Waste > Waste Audit

A waste audit is an analysis of your facility’s waste stream. It can identify what types of recyclable materials and waste your facility generates and how much of each category is recovered for recycling or discarded. Using the data collected, your athletics and recreation departments can identify the feasibility of enhancing their recycling efforts and the potential for cost savings.

Your department’s waste hauler or local government may be willing to conduct a waste audit. Identify and contact any staff on your campus who might facilitate a waste audit across your sports facilities. The departments with knowledgeable staff may include the Recycling Center, Facilities/Operations Department, Sustainability Office, and Custodial Services. Also contact your waste hauler, whether on or off campus, to learn more about the services it provides.

Consider joining the EPA’s free WasteWise program, which provides members with several benefits, including a technical assistance team that may help your department conduct a waste audit and identify waste reduction opportunities.

For listings of recycling service providers near your city, visit Earth 911’s Business Resources directory and the Environmental Yellow Pages.

Calculate the environmental benefits of recycling.

For a comprehensive discussion of waste and use reduction, see EPA’s Resource Conservation section on reduction and reuse.


Before implementing a recycling program, your department should conduct a waste audit. During a waste audit, the auditor investigates the sources, composition, weight, volume, and destinations of the waste that your department generates. Organizations exist that will perform this service free of charge, or they can be performed in-house by staff. By learning more about the trash your department generates, you can be better informed about the products you buy that contribute to waste and be prepared to efficiently dispose of it, saving your department and/or institution money, benefitting your brand, and improving your department’s environmental performance.


Performing a waste audit is an effective way to learn more about the trash your department generates. Work with any willing partners on campus to conduct a waste audit across your sports facilities. In order to create an accurate representation of your department’s waste stream and how much you’re currently diverting towards recycling, consider performing multiple waste audits, each during a different season during the year.

  1. Ensure proper safety measures: Provide thick gloves to sorters and make sure that everyone has had their tetanus shots. Involve the department/institution’s occupational health and safety director.

  2. Ensure proper confidentially measures: The waste stream may contain personal and private information that should be kept confidential. Ensure that no documents are being read during the audit, and that nothing leaves the auditing area. Have participants sign confidentiality agreements.

  3. Enlist building managers, custodial staff, and waste haulers: The help of building managers, custodial staff, and waste haulers is invaluable to a successful waste audit. These sources can assist in gathering your department’s waste and can also provide valuable insight into the current state of your recycling and waste management system.

  4. Don’t notify staff of the timing of the audit: By keeping the timing of a waste audit secret, you ensure that the waste you analyze is a truly representative sample of the waste that your department generates on a regular basis. If people are informed of the date of a waste audit, they may increase their recycling rates or otherwise alter their behavior.

  5. Collect waste: Work with waste haulers, custodial staff, and concessions managers to collect the waste. Make sure that the waste collected is clearly labeled by date and location.

  6. Sort waste: Sort the collected waste by type, noting paper, cardboard, recyclable and non-recyclable plastics, glass, and metals, food waste, batteries, etc. Make sure to note recyclable materials that have not been recycled.

  7. Analyze results and make recommendations: What is the composition of your department’s waste stream? How much can your department increase its recycling? By what methods can your department increase its recycling? How can waste be collected more efficiently? What are the opportunities to reduce waste generation? How can your department/institution save money by altering its waste management systems?


Conducting a waste audit at your sports facilities can help your institution earn points within the “Waste” subcategory of AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). It can directly contribute to earning up to 9 points for the credits “OP 22: Waste Minimization,” “OP 23: Waste Diversion,” and “OP 24: Construction and Demolition Waste Diversion.” Work with sustainability and facilities staff on your campus to support any institutional efforts to attain or improve your institution’s STARS rating. Use the STARS 2.0 Technical Manual to learn more.


By conducting a waste audit, your department can be better prepared to efficiently and responsibly dispose of the waste that it generates every day. By designing a more efficient waste disposal program, your department can increase the amount of paper, plastic, and metals that it recycles, which reduces air and water pollution, helps curb global warming, and conserves our natural resources.


Recycling and composting can save money through avoided disposal and hauling costs. Many recyclable items can also be sold on the market as a source of revenue. A waste audit can help your department identify these potential savings and revenue opportunities. Many companies have found significant savings through their efforts to increase recycling.

In addition, sports facilities often have a unique potential to increase recycling rates through smart procurement practices. The majority of waste generated in the public areas of sports facilities consists of food waste, beverage containers, and food serviceware (trays, cutlery, cups, clamshell packaging, etc.).

Ecologically intelligent procurement can play a big part in reducing the waste your sports facility sends to landfill. Buy food serviceware and other materials that are recyclable or compostable (and packaged in materials that are also recyclable or compostable), and communicate to your vendors and suppliers your requirements for compostability or recyclability. See the Suppliers section for more information.

