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Tracking Waste Management: A Step-by-Step Guide

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May 11, 2023

Data & Technology

Tracking Waste Management: A Step-by-Step Guide

Learn about the different kinds of waste and how your business can effectively track waste management.

Eric Strickler

Director of Marketing

A consistent goal of waste management is to minimize the amount of waste going into landfills. On some level, waste generation represents a failure to optimize efficiently.

So, how can we, as businesses, effectively track our waste output to best optimize our processes? Below is your guide to tracking waste management.  

Waste Tracking  and Data Coverage

Data coverage is critical when establishing a high-level waste management program. Full data coverage ensures proper waste tracking of all kinds. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are measurable only if you have superior data coverage across all waste streams and all locations.

Align your reporting capabilities with the need to measure GHG  emissions, including the Scope 3 variety. These are indirect emissions occurring within a company’s value chain.  

Types of Waste

Comprehensive waste tracking requires a full awareness of the many kinds of waste.  


The EPA lists common recyclables, including aluminum, steel, and other metals. The paper &  cardboard category includes packaging, newspapers, magazines, catalogs, brochures, and printing paper. Glass, plastics, tires, and used oil are other examples.  

Organic Waste

Organic waste, or food waste, includes shells, vegetables, fruit, and food-soiled items like pizza delivery boxes. This category also includes compostable yard waste like grass clippings, leaves, and weeds.  

Regulated Waste

Enterprises must pay special attention to regulated waste, including hazardous waste. Medical waste includes sharp objects and biohazard material. E-waste is electronic waste like batteries, computers, discarded smoke detectors, and more. Hazardous and industrial waste may go to landfills, surface impoundments, land treatment, farming, and even underground injection. These types of waste are managed in accordance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Before the RCRA, indiscriminate disposal contaminated large swaths of land.  

Solid Waste

Solid waste includes municipal solid waste (MSW) and construction waste. Every effort must be made to reduce the amount of solid waste going into landfills. Reducing the burden on landfills delivers essential advantages. Landfill management must control odors, avoid groundwater contamination, and deal with methane gas. According to the EPA, MSW landfills account for 16% of US methane emissions as of 2016.  

The “containers category” accounts for 28.1% of MSW. According to the EPA, containers are any packaging discarded in the year the products inside are purchased. The category includes packaging and containers used to ship, store, market, and protect products. It also consists of the material used to preserve food, beverages, medications, and cosmetics.

Universal Waste

The EPA lists five kinds of universal waste: batteries, pesticides, equipment containing mercury, lamps, and aerosol cans. Federal waste regulations drive municipal and commercial programs that reduce the universal waste going into landfills.

Soft Costs Associated with Managing a Waste Stream

Proper waste stream management involves many different costs- expenses associated with data reporting, invoice management, vendor management, and equipment management. Many of these tasks are considered non-core job responsibilities, taking valuable time and resources away from personnel that are focused on their daily operations.

You also need well-trained personnel capable of implementing the system. Designing an efficiently operating recycling and waste program, one that maximizes diversion opportunities while limiting costs, requires expertise. Duties typically include identifying appropriate equipment for the different types of waste, placing the equipment in the most efficient and safe locations, and managing equipment maintenance. Additional responsibilities likely include negotiating vendor prices, auditing invoices, manual collection of data,  and more, unless you entrust this responsibility to a third-party expert. Finally, to accurately report information and avoid potential fees and surcharges, this information must be communicated across the enterprise.

Auditing costs are another consideration. These are recurring expenses since waste audits typically occur two or three times per year.  

Step 1: Understand Your Waste Streams

To understand your organization’s waste situation fully, it is vital to identify all waste streams at all facilities. Then, it is crucial to accumulate data on every waste stream. Ideally, real-time analysis optimizes the overall waste management task. A comprehensive audit pays dividends for years to come. Whether a waste audit involves a skyscraper or a major shopping mall, it is vital to acquire fine detail, like an item-by-item count of trash bag counts.

Regarding ESG reporting, there is no single “rule book” in the United States. For example, GHG calculations rely on different approaches, from GRI to EPA and from SASB to TCFD.

Cradle-to-Grave Reporting

Your quest for sustainability should include cradle-to-grave reporting.  

While it is essential for all waste streams, it is required for hazardous waste. It is also vital for medical waste or anything that can cause harm. A  variety of federal and state agencies require specific forms of reporting. The right waste management platform makes compliance more manageable than ever.  

Do you generate hazardous waste? If so, a provision of the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act (RCRA) makes your organization responsible from its inception to its ultimate disposal. Hazardous waste may also be subject to state and local regulations.

Non-compliance may lead to harsh sanctions, including fines. Cradle-to-grave includes waste generation, transportation, treatment, storage,  and disposal.  

