Waste Reduction Week 2020 - Trash Audit

Let's start Waste Reduction Week Canada 2020 with a BANG and a trash audit! Ooh baby.

tl;dr The video of me doing my audit is at the very bottom of the post (along with the video transcript). The next bit of text is breaking down WHY you should do a trash audit, and WHAT is involved, along with some "further reading" and extra resources!

Thanks for reading and watching!

My favourite environmental educator - and pessimist - Polly Barks is a huge fan of trash audits. I have been hearing her talk about them for awhile, so I thought I would try my hand at it.

Essentially, a trash audit involves emptying your trash bin and looking at all the pieces in there. And then make a plan to make some changes from there!


These are some tips you might find helpful for planning your own trash audit.

- Wear gloves (garden, plastic, rubber, etc.) and wash them when you're done to reuse for next time!

- Give yourself 30 to 45 minutes (minimum...this will depend a lot on how much trash is in your bin)

- Do it the day or night before waste collection to give you the best idea of what you throw out in a week

- Take photos or ask someone to help you create an "inventory"

- Do it outside if you can, or in a larger space indoors

- Lay out a plastic sheet, garbage bags, or tarp to put your items on as you go

- Sort your items into categories (landfill, recyclable, compost/organics)

- Plan to do this once a quarter (or twice a year at least)

- Pick your battles!

- No one is 100% zero waste (no one)


Can you tell me what is currently in your trash can?

Be more mindful of what you are consuming.

If you are doing some waste reduction already, sorting through your trash won't be a big, gross deal. And it will give you a chance to sort things out that were "misfiled".

"respecting and being knowledgeable about the waste that you do accept into your home" -Polly's youtube


I found that a lot of my waste was from Lucas' lunches. He is very particular about what he wants in his lunch. And it took a lot of years to get to the point where we have some healthy and filling options. But they are all in plastic packaging. My personal goal is to try and swap one of those for a homemade or lower waste option this week.

I also struggle with ensuring Dan puts his compostables in the proper place. But as he is an adult human, I have zero control over him. Nor do I want any. I've got Lucas mostly trained, and will continue to have those conversations with him and as a family.


This would be a great activity at your workplace, or at a family member's home. Once you have done your own and are a pro-fesh-shonal trash sorter, offer up your experience to other folks who might have questions. Or who might not know where to start in their waste reduction journey. Well this is a great first step! And now that you know, you can share it with others!


I found a lot of articles on trash audits, but my favourite by far is Polly Barks' trash audit video. She also wrote an article on the topic, if you prefer to read (here) instead of watch. Her post goes in to a lot more detail, which is probably great for some folks. But I am a "read the first step then jump right in and figure it out" kind of person.


Here is the video of me performing my trash audit on a blustery October day in Edmonton. It is completely captioned along with audio (music plus me talking).


Hi! It's the day before trash pickup I thought it would be the perfect time to do a trash audit on my kitchen garbage. And I’m hoping that I beat the weather today. I thought I would videotape it for uh posterity?! For the Lisa of the future who wants to see how the people of covid times lived with their garbage!!!!!

So something that a zero waste educator that I really admire says, is you have to pick your battles. For me, these right now are a battle I am not going to fight. Lucas is very choosy when it comes to school snacks and lunches. And he eats these. There is a lot of packaging i them but for now I am going to keep on with these until he is out of school.

You’ll notice me picking out some plastic items. This one does say recyclable, but for the most part everywhere black plastic is not recyclable. It’s mostly just garbage. So instead of wishycling this I am going to just throw it in the garbage.

Here is a bit of covid waste for you. I do not buy plastic gloves. These are ones I got at bulk barn when I went because I had to (wear them in the store). I brought them home thinking I would reuse them, but they’ve ended up in the garbage. What I might do now is wash this off and put them in with my cleaning and bathroom stuff and see if I can’t use this a few more times!

I am at the bottom of the bag now. We don’t often have a lot of trash actually so I am not going to get a full bag out of this week\s garbage. The bottom though is mostly coffee grounds now, some food scraps, egg shells, banana peels, bits of paper. We had a fruit fly issue in the summer, so we took our little compost bin that we keep under the sink and put it outside. So that adds an extra layer to it, which makes it less convenient, which means we are more likely to forget or miss or just throw things in the garbage instead of going outside to put them in the compost. So I am going to take what’s left in the bottom of the bag and put it directly in my bin out here. And then see if I can come up with some better ways to make sure we are successful inside the house making sure those compostable items get into the bin outside!

Gonna try and wrap this up quickly because the snow has started - October in Edmonton right? So for the most part I found that the garbage I pulled out was plastics, all plastic. And it was convenience foods. Sapporo ichiban noodles, Lucas’ lunch snacks, and my quick breakfasts when I forget to plan ahead the night before. And other bits of plastic like the cereal bag and bags that you get for packages in the mail, that kind of thing. Normally for a trash audit you would lay everything out so you can see it. I've got my list of things I found in there that I can find an alternate item for maybe do a swap. So i am going to reference that. You don’t get to see all of my trash laid out, but I think for the most part I’ve got a handle on what kinds of things we generate for trash in every given week. It’s the same things every week, it’s those convenience items. And there is definitely room for improvement always and I am going to see if I can make a swap next week that I will share with you next week. Thanks for joining me on this Trash Audit Covid 2020 edition

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