Waste audits: a critical first step to zero waste | Life Without Plastic
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Waste audits: a critical first step to zero waste

Hi all,

Getting started on zero waste living can be intimidating to some! If you’re interested to find out why plastic is just so important to avoid and eliminate, please check out my short educational video here. If you’re convinced, and want to try to go zero waste, please check out our top ten tips here!

But where do you really start, apart from decking yourself out with awesome kit?

Enter the waste audit.

If you’re interested in this lifestyle but you’re not quite sure where to start, try to keep track of all of your waste created for a week (a month is even better, but can be a bit of a commitment!). Some people keep this waste aside to have a visual, but when I first did this three years ago I just wrote down everything, and just found it now as I’m backing up my computer!

Below is my waste audit for one week from September 2013; right before I did my first zero waste challenge. How I cringe to look at it now!

1 plastic mesh bag for garlic

1 bin liner (for me and my two roommates)

1 can of Pringles

1 lid from Pringles

1 packet of “stir fry vegetables”

1 packet of stir fry noodles

1 small ball of clingfilm around packet of mushrooms

1 plastic bag from fresh baked bread

1 plastic clingfilm/liner around a new notebook

1 bottle of milk + lid + “lift ‘n’ peel tab

1 box of cereal

1 plastic cereal liner

1 plastic sleeve for cheese

1 sleeve for flowers

1 “flower food” packet

1 wax paper for butter

1 plastic bag of pasta

2 straws

2 rubber bands around broccoli and spring onions

2 sleeves of plastic (one for the grapes, one for tomatoes)

2 packets of mixed leaves

2 wrist bands from nights out at the union

3 plastic baskets (one for grapes, one for tomatoes and one for mushrooms)

3 labels from tomato, mushrooms and milk

3 caps for cider (glass bottles recycled)

3 junk mail envelopes with a plastic window

4 receipts

6 tea bags

12 stickers -> 6 from bananas, 5 from apples, 1 from avocado

16 paper towels

(There were also plenty of things that weren’t thrown out the week I did my audit, but that would soon become waste – e.g. my plastic deodorant, my toothpaste, my toothbrush, etc).

This list makes me so sad to look at now! This much waste, for one person, for ONE WEEK! Insane. And I wasn’t even that accustomed to counting my waste so I’m sure there is stuff I missed as well. You’re never fully confronted with your waste until you write it all out in a big scary list – but it actually really helps to identify where you can make easy changes!

This list is from 2013, three years ago, before I made this life change and just remember – every single piece of plastic I used is still around. (Where is it now?)

Just a few quick fixes for some of the things that came up:

Plastic mesh bag, plastic baskets and wrapping around pre-packaged produce:

  • Produce bags and hit the grocery store or farmers market

Plastic sleeve for cheese

  • Take your container directly to a local cheese store/farmers market or even the cheese section at your regular grocery store

Plastic bag for pasta


  • In the words of Nancy Reagan, “Just say No!”

Packets of mixed leaves

  • Grew my own during the summer, during the winter months I buy heads of lettuce to avoid packaging


  • Make an art project the bottle caps

Junk mail

  • Put a “no publicity please” sticker on your mail box
  • For mail that you actually want that includes plastic windows – write to them and tell them why you would like that to be changed

Tea bags

  • Secretly lined with plastic – go for loose leaf instead with a tea strainer

Paper towels

  • Long live the kitchen rag!!


Thanks for reading – and stay tuned for an overview of zero waste food shopping soon!



  • Pelin
    Posted at 17:12h, 23 October Reply

    Hi. I just watched your ten tips video and I liked it a lot. Keep it going!

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