Waste Audit in the Fauteux building

Friday, April 09, 2010

What is a waste audit? Well my friends, a waste audit is when we organize the collection of all the waste and recycling from a given space (all the bags are labeled by room and waste type i.e. recycling mixed papers room 229), and we evaluate the contents of each bag. Each bag is opened and the items inside are separated by type (mixed papers, waste, etc.) and weighed. With the information noted during the waste audit, we can calculate the contamination rate of each bag, and of the whole building (i.e. the percentage of items which were in the wrong receptacle). We can then study trends in the data; for example, if people are often throwing a specific item in the wrong bin it is perhaps because the bin isn’t labeled properly, or the sings aren’t clear enough.

Recently, we completed a waste audit of the entire Fauteux building, and here are the results: 32% of what was found in each bag was considered to be some type of contamination (which is above what is usual for campus buildings…). Why do contamination rates concern us this much? It is because if a receptacle is too heavily contaminated (if for example a metal/plastic/glass receptacle is mostly filled with waste), we have to thrown out the contents. Also, another common type of contamination happens when someone throws out their coffee cup filled with coffee in the mixed papers bin; the coffee contaminates the rest of the paper in the bin which causes mould, as a consequence we have to throw it all out.

As a final point, while conducting the waste audit, I have noticed that the total waste production/consumption rate for this building (may I remind you that the Fauteux building has no large cafeterias, nor restaurants) is unusually high!

- brigitte

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