Data Coverage and KPIs with Keter

The key performance indicators (KPIs) in managing waste are typically volume-based. Waste categories include recyclables, organics, hazardous waste, solids, e-waste (electronic), and universal waste. Regulated waste includes wastewater and medical waste (sharp objects, biohazard materials).

It is vital to track KPIs, adjusting for variations from one locale to another. State and local regulations o en vary, leading to different reporting requirements for different locations.  

To facilitate your data analysis, KPIs are translated into percentages which determine an overall landfill diversion score. Once you’re armed with accurate diversion scores, a more effective diversion strategy naturally follows.  

For many enterprises, ESG is a significant force driving modern waste management. Investors increasingly evaluate companies based, in part, on their ESG reporting. Success in waste management increases ESG scores.  

Waste management experts are well aware of how much regulations vary from one jurisdiction to another.  

eTrac: Key Features

eTrac is Keter’s proprietary application delivering waste program insights in real-time. The eTrac Client Portal provides real-time analytics at the property, regional, and corporate levels.

  • Consolidate your reporting across your enterprise.
  • Provide a foundation for ESG reporting.
  • Understand all regulations that apply to every property.  

Use eTrac to:

  • Sort by property, property type, region, and more  
  • Evaluate efficiency, diversion, and aging
  • See how much landfill space has been saved
  • Determine the number of greenhouse gasses that have been avoided.

Real-time Dashboard

  • Highlights key waste program performance indicators.
  • Monitor waste program performance at an individual facility or across the enterprise. For example, compactor haul information includes service dates and weights. Access the data you need to 1) haul containers when they are full and 2) optimize compactor efficiency.

Category Drill-Down

Peer into individual waste stream data, either from a single location or across the enterprise. Get the insights you need for essential waste management decision-making.

Operational Insights

Examine every waste stream’s equipment list. eTrac lists all equipment by type, size, location, PSI, and service schedules. Monitor maintenance schedules and PSI readings. eTrac’s predictive analytics reduce time burdens.

Granular data optimizes operations at every property. For example, view complete equipment lists for every property, including totes to receivers and compactors to front-end loaders. eTrac notes min/max psi, as well as compactor cycle counts.  

Monitoring landfill diversion is significant. First, landfills are a source of methane emissions. Methane traps heat in the atmosphere with 23 times the potency of carbon dioxide. Second, even the waste leaves the premises, a company is responsible for any emissions it causes at a landfill.  

Keter’s eTrac proprietary waste management platform streamlines your process, reduces labor costs, improves efficiency, and meets sustainability goals. Specifically, eTrac allows you to download waste program data to enable boardroom-ready ESG and sustainability reporting.  

Step 2: Audit Your Waste and Recycling

Many enterprises find that auditing waste in-house is too costly and time-consuming. Few have the resources to devote an entire department to waste operations. Third-party audits are the most efficient method for many organizations.  

A waste audit yields a deeper understanding of a waste management system’s efficiency or lack thereof. Audits help to build an effective waste management ecosystem. Every audit identifies waste types and quantities produced during a given time.  

Ultimately, effective auditing creates a repeating cycle that improves the environment while increasing revenues.  

Waste Audits: Step-by-Step

A step-by-step audit identifies areas of improvement. It may increase revenue by improving recycling practices. It may reduce operating expenses. It encourages employees to recommend further improvements proactively and routinely update recycling targets.  

1. Equip Audit Personnel  

Supply them with clear garbage bags, large containers for the bags, and recycle bins. They’ll need permanent markers, labels, and printed checklists. Protective gear is essential, including gloves, eye protection, face shields, and safety shoes. Finally, the crew will need cameras and weighing scales.

2. Sample the Garbage and Waste

Audits are often done mid-week when waste streams better reflect actual daily volumes. Garbage gets collected from pre-determined sites. It is labeled by location, type, date, and time to facilitate the following sorting.  

3. Identify Waste Categories

During an audit, personnel carefully note every category of waste your enterprise generates. Common categories include paper/cardboard, plastics/plastic bottles, packaging, signage, display materials, aluminum cans, and glass. Food waste is often an essential category as well.

Finally, it is vital to identify all hazardous waste. Such substances are subject to various federal, state, and local regulations. Throughout the process, waste auditors must look for any hazards that your organization’s health & safety personnel should be aware of.  

4. Record the Results

Those involved in an audit will identify and analyze every waste stream. They’ll note the categories of waste present and whether any recyclables are mixed in. You’ll then analyze the categories with the most waste and those with the highest recycling percentages.  

Once you have all the data., you can calculate the waste diversion rate. This is the percentage of the waste that’s successfully diverted from landfills. For most organizations, the waste audit should occur two or three times per year. This allows you to note seasonal trends, including the impact of different weather conditions.  

Vendor Verification

It’s essential to verify your waste disposal vendors, to ensure they remain an effective partner in your sustainable waste management. Vendors must demonstrate diverse competencies. This is particularly true of those dealing with your hazardous waste.  You must verify that the prospective vendor is legally authorized to perform certain tasks.

