How to Conduct a Basic Waste Audit

Suppose you’re driving a long one day and out of nowhere you hear a loud noise from your engine. Do you stop? Or do you keep driving?

Most people are probably going to stop and try to figure out what’s wrong. 

Because you may not a car professional, but you can tell the difference between normal engine sound and an unusual sound. 

A basic waste audit operates on this exact principle - you may not have experience in the waste industry, but with some common sense you can figure out if your waste management process is off track. (Read more about how you can stop overspending on waste disposal here.)

Let’s go over why, when, and how you should conduct a Basic Waste Audit (BWA). 

Why Do a Basic Waste Audit?

Basic Waste Audit Process

In short, you should conduct a basic waste audit because 95% of companies across all industries are overpaying for their waste disposal. If you’re like most companies, you could stand to save 20-40% on your annual waste spend. 

95% percent may seem outrageously high - and it is. But it’s a number backed with experience. We’ve found that percentage after our 17 years in the waste industry working with hundreds of companies in almost every industry you can think of. 

There’s a good chance you’re sitting on thousands of dollars in waste expense savings every year. Why not take a peek under the hood and see what you can find?

 When to Conduct a Basic Waste Audit

Let’s go back to our car analogy. Say you step out of your car and you see smoke coming from the engine. You would know something was definitely not okay, right?

When it comes to your waste management, you know something is off when:

  • Your hauler repeatedly misses pick-ups 

  • Hauler prices rise more than twice a year

  • Your hauler is impossible to get a hold of

These are all signs that something is wrong.

Sure, you can keep going with the status quo, but at what cost? Consider all the costs involved - emotional and time, as well as financial. Does your staff like spending 45 minutes on hold to resolve a disposal issue? Can you afford price hikes over the term of your contract? Is it worth it to continue having these problems or ones like them?

But it’s also a good idea to conduct a basic audit when you think everything is going right. Mostly because the way that contracts and disposal services are set up, you will inherently be asked to pay fees you don’t necessarily have to pay. Checking to see that you are actually receiving the services listed in your contract can yield surprises. 

How to Conduct a Basic Waste Audit

Basic Waste Audit Process

You can’t fix problems you don’t know about. To make sure no savings opportunity is missed, you’ll want to do this basic audit as part of the larger waste review process. 

Since the audit can be a detailed process especially if you have multiple locations, you may need to recruit a few colleagues. (Pro tip: donuts and coffee can be wonderful incentives). 

This Basic Waste Audit is part of the extensive audit we do for every client. We really do a deep dive - we look at invoice history for each piece of equipment, hauler agreements, and hauler prices in your area. (It takes us an average of 60-90 days.) But a lot of companies simply don’t have the time or resources to do that extensive of an audit. 

You may be one of them...but you may still be curious. What if I am overspending on waste? What if it’s by a lot? There are two ways to find savings: you can do a Basic Waste Audit, or you can get in touch and talk to us about doing an extensive audit on your behalf.

For those who want to do a Basic Waste Audit, we’ve outline a simple yet effective audit process below. This audit evaluates two of the biggest ways most companies overspend on their waste haulers: equipment and service levels. 

You can use the steps below to evaluate whether the service levels you’re getting are really what you need. At the end of the audit, you’ll know if you have an equipment problem, and you’ll know if your haulers are servicing your site as often as is stipulated in your contract. 

There are seven steps to a basic audit:

  1. Review your contract(s). How often should your location be getting serviced? 

  2. Make a list of all equipment that receives service. 

  3. Pick a time to conduct the audit. (Try to avoid holidays)

  4. For four weeks, at the same time each day, take pictures of the fill status of your dumpsters, toters, or compactors on all of your sites

  5. Record this information in a google sheet that all parties can have access to, and upload the pictures to a shared drive, sorted by location

  6. Evaluate information

  7. Plan next steps

After four weeks have passed, review all of the information and pictures you have for each of your location sites. If you have the invoices for that month, take a look at those as well. 

Ask yourself two key questions:

  • How often were my garbage containers or dumpsters completely full?

  • How often were pick-ups missed?

If your containers weren’t completely full, you can consider making a few changes. Maybe you need smaller equipment. Maybe you need fewer pick-ups during the week. Maybe you need both! 

And if pick-ups were missed, you may need to do some follow-up work. Were pick-ups frequently missed prior to this four week period? Is there a solid history of this hauler completely bagging out? 

In either case, this audit will give you the information you need to evaluate if your service levels are really what you need. 

If you want to go one additional step,  you can also get other bids from area haulers. There is most likely another hauler near you who can provide the right service levels at the right price point. This will give you another valuable piece of information as you evaluate your waste management process. 

Basic Waste Audits Help Solve Waste Problems

Waste Audits Solve Problems

A basic audit gets at the heart of the two biggest problems in most company’s waste management: equipment and service levels. By evaluating both of these in one fell swoop, you can find savings opportunities - and relief from repeated hauler issues. 

This basic audit will show you if you where your smoking engine is. And like so many things in life, knowing exactly what the problem is is the first step towards finding a solution.

Click here to find more ways to stop overspending on your waste spend!