Collegiate Sports Examples

>> Penn State‘s recycling initiatives, including providing recycling bag dispensers in tailgating areas and an in-stadium recycling program, have helped the 111,000-seat Beaver Stadium reach a 35 percent waste diversion rate and save Penn State $12,500 in litter cleanup costs after every home football game. The Lions divert 85 tons of materials to recycling at each game and donate all proceeds to the United Way, with such proceeds topping $85,000 since 1995. To learn more, read the full feature in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

>> During the 2012 football season, the University of Southern California(USC) launched a tailgate “zero waste” diversion and certification program. This program enjoyed a very successful inaugural year. Accomplishments included engaging nine student team leaders and 410 student “peer educators,” educating 40,000 to 65,000 fans per game, and diverting more than 11,581 pounds of recyclable material (including more than 23,000 plastic cups) and 2,820 pounds of compostable material from landfill. During the 2012 football season, USC Athletics partnered with USC’s Office of Sustainability to conduct a waste audit and pilot a venue recycling program. The Office of Sustainability is currently partnering with the operations team at USC’s Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to map out strategies to reduce waste during game days in 2013. To learn more, read the full feature in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

>> In 2008, the University of Colorado Boulder athletics department teamed up with White Wave Foods Inc. to launch the “Ralphie’s Green Stampede” waste diversion program. The “zero waste” program had relatively low implementation costs, and the program is also saving money thanks to reduced trash disposal costs. Green Stampede combines waste minimization efforts with reuse, recycling, and composting. From 2008 to 2012, the program collected more than 394,000 pounds of recyclable and compostable materials, including more than 100,000 pounds of cans and bottles and 151,000 pounds of compostables from inside the stadium. In 2008, Folsom Field achieved a 30 percent season-long landfill diversion rate. The athletics department improved this to a 75 percent average stadium waste diversion rate for the sports seasons from 2009 to 2012. To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

Professional Sports Examples

>> The San Francisco Giants evaluate their entire waste management program as one system and work with their waste haulers, concessionaires, and other partners to identify  inefficiencies and cost savings potential. Jorge Costa, senior vice president of ballpark operations, offered an example: “To upgrade our loading dock, we proposed to spend  something like $60,000 to revamp the layout, so we needed to calculate how we would recoup that investment. We worked with Recology, our waste partner, to minimize the number of trash hauls and dumping costs. We reevaluated and economized on the bags and bins we were using. We also thought more systemically about savings around the ballpark by cutting down on broom costs and labor costs.” To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Game Changer report.

>> The Seattle Mariners established “zero waste” goals at Safeco Field, which increased waste diversion rates from 12 percent in 2006 to 81 percent in 2011. The initiative saved $95,000 in landfill costs in 2011 and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 10.4 million pounds (CO2-equivalent) from 2006 to 2011. To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Game Changer report.

>> The Portland Trail Blazers invested $560,000 in operations improvements around the Rose Garden (now Moda Center) in 2008. By 2011, the team had recouped $411,000 in energy savings, $165,000 in water savings and $260,000 in waste diversion savings, with a total savings of $836,000. By the end of the 2011 calendar year, they saved close to $1 million while investing about $500,000, in less than three years. To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Game Changer report.

>> In three years, the Cleveland Indians cut their annual waste in half by significantly expanding their recycling facilities to sort waste on-site. This reduced the number of trash compactor pickups–that cost the Indians an average of $500 each–by 64 percent from 254 pickups in 2007 to 92 in 2010, saving the Club $50,000 annually. To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Game Changer report.

>> O.co Coliseum (the former McAfee Coliseum), home of the Oakland Athletics and Oakland Raiders, became the first major league sports venue to implement a composting program and use compostable cups in May 2005. The Coliseum’s extensive waste diversion program, with many recycling and compost receptacles placed throughout the stadium, has decreased its trash-hauling costs by more than 20 percent.

“The economics have caught up with the vision: the coliseum is saving a significant amount of money by composting and recycling,” said George Valerga, the venue’s director of maintenance. “It took about eight months to a year to get down to where it now costs the same in labor. And we’re saving $10,000 to $20,000 a month on our garbage bill.”

To learn more, read the full feature in the NRDC Game Changer report.

For more examples of how smart waste practices can save your department money, see the following websites:

New York City Recycling Case Studies
StopWaste.org Partnership Success Stories
Institute for Local Self Reliance – Recycling Record Setters


AASHE Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS)
AASHE STARS 2.0 Technical Manual
Waste Audit webpage
WME magazine on conducting a waste audit (1)
WME magazine on conducting a waste audit (2)
WasteWise – How to Start or Expand a Recycling Program
Minnesota Guide to Source Reduction
NRDC Guide to Composting at Sports Venues