Key variables include:  

  • A history of timely, reliable service
  • Compliance history at its operating site
  • Conditions at the treatment, storage, and disposal (TSDF) facility
  • Conditions at the final disposal destination
  • Documentation of sustainability practices

A skilled waste management service will coordinate with proper disposal haulers to ensure compliance. Also, determine if the prospective vendor processes waste in a timely manner. Stockpiling of material may indicate problems with the operation.

Negotiating Prices

Negotiation with haulers is much more effective for those who have built relationships with the haulers in the community and those aware of prevailing rates.  Waste companies must be motivated to run trucks and fill landfills efficiently. They need to optimize returns for their shareholders.

It is essential to take a close look at each vendor. Ask these questions:

  • How do they transport your waste?
  • Are they associated with a given landfill?
  • To what degree are they motivated to embrace sustainable practices?

Unexpected Costs

Sometimes, hauler invoices come with unwelcome surprises. For example, there might be charges for phantom hauls or nonexistent equipment. Surprise waste disposal invoices can be a big pain point for many enterprises. To deal with this, enlist the services of a  third-party expert capable of regularly auditing and correcting such incidences.  

Surprise waste disposal invoices can be a big pain point for many enterprises. To deal with this, enlist the services of a third-party expert capable of regularly auditing and correcting such incidences.

Auditing Your Waste and Recycling Data with Keter

Utilizing Keter’s capabilities, it is possible to audit waste generated in large structures, from shopping malls to factories. A comprehensive audit involves sampling every item in every trash bag. Among the many benefits, you can track all relevant commodities like cardboard, aluminum, and glass.  

Keter can:

  • Verify vendors to avoid inadvertent greenwashing.
  • Negotiate pricing with vendors, many of are well-known to Keter
  • Reduce costs by embracing the Internet of Things (IoT)  

IoT technology includes the placement of wireless monitors on Keter equipment. These monitors transmit pressure readings that go directly into eTrac. This approach enhances data accuracy while reducing costs.  

Step 3: Categorize Your Waste Streams

If you want to take your enterprise’s waste management to the next level, it is vital to understand every waste stream on a granular level. To that end, there is no substitute for a thorough audit of every kind of waste generated. An audit will do more than reveal quantities of various wastes generated.  

It will also reveal any mixing of waste streams. The purer your waste streams, the more efficient disposal becomes. And, you avoid mixing hazardous and non-hazardous waste, which may lead to fines, compliance orders, or both.  

Categorizing Your Waste Streams with Keter

You’ve committed to a series of sustainability goals. With the right platform, it’s possible to confirm the progress accurately you’re making in achieving your goals. eTrac, Keter’s industry-leading application, helps you categorize and analyze waste streams. Use the results of a comprehensive waste audit to establish categories relevant to your enterprise. From there, enjoy true data-driven recycling and waste management.  

Data-driven recycling and waste management:

  • Purify waste streams.
  • Identify areas where it is possible to improve landfill diversion.
  • Make more efficient use of equipment & e ective use of space

Step 4: Optimize Your Processes

Optimize your processes to achieve the three key objectives of waste management: greater sustainability, economic benefit, and regulatory compliance. To achieve these goals, companies need a highly efficient waste management program to achieve these goals.  

Supercharge your quest for zero waste. Simultaneously improve the environment and enhance your ESG reporting. Position your brand in a way employees will be proud of and investors will make a note of.  

Clients are encouraged to:

  • Inform employees and tenants of what must be recycled
  • Post notices of local laws and regulations  
  • Use prominent signage to facilitate compliance

Noncompliance can lead to fines, waste/recycling invoice surcharges, or both.

Optimize Your Processes with Keter

Keter knows everything in advance. With predictive analytics embedded in its program, efficiencies can be created by avoiding non-essential hauls or creating additional pick-ups when there is a predicted influx of waste. Additionally, the constant monitoring and management of services, combined with vendor-agnostic capabilities, prevent delayed or missed hauls. No one else can do what Keter does.

Look to Keter to reduce the overall margin of error in your reporting capabilities, which will help eliminate potential greenwashing. Keter incorporates EPA assumptions into how it uses commercial containers.  

Keter understands that well-trained personnel is essential to optimizing a waste management program. The education and training of Keter clients are always top-of-mind. Education is a critical component of any waste management program. Finally, Keter right-sizes waste management programs to enhance the efficiency of operations.

Keter: Waste & Recycling Management

At Keter, our team stands ready to deliver the help you need when tracking the creation and disposition of waste at your organization. Keter advances the science of waste management with its proprietary eTrac so ware.  

Keter utilizes the standards set by Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), an international standards organization that helps enterprises understand and communicate their impact on sustainability.  

For prompt, professional assistance, please contact us today.

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