Instructions for conducting a solid waste audit

Brisbane City Council has sets of waste audit equipment available for loan if required. Email your request to Council.

Equipment you will need

To conduct an audit, you will need the following equipment:

  • rubbish bins containing one day’s worth of general waste (audit either school bins or wheelie bins)
  • tongs (three or four pairs for a group of five students)
  • solid waste audit worksheet (available to print below)
  • clipboards (one per group)
  • pens (one per group)
  • calculator
  • posters showing what can go in the recycling bin, what can be composted and what goes in general waste
  • tarpaulins (one per group)
  • buckets labelled with different waste categories (e.g. compost, recyclables and general waste)
  • dustpan and brush, sponges, soap and water (for washing tarpaulins, tongs, buckets etc.)
  • hand soap and water (for washing hands).

Before you begin

If you use school bins, ensure they are from different locations such as classrooms, office and outside bins. The more bins you audit, the more accurate the findings will be. As a minimum, audit one bin from an eating area and one from a classroom.

Ensure all participants can identify the different types of materials for sorting into the three different buckets.

Recyclables include:

  • plastic bottles and containers
  • cans, foil and tins
  • paper
  • cardboard
  • glass bottles and jars.

Compost material includes:

  • fruit and vegetable scraps
  • tea bags and coffee grounds
  • egg shells
  • flowers.

General waste includes everything else, such as:

  • non-recyclable soft plastics, e.g. plastic bags, cling wrap, muesli bar wrappers, chip packets, lolly papers and squeezable yoghurt tubes
  • tissues and paper towel (for hygiene reasons place in the general waste bucket)
  • food scraps that are not fruit or vegetables, including items such as meat, sandwiches, cakes, biscuits and full or partly filled drink containers.

Day of the audit

  1. Explain the instructions for the waste audit. Ensure everybody is aware of the different types of materials and items that go in each of the three different buckets. Place posters in a clear visible location that shows what items go in a recycling bin or a compost bin.
  2. Divide participants into the same number of groups as there are bins. Approximately five people in a group works well. Supply each group with a copy of the solid waste audit recording sheet. You can download the following:
  3. Assign participants in each group a role.



  • Tells sorters what type of waste they need to collect e.g. suggest that one sorter collects all paper to go in the recyclables bucket, someone else to collect all chip packets, muesli bar wrappers, cling wrap and plastic bags to go in the general waste bin.
  • Records the volume of each category on the solid waste audit worksheet.
  • Collects buckets and tongs for each group.
  • Ensures everybody helps wash tongs, tarpaulin, gloves and buckets once audit is complete.


  • Responsible for taking buckets to the recorder when sorting is complete or buckets are full.
  • Responsible for emptying buckets back into bins after you record the waste in that bucket.
  • Helps with sorting.


  • Identify different types of waste and sort into the labelled buckets.


  1. In a well-ventilated area out of the wind, place a tarpaulin on the ground for each bin. Place the three buckets for each group around edges of tarpaulin.
  2. Tip the contents of each bin onto the tarpaulin.
  3. Each group sorts waste into the three separate buckets labelled 'recyclables’, ‘compost’ and ‘general waste’ using tongs or gloves.
  4. Once a bucket is full or when the sorting process is complete, the runner should take it to the recorder. Estimate the approximate amount in the bucket, e.g. full, ¾ full and so forth. Enter the amount into the worksheet under the relevant heading - compost, recyclables or general waste. If there is more than one bucket of a particular type of waste, the recorder puts a plus sign between the amounts and adds them. For example, if there were 3½ buckets of recyclables, the scribe would write 1+1+1+½.
  5. Once the volume of waste is recorded, the runner should empty the bucket back into the rubbish bin.
  6. Sorting is complete when the only scraps left on the tarpaulin are smaller than a 10 cent piece. At this stage all the buckets containing materials are measured and emptied back into the rubbish bin.
  7. Wash all equipment and hands thoroughly.
  8. Add the volume of recyclables from all the bins audited and enter into the table on the school waste assessment tool. Do the same with the volumes of compostables and general waste. The table will automatically generate these amounts as percentages and create a pie graph to illustrate this data.
Last updated: 3 May 2019