Gondolas full of cardboard boxes and other waste in an office building corridor.

Evaluate Your Agency's Waste Generation

Evaluate Your Agency's Waste Generation
Conducting a Successful
Waste Audit

Conducting an agency waste audit is often the first step toward reducing waste at your agency. Waste audits are a key part of any waste reduction plan because they provide data to make (and validate), waste management changes. They also provide the people conducting the audit with the opportunity to observe waste-generating activities and waste management operations in practice, rather than just on paper. Conducting a waste audit can also help you establish a baseline for waste data and waste composition, which is important for identifying the types and sources of waste generated by your agency. A waste audit alone will not reduce your waste, rather it is a starting point for helping your agency make informed decisions on where to implement waste reduction and recycling programs and initiatives.

A primary goal of a waste audit is to collect accurate data that can be analyzed and assessed in order to pinpoint areas for waste reduction and recycling improvement and where additional education may be helpful within your office or agency. If you are looking to track food waste in particular at your agency in order to propose the rollout of a composting program, a specific food waste log can be helpful in the data tracking process.

These tips will help you and your team successfully conduct a waste audit:


Before the Audit
  • Create your waste audit team and have planning meetings. Agencies occupying OGS owned and managed facilities/buildings should first reach out to their designated OGS tenant representative for information on how to proceed. Agencies occupying spaces with OGS managed leases in privately owned facilities/buildings should first reach out to OGS Leasing for information on how to proceed.
  • Have at least 4 people on your team that are willing to help on the day of the audit. Ensure you have enough people to help you sort through the waste sample in a timely manner.
  • Start the waste audit planning process at least two months prior to your desired waste audit date. Select a date for your waste audit that will accurately reflect a typical day (e.g., avoid days of the week where there are usually fewer people around or days where special or large events are being held).
  • Do a walk-through of the facility prior to the audit. Take note of the ways trash and recyclables are being collected and handled for final disposition.
  • Identify all potential locations of waste generation and find the bins in which people are disposing of their waste.
  • Hold face-to-face meetings with building maintenance and custodial staff to gather information, notify them of your audit plans, and ask for assistance on the day of the audit.
  • Have face to face meetings with building maintenance and custodial staff when asking for assistance.


During the Audit
  • Remember to take the tare weight of any containers before weighing with waste in them.
  • Remember to subtract the tare weight from the gross weight to get your net weight.
  • (Container + waste) – container weight = net weight of waste
  • Sorting on a table is easier and more comfortable for people.
  • Having multiple scales will make the process go faster.
  • Cover the tables you use with cardboard from your recycling bins.
  • Have a dump bucket to pour liquids into and take the total weight of the liquids at the end of the audit.


After the Audit
  • Have a post-waste audit meeting to discuss findings, next steps, and areas in need of improvement and additional education within your office or agency.
  • Include a post-audit walk-through as part of the team meeting to learn more about issues identified by the audit. 

Waste Audit Guides & Data Collection Sheets

Waste audit guides are a helpful tool, whether you are using them to familiarize yourself with the process, or presenting the waste audit process to a group. The following waste audit guides and data collection sheets will help you and your office or agency take the first step in learning about waste audits and how they can help your agency reduce their waste. 

For additional waste audit guidance, you can contact the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Recycling & Outreach section (518-402-8706 or [email protected])