Everything you need to know about a waste management system: waste disposal methods, tools you can use to reduce waste, how to conduct effective waste audits, and additional tools to help your business comply with environmental laws
Published February 19th, 2021
A waste management system encompasses an organization’s waste disposal method, waste generation, and waste reduction efforts. Possible waste disposal methods are recycling, composting, incineration, landfills, bioremediation, waste to energy, and waste minimization. As for waste generation, the specific source/s of an organization’s waste highly depends on its function, industry, and waste reduction efforts.
iAuditor waste management plan template
Recycling or physical reprocessing is ideal for the disposal of inorganic waste such as plastic, glass, and metals, though organic waste such as paper and food may also be recycled. However, composting is a better waste disposal method as it converts organic waste into nutrient-rich fertilizer for agriculture.
Waste to energy or WtE, on the other hand, is the conversion of non-recyclable waste into heat, electricity, or fuel using renewable energy sources such as anaerobic digestion and plasma gasification. Anaerobic digestion is the biological reprocessing of animal manure and human excreta into methane-rich biogas. Plasma gasification uses a plasma-filled vessel operating at high temperatures and low levels of oxygen to transform hazardous waste into syngas. Another option for disposing hazardous waste is bioremediation, the treatment of contaminants, toxins, and pollutants through micro-organisms.
A waste audit is an assessment of an organization’s waste management system. It analyzes the movement of waste from generation to disposal. Common approaches for conducting waste audits are records examination, facility walk-throughs, and waste sort. The first approach involves looking at waste hauling and disposal records as well as contracts with recycling facilities. The second approach requires a team of internal auditors to identify waste-generating activities through observation and interviews with employees. The third approach is the physical collection, sorting, and weighing of a sample of the organization’s waste. This sample can be a day’s worth of waste or a collection of waste from each department.
Best practices for conducting a waste audit are to refrain from releasing the audit date to the entire organization, prepare personal protective equipment and a venue for sorting beforehand, and commit to acting on the waste audit result. This can be achieved by creating corrective action plans for each possible result. For example, if the organization scored low on a certain area, then the following steps should be done. For this to work, it is essential for the organization to set the criteria before conducting the waste audit. Another tip is to use digital waste audit checklists for easy documentation and a more comprehensive data analysis.
A digital waste audit checklist is used before, during, and after a waste audit. It typically contains planning, waste sorting, and next steps, though it may also include descriptions of the organization’s waste stream. Aside from being more convenient, digital waste audit checklists are also better for the environment than paper checklists.
Use this digital checklist to ensure an effective waste audit process. Determine the readiness of the waste audit team, inspect sorting equipment, and come up with corrective action plans. Confirm that goals and predictions have been enumerated. Verify that puncture-resistant nitrile gloves, full Tyvek coverall, and tables with plastic covering are available. Compare findings to previous waste audit results and initial predictions to critically evaluate the organization’s waste management system. Preview a sample report for more information.
Use this digital template to document waste audit results. Examine the current waste management system by providing details on current waste operations and recycling efforts. Learn the actual cost of not recycling by analyzing waste collection bills. Sort waste by categories such paper, plastics, aluminum, and steel. Record the subcategories’ estimated percentage of the waste stream. Add photos for evidence or for future reference.
While a waste management system is critical for any industry, there is added pressure on the construction industry to comply with waste management regulations. For example, the Site Waste Management Plans Regulations 2008 in England requires projects over £300,000 to have a SWMP before starting construction. While the creation and implementation of a site waste management plan is not required in other countries, doing so helps organizations avoid incurring any regulatory penalties.
While SWMPs are focused on construction waste, they can be adapted for use in other industries since, by definition, waste is an example of inefficiency. Though it may be impossible to completely eliminate the production of waste, using a waste management plan to make small, gradual improvements is a step towards more sustainable operations.
