This is the third part of a four-part article about how distributors can help their customers compost.

Any distributor that is set to help a customer develop a composting program should start by conducting a waste audit, says Ashkin.

“They should do an event where they go through the garbage, literally, and see what’s in the garbage,” he says.

For distributors, performing a waste audit is a great way to drive business, says Ashkin. A waste audit will allow the distributor and its customer to determine the best course of action to divert landfill waste, whether that’s increasing recycling, creating a composting program or a reducing the amount of disposable items used in a building.

At the University of Washington in Seattle, a waste audit often takes the form of a “Trash-In.” Waste from select buildings is brought out onto the campus’ central mall, Red Square, where Gene Woodard, the university’s director of building services, and his staff, along with volunteers and passersby, sift through each bag, separate the waste streams and record their findings.

“I can’t even tell you how many pounds of trash we’ve had the pleasure of sorting through, mainly to gather real, tangible data to help support our initiative,” says Emily Newcomer, the University of Washington’s assistant director for recycling and solid waste.

The event is held in Red Square in part because the space is large enough for the operation and in part so that the public nature of the event will raise awareness for composting and recycling, says Woodard. For what it’s worth, many safety hurdles must be cleared and protocols followed for such an event, says Newcomer. She wouldn’t recommend undertaking an event like this without the proper guidance and experience. The findings from the Trash-Ins, however, have been worth the effort.

“Continuously, for three years in a row, we kept finding that 60 percent of what was being thrown away was compostable,” says Newcomer.

As a result, Woodard and his staff added centralized composting bins to the buildings it services in 2010. The bins were placed in common areas such as kitchens, break areas and restrooms. These areas make the most sense because that’s where most compostable items are located, says Erica Bartlett, University of Washington building services program coordinator. But distributors should still use a building’s custodial staff as a resource.

“Most often [custodians are] saying, ‘We need a compost bin here,’” says Newcomer, “because they’re so attuned to our waste diversion goals and the contamination.”

The University of Washington has proposed a 70 percent waste diversion goal by 2020. This number might be higher than most facilities can expect. Kilsdonk, for instance, says Marsden continuously finds its customers’ waste streams split into equal parts recycling, compostable material and traditional landfill waste.

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Add Composting To A Building's Sustainability Program
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The Jan/San Distributor's Role In Composting