Planning an event? One of the things that should be on the top of your to-do list is to have a waste audit. Yes, you read that right: not a financial but a waste audit!
Many event professionals fail to realize the importance of conducting an audit that will help them assess how much waste their event is likely to produce. While many may think this is an odd thing to do, conducting an audit is actually an extremely smart way to manage your event budget and reduce unnecessary expenses.
What Is a Waste Audit?
A waste audit is the study of the amount, nature, and composition of waste generated by a facility — or in this particular case, events. The purpose of an event waste audit is to asses how much trash will be produced during an event, or how materials will be thrown away by organizers. However, another critical aspect of conducting a waste audit is to assess what kind of efforts will be required to remove the waste from an event site, and how much it will cost. The data gathered can help event professionals plan accordingly and actively organize an event that will produce less waste, potentially minimizing their budget (i.e. food and paper overstocking). All the while, you’ll be ensuring that your event is as environmentally friendly as possible.
But how do you go about conducting a waste audit? Instead of hiring a company to come in and perform one, you can conduct an event waste audit by following these five basic steps:
Every waste audit should have a goal, so you have to identify the reason behind conducting one. It can be to decrease costs or to reduce redundancies, but whatever the purpose, make sure you have clarity before you start. This way, you can get your staff and team involved to help you identify factors that will influence the way waste is produced at your event.
2. Set limits
Now that you know why you want to conduct a waste audit, you have to figure out if you are able to audit the entire event, or only certain aspects or segments of it. Also, depending on labour and cost, you have to identify certain limits for your own company. While some waste audits last during an entire event, you may see fit to conduct the audit on the first day of your event for a sample, or during a particular segment, such as a workshop or a networking session. By limiting your time and resources to a particular aspect or segment, you are likely to gain the most accurate information about how much waste is produced, and make a decision on if it can be reduced.
3. Dive into the garbage
What’s the best way to find out what kind of waste is being produced? Go through the garbage! While it’s not advisable to sift through garbage cans during an event, you can assess what kinds of items attendees are throwing out by appointing waste auditors to stand close by and asses what’s being thrown out. They can keep track of items such as recyclables, food, and excess paper being discarded, which can be used to better plan and budget in the future.
It’s a good idea to appoint waste managers in different sections of the event management team. From vendors, to participants, to staff, event waste goes through a lot of hands. By connecting with these different waste managers, you can learn how waste flows through the event from start to finish.
4. Make it a mission
Let’s face it: conducting a waste audit is not the most fun or glamorous job in the world. You have to make sure that staff working on the audit are protected from job hazards and also motivated to report accurate information. Make sure you have the necessary safety equipment for your staff to go through the garbage such as gloves, masks, and weighing machines.
Also, you can try to gamify the audit for your sorters and team or by offering perks and rewards for reporting the most accurate and updated information.
5. Record your findings
The result of a waste audit is either documented as volume (the most common) or by weight, for easier measurement. When auditing by volume, you can use standard containers to store the waste and record how many containers of each material you have (i.e. organics, recyclables, paper). Make sure you have different containers for different types of waste.
Once you have recorded your findings, it’s time to compile a report that will outline your research. Based on your findings, you can determine the next steps that will address the objective of this audit. For example, if the purpose of the audit was to reduce costs, you might want to look at how much organic (food) waste was produced during the event, and use that information to plan better for your next event.
Waste auditing can deliver insight as to how materials are being disposed of during an event. This is particularly helpful for events that include a food service, or are giving away branded or printed items. If you are not able to conduct a full-scale waste audit, you can even walk on the show floor after the event and look into the garbage bins to get a sense of what is thrown out. You can use basic information from an audit to eliminate materials from your next event, helping you drastically reduce your budget and also plan an environment-friendly event.
Ankush is a London-based entrepreneur and founder of cleaning agency St. Anne’s Housekeeping. He is a cleaning enthusiast and passionate about the green movement. Ankush aims to promote practices that help reduce stress on the environment, and sustainable practices that help the world around us.