4 key Steps to Establish a Waste Baseline

Making the decision to move toward a zero waste goal is one of the most important choices a manufacturer can make. With benefits like saving money and building customer loyalty, a zero waste initiative can revolutionize the way you do business. But where does one start? Navigating the roadmap between your current waste levels and a zero waste program can seem daunting, but at Quest, we are here to guide you through the process. The first and most important step is to establish a waste baseline. This is the baseline for which all of your goals will be based on – so it needs to be as accurate as possible. That’s why we’ve put together this 4-step guide on establishing an accurate waste  audit baseline to help you achieve those zero waste goals:

Step 1: Facility Walkthrough

The most direct and visceral way to get an idea of your current waste levels is to actually see them for yourself. There is no substitution for actually examining your production lines and seeing what is thrown away in each step of the process. This gives you the opportunity to make tangible assessments that reports and data on a computer screen might make convoluted. It’s important to walk through each phase of your production lines and make notes on what is thrown away and why. Take time to assess different types of waste for each production line. All of this information will come together with the other data you can collect through the other 3 steps to create an accurate baseline.
The walkthrough isn’t just about the weight of the waste generated, it should also give you an idea of the money associated with that waste. Everything that is wasted has a cost and a potential return. Metal, for instance, can be recycled with a financial return. Quantifying your waste is an important aspect of establishing your waste baseline: it’s not just about tonnage – it’s about dollars spent.
To help you better understand your waste streams, here is a simple checklist that you can use to assess and categorize your waste. Just click on the link below, and you can get started today on creating your waste baseline.

Step 2. Waste Audit

Seeing the waste your production process generates is the best place to start, but there is still room to improve on the information you’ve collected. The next step in the process: a waste sort, is designed to really hone the data you’re putting together. For example, if you notice that one aspect of your production line is producing more waste than others, a waste sort will tell you what TYPES of waste you are creating. Is it cardboard? Is it metal? This information is way more important than just raw weight of materials because depending on what type of waste it is – you will divert it differently. Different types of waste also cost you more money. 1,000 pounds of wasted metal is going to cost you a lot more than 1,000 pounds of wasted cardboard.
Also, it is critical to quantify the waste as it pertains to your final product. For instance, if you are creating a specific product, how much waste is produced per product. Depending on what it is that you are producing, this can be per item, per gallon, per square foot, etc. By doing this, you can compile your waste by your per/unit production. This is important if your production increases over time. If you produce 100 pounds of waste for 1 item and you reduce that to 10 pounds per item – the same ratio should exist whether you make 10 items or 1,000.
Keep in mind, a waste audit sort can be an arduous process, but it is really the only way to determine the different components of your waste stream. Taking the time to do an accurate waste sort is the key to putting together accurate baseline data.

Step 3. Employee Surveys

Between the walkthrough and the waste audit, you’ve now got a pretty good idea of where and what type of waste your production process is generating. Just like with any other aspect of your business, it’s always a good idea to have a second or even third set of eyes. Take the opportunity to add as much input as you can to your data by surveying the people that actually do the work. They are going to have even more detailed experience that can provide detailed results. Talking to the people that see the production process up close and personal every day is going to give you insight that no walk-through or data collection can give you. This is also an important step to include your employees in the zero-waste process you’re building from day one.

Step 4. Records Research

Finally, once you’ve gotten all of your tangible data collected, it’s time to turn to the paper and computer data you have access to. This includes things like collection hauler data for your waste removal services. This waste audit data is broad-spectrum information, but it still becomes a part of your waste baseline. Obtaining these invoices from your waste hauler gives you the totals to build your goals on.
The whole point of establishing a waste audit baseline is to have something to build your goals on. That’s why establishing an ACCURATE baseline is so important. At Quest, we understand the need for an accurate baseline and have the experience to guide you through the process and help you collect the data that will make a difference. Achieving zero waste for your manufacturing process is at the heart of what we do, so contact us today to get started. Your customers and your bottom line will appreciate it.

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