According to the most recent data from the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States disposes of 267.8 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) annually – that’s a lot of waste! That waste is made up of a variety of different types of materials, which you can see in the chart below. Paper and paperboard make up 25%, plastics 13.2%, and food 15.2% of total waste generated. Some of this material is diverted from landfills through recycling and composting programs or combusted for energy generation, but even with those programs, some 139.6 million tons of waste are landfilled each year.
But what does this mean for the average household or for each individual person? Well, we know that the average American produces 4.9 lbs of waste per day, but knowing your unique waste production is a trickier question. To help our Ambassadors answer it, we’re providing instructions and guidance for conducting an at home waste audit. It’s a simple activity that just takes a week and a few supplies you likely already have on hand, but can generate useful data and actionable ideas when it comes to reducing your waste.
A waste audit is a method for collecting your waste generated during a certain period of time to determine the types of waste you frequently produce and identify opportunities for reducing waste generation in the future. There are a number of ways you can conduct a waste audit, but for our Ambassadors, we’ve put together a simple set of At Home Waste Audit Instructions. Without changing your behaviors from what’s normal for you, you’ll collect your waste generated over a one-week period, sort it into different types, and identify opportunities for meaningful reduction. Click on the instructions link for further details on everything you’ll need to know to conduct your audit. This is definitely an activity that can and should involve your entire household including any elementary school aged kids – so it’s an opportunity to engage your housemates and family members too!
Help & Guidance
To help you along the way, we’ve provided several resources on local recycling rules and composting best practices. Also, we’ve provided a simple spreadsheet to help you organize the data you collect from your audit and automatically calculate numbers such as your recycling rate and diversion rate. Lastly, we are encouraging participants both when you are planning your audit and after you have completed it to reach out to the Planet Blue Ambassador staff for personalized guidance and feedback. It’s all in the instructions, so check ‘em out!