Before forming a waste management plan, get input and buy in from various stakeholders. Ask for suggestions on how to be more eco-friendly. Next, assess the strength of the current system by conducting waste audits. While it’s good to set high goals, be sure to maintain a realistic perspective so that the implementation of the waste management plan is feasible.
During implementation, the two most important rules to follow are to document everything and involve everyone. Aside from keeping waste audit results, it is necessary to also document the day-to-day waste disposal and resource use. Though involving everyone does not mean asking each person to record the number of paper products they have used, it does mean giving them the tools they need to participate in waste management. These tools can be in the form of training, induction, toolbox talks, or even digital waste management plan checklists.
By empowering employees to be more conscious of the impact their waste has on the environment, organizations become the catalysts for mass ideological change in society’s perception on waste. Instead of excessively purchasing new materials and carelessly discarding unused resources, professionals in all industries should do their best to reduce waste generation. One way to do this is to use digital waste management checklists.
Use this digital checklist to guide the planning and implementation of waste management improvements. Evaluate if implemented measures are controlled to prevent harm to humans or the environment. Minimize over-ordering of materials by selecting the right quantities. Consider the use of recycled materials and opportunities for reprocessing. Ensure that the importance of the waste management plan has been communicated to all employees.
Use this digital template to discover if the construction project meets the requirements of the Site Waste Management Plans Regulations 2008. This SWMP checklist can be used throughout the project lifecycle to monitor its compliance. It contains specific questions for planning and preparation, allocating responsibility, the identification, organization, and disposal of waste. It also has a section dedicated to learning lessons for the future so that contractors and subcontractors know what actions must be taken to perform better. Preview a sample report for more information.
A food waste audit analyzes the components of a restaurant’s waste. It helps restaurants identify the inefficiencies in their processes and provides them with the data they need to effectively address their food waste. As part of the Target-Measure-Act approach recommended by the World Resources Institute, food waste audits enable restaurants to set reduction targets, measure and report food loss, and be bold in taking action to combat food waste.
According to ReFED, the full cost of generating food waste for the U.S. restaurant sector is $54.7 billion, with an even larger amount spent ($218 billion) on the production, processing, transportation, and disposal of uneaten food. However, despite these statistics, there is a real benefit to caring about and mitigating food waste. ReFED states that for every dollar invested in food waste reduction, restaurants can realize approximately $8 of cost savings.
According to the EPA, there are six steps in conducting food waste audits. The first step is to develop audit goals and define targeted wastes (for donation, for animal feed, for composting, for recycling). The second step is to complete a pre-audit questionnaire concerning access to food banks and off-site composters. The third step is to plan the audit process through determining the waste sorting method, selecting a venue and a date, and obtaining waste sample bins. The fourth step is to identify and accomplish audit logistics by coordinating with the staff and giving them the necessary supplies for conducting the audit, such as a digital checklist. The fifth step is the collection and sorting of waste. The sixth step is to evaluate audit results.
One of the biggest advantages of a digital food waste audit checklist is that it automatically collects data. Understanding the food waste stream is the primary goal of these audits. With these digital checklists, restaurants and other food service businesses don’t have to worry about capturing the information they need to refine their waste management system.
Use this digital checklist to document food waste. Enter the date and time of disposal and the reason why the food loss occurred. Measure food waste in portions, quarts, or pounds. Attach photos as visual references for future audits. Preview a sample report for more information.
Use this digital template to create food waste entries that include descriptions, dates and times of disposal, reasons for disposal, and the total cost of waste in dollars. Submit the finished food waste audit template to regional managers for verification. Get a bigger picture of the conditions that made food waste disposal necessary by making staff signatures mandatory. Sign-off to indicate approval of the explanation.
Independent auditors perform clinical waste audits to assess a healthcare facility’s compliance with government regulations. In the UK, it is legally required to sort, code, and manage clinical waste, which is defined by the Controlled Waste Regulations as any waste which consists of:
In the US, clinical or medical waste is defined by the EPA as any solid waste which is generated in the diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals. State-specific regulations on clinical waste disposal can be found here.
