What is a Trash Audit and How to Get Started

Woman putting leftover food in black recycling bin in the kitchen. trash audit.

Do you find some eco-friendly ideas and/or top tips work for others but not for you and, equally, the other way around? It’s time to get down and dirty (literally) and channel your inner fox – by having a rummage through your bin! By identifying your most-wasted items, you can make the most effective changes.

Here’s how you can get started with your trash audit…

How Many Days Do You Want To Look At?

A day is often not long enough to understand your normal waste, so aim for at least a few days or, if possible, a week. I conduct my audit when my kitchen bin (our main household bin) is full – this is normally after a few days.

How Will You Record Your Waste?
person holding red and white disposable bottle

If you have the space (and the stomach) for it, you can empty your bin onto the floor outside. Make sure you are wearing gloves before you start raking through!

Don’t fancy the idea of getting up close and personal with the bin? Put this easy bin audit tracker near your bin for everyone to use before they refuse! You can also use a wipeable board to tally up certain objects or get everyone to make a note of what they are adding to the bin.

Go digital and make notes on your phone if that works better for you – or you can even take pictures as a visual reminder.

You could simply weigh the bin bag on some luggage scales and work to reduce the weight in the future.

Household Recycling Centres

If you go down to the tip today, you’ll probably find a huge variety of sections for your household waste. Familiarise yourself with your local centre to see if some of the items making their way to your general waste can be separated further, e.g. batteries, broken electrical cables, bras… you name it, there’s a place for it!

Compost and Recycling

Has something crept through the cracks and not been correctly discarded? An apple core from a lunchbox or a drinks can? Make sure these are removed from general waste and recycled or composted. If you’re using a tally system make sure you remind everyone where these things are supposed to go. I find telling them they will have to fish it out the bin for themselves if it happens again is normally enough for a few weeks perfect refuse.

Not sure of what can be recycled or composted? Take a look at our quick guide HERE!

What Did You Find?

How many of each item is being thrown away? Did it shock you or was it what you expected? With this information you can make specific changes for you and your household, such as labelling your bins to make sorting easier, or by reminding family members what is recyclable.

Set a Goal
close up shot of a typewriter

I’ll share my experience as an example:

My main problem areas were food waste, food packaging and drinks cans.

I’m not proud of my Pepsi Max obsession, however after seeing the numbers in front of me and succumbing to how unhealthy it is compared to other options, I’ve been able to set myself challenges. For example, I’ve banned Pepsi Max from passing my lips all through January.

If you’re new to this concept, three small changes tends to be enough to get started.


Are the changes you’ve made working? Choosing to audit when your bin bag is full actually allows you to compare how many days it takes to be filled, as well as its contents.

Notice any changes and if they are successful – keep up the good work and maybe introduce a tighter goal or an additional one.

Not seeing any real changes? First thing, keep going! Adjust those goals and try again. If you start to lose momentum, pick something else to work on for a while and revisit at a later date.

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