Assessment of Waste Management Programs

Facility managers can benefit from periodic assessments or audits of waste management programs. We mean comprehensive program assessments, not checks and material accounting you do as part of regular management. Possible good things:

Cost benefits: You can often identify opportunities for cost savings.

Environmental benefits: Less waste produced means lower volume of waste for disposal in landfills. Less waste transported to landfills means lower air emissions related to transportation. Less waste produced means lower cost and environmental impact from treating the waste.

Safety benefits:Waste assessments can lead to improvements in operations and policies regulsing in increased patient and employee safety. This includes taking care of legacy waste.


Some things the assessment may look at:

Rate of generation of waste in different categories

Seasonality of generation rate, if any.

Sensitivity analysis of waste generation rate - in other words, how much does waste increase or decrease when your facilities central (patient care, research labs, etc) increases or decreases.

Benchmarking - a classic example in a hospital is waste per day per patient or per bed. But there are many possible benchmarks if you use your imagination.

Opportunities for reallocating waste among streams

  • More waste from the MSW stream to the recycle stream
  • More waste from the MSW stream to the compost stream

Opportunities for waste reduction at source

  • Procurement using environmentally preferable purchasing
  • Process redesign
  • Safety and risk with regard to waste storage.

    Are there better methods for on-site treatment, collection, and storage? Safer, more effective, less expensive.

    Have advancements in IT opened up new possibilities? Keeping tabs on waste in your facility has many benefits, and information management techniques are better than ever.

    Management plans

    Watch out for hidden hazardous waste and secondary waste

    You have to take a critical look at everything in your facility periodically. You may have overlooked materials that are hazardous, including hazardous materials that form when other activities, such as cleaning, happen. For instance disinfectants that contain bleach or quaternary ammonium compounds are corrosive. Where chlorine-containing cleaners are used in an unventilated place, chlorine gas can evolve due to reaction with organic compounds. Also, some older medical instruments use mercury. The mercury is not a waste because it is part of a functioning unit. But you should keep tabs on all mercury in your facility, in case the equipment breaks. Batteries, photochemicals, and stains and laboratory reagents are also possible hazardous waste sources that are easy to overlook.

    Outside Consultants

    Sometimes it is a good idea to get an external consultant to do this assessment. Although you may balk at consultants (concerns about expense and culture fit), a limited term consulting engagement can be worth it.

    Consultants can bring a fresh perspective. They have seen operations elsewhere, which most facility managers have not. They have contacts among regulators, equipment suppliers, and your competitors. They don’t have organizational biases your employees might.

    Whether you use an outsider or an insider, be sure to make the assessment a “project” with a limited time for analysis and a report at the end.