While official clinical waste audits are conducted by independent auditors, healthcare facilities can also choose to prepare for these official audits by conducting their own frequent clinical waste audits. For these unofficial, regular audits, using paper checklists is counterintuitive since they contribute to the healthcare facility’s waste. Additionally, the passing of these checklists from one person to another could cause certain viruses to spread.
With digital clinical waste audit checklists, this possibility is avoided or at least minimized. Using digital checklists also saves healthcare administrators time in organizing the audit results since data is stored in a single place and can be filtered by date, department, branch, etc.
Use this digital checklist to compare the performance of the healthcare facility’s waste management system against set standards. Ensure that staff are recording and segregating waste. Conduct a facility walkthrough and take photos of non-compliant items or areas. Provide comments or suggestions on waste management procedures that need clarification. Preview a sample report for more information.
Use this digital checklist to enforce waste management procedures. Customize it to fit the color-coding system of the healthcare facility. Check if clinical waste bins are appropriately displayed, secured, and labeled. Inspect the condition of recyclable waste. Attach photos as evidence for formal audits.
Hazardous waste management was a key factor in the formation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Hazardous waste is defined by the EPA as waste that is potentially harmful to human health or the environment. However, hazardous waste is only subject to RCRA Subtitle C regulation if it is:
Listed hazardous wastes are either from common manufacturing and industrial processes (F-list), specific sectors of industry and manufacturing (K-list), or discarded commercial chemical products (P and U lists). Characteristics of a hazardous waste are ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, and toxicity.
Hazardous waste audits are encouraged and incentivized by the EPA. While the original audit policy was published in 1986, the 1995 audit policy further expanded it by stating that the EPA will not seek gravity-based penalties or recommend criminal charges for violations discovered through audits or a waste management system. However, such violations must be promptly disclosed and corrected. EPA has also released a set of audit protocols to guide the degree and quality of evaluation essential to an audit. Each audit protocol contains a checklist that matches regulatory requirements and specifies what should be evaluated during the audit.
Hazardous waste audit checklists are not only recommended by the EPA, but are also helpful tools for businesses to use in identifying gaps in their waste management system. Using digital checklists to conduct hazardous waste audits can also prevent unintended exposure to these harmful substances. Additionally, digital hazardous waste audit checklists are more convenient than paper checklists, which require manually entering data and typing up reports.
Use this digital checklist to assess compliance with EPA regulations and evaluate waste management systems. Validate if the business is following the accepted environmental impacts of its operations and production activities. Inspect hazardous waste manifests for reconciliation with time limits, EPA certified personnel signatures, and availability of 36 rolling months minimum. Confirm that the business uses a Permitted Hazardous Waste Transporter and Permitted Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facility (TSDF).
Use this digital template to conduct weekly hazardous waste audits to monitor compliance. Inspect hazardous waste containers and storage. Check hazardous waste labels and placards. Ensure that the staff has received emergency response training in case of contamination. Look for additional documents to support the audit such as MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet), Hazardous Communication Program training records, and previous audit results.
iAuditor by SafetyCulture is an award-winning EHS software (environment, health and safety). Conduct any type of waste audit on the mobile app. Get an in-depth view of waste audit results on the web platform’s analytics dashboard. iAuditor can help businesses across all industries create comprehensive and compliant waste management systems. It has the following features:
Get started for free with iAuditor to make waste management more efficient for your business.
Available on Android, iOS, and the web, iAuditor is a customizable mobile inspection app mainly used to improve and maintain safety and quality in numerous industries.
iAuditor offers a number of ready-to-use waste audit templates and other tools for waste management that can be used in settings where environment, health and safety are of the utmost importance.
SafetyCulture staff writer
Zarina is a Content Specialist for SafetyCulture. She is a Creative Writing graduate who enjoys discovering new ways for businesses to improve their safety, quality, and operations. She is working towards helping companies become more efficient and better equipped to thrive through change.
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