - celebrate the wins instead! And just keep trying.

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