In your own operation, what resources are being wasted and to what order of magnitude? Explore the root causes: is the waste a result of policies, processes, practices or customary behaviors, or some other driver? Document those findings and develop plans to address those of the greatest value and impact to your business.
Getting started is often as simple as doing a “dumpster dive,” particularly in facilities with fairly consistent material use and waste streams. In these cases, pick a representative day at your facility, recruit a small team, lay out some tarps, dress for the mess and start sorting! The goal of this exercise is to determine both the type of materials in your waste stream as well as the order of magnitude generated. One way to categorize materials is to consider those recognized by the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) WARM model. By using these categories, you now have access to other types of tools for reporting data.
It’s important to note that to be most effective and holistic; these assessments should be for ALL waste, not just food waste. Recycling opportunities for plastics, metals, glass, paper, etc. can often be sources of income and part of an overall landfill diversion strategy. Enlist your local waste provider for guidance and assistance.
The waste assessment process can be conducted for any size or type of facility, from offices, to restaurants, to retail stores and even large scale manufacturing plants. More complex operations may require additional effort like tracking waste on multiple days and/or analyzing waste hauling invoices and other documentation, but the basic process is the same: categorize and quantify.
Once you have established what kind and how much material you are discarding, this information is valuable in three key ways. First, you can create a baseline from which you can measure progress over time. Second, you can look for areas to reduce or avoid the generation of the waste and third, you can look for areas to reuse, recycle or otherwise find value in those materials outside of landfills.