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checkEstablish a baseline for waste generation and track performance.

All PIM content was independently developed and reviewed to be vendor-, product-, and service provider-neutral.


Developing waste stream metrics using a tracking and reporting program will help you understand all aspects of your facility’s waste stream, establish a baseline for current generation rates and operations, identify improvement opportunities, and set goals. 

  • Project Talking Points

    • Producing a waste stream metrics tracking and reporting program is an essential component of a successful waste management program. Once established, this program will help:
      • Track waste stream performance.
      • Track cost, environmental and operational savings, thereby identifying financial and environmental “gaps.”
      • Build the business case for program and/or project development.
      • Gain support from stakeholders, including leadership, staff and community.
      • Report progress through dashboards and/or a triple bottom line scorecard.
      • Develop action plans to meet intended goal(s) and verify performance.
      • Provide data from which to develop the “roadmap” for future opportunities and improvement strategies.
    • Establishing a baseline against which future reductions will be measured goes hand-in-hand with understanding your waste stream and is an important first step in tracking progress. You cannot measure what you don't know you have, nor can you set reasonable goals or report on successes. Data measurement and management are essential components of building a program that is sustainable.
    • Setting waste minimization goals and targets requires understanding your starting point in terms of type, volume/weight, and cost for each waste stream.
    • Measuring your waste data is worth the effort for many reasons:
      • Setting numeric goals and action plans requires data.
      • Being able to quantify the outcomes of programs will help justify purchase of equipment, or any other proposed resources, including hiring a Sustainability Coordinator.
      • Required when applying for awards
      • A reason to celebrate when you reach your goals
      • Being able to quantify environmental improvements (trees saved, equivalent cars taken off the road, gallons of water saved, etc.)
  • Triple Bottom Line Benefits

    • Cost benefits
      • Enhances financial performance through the identification, implementation and tracking of financial savings associated with waste management initiatives.
    • Environmental benefits
      • Data allows the tracking of environmental benefits. For example, X lbs. of waste recycled reduced our greenhouse gas emissions XX number of pounds. Successes breed more successes, ultimately reducing the organization's overall environmental impact through the identification, implementation and tracking of environmental attributes associated with waste management activities.
    • Health and safety benefits
      • Clearly communicates the organization's waste management goals and the progress made.
      • Encourages staff, leadership and the community to further engage in waste management initiatives.
    • Quality and outcomes - Metrics are in development. If you have suggestions, please  contact us or participate in the discussion below.


  • Purchasing Considerations

    • Consider including language in waste RFPs that requires the vendor to:
      • Provide monthly metrics/data reports with all necessary volume/cost data.
  • How-To

    1. Identify your stakeholders.
      1. Make a list of all the waste and materials leaving your facility.  Identify what department, and person, is responsible for that waste stream.   Include every item like solid waste, construction and bulky waste; donations, food waste; regulated medical waste; recyclables including confidential paper; universal waste such as electronics, batteries and bulbs; hazardous chemical waste such as lab waste, pharmaceuticals, paint and facilities chemicals.
      2. Identify who might be interested in the data.  In addition to the obvious departments above, supply chain (contracting), finance, nursing.
      3. Collecting data for the first time is the hardest part.  Find out who the stakeholders are and create a Green Team Benchmarking subcommittee so that all players understand the investment and benefits of this effort.  Refer to Building Sustainability Teams.
    2. Identify all vendors.
      1. In general, purchasing or accounts payable departments should be able to help identify all the vendors that are currently removing materials from the facility. 
      2. Reach out to both the departments using these vendors and to the vendors themselves to let them know what you are trying to do.  You will need to work with them later to gather more information.  
      3. Note:  In some cases, even those who have primary operational responsibility do not see waste contracts of the invoices if they go straight to accounts payable for payment.    Setting up a system where all invoices are approved, input into a tool and then paid, may yield surprising results. 
      4. Institute data reporting requirements for all vendors.  Vendors should provide monthly reports detailing relevant volume and cost data.   While you are reviewing data later in the process, gaps in the data you get and the data you need will begin to become obvious.
      5. While you’re contacting your vendors, you can ask about any resources they might have to help.  Often there are resources available, but only when you ask.  For example, a facility RMW assessment, or spreadsheets and analytical tools. 
    3. Identify appropriate waste reporting tool for tracking and reporting data. The tool can be as simple as an excel spreadsheet or numerous software programs are available on the market.  
      1. The Roadmap’s Waste Tool  is a free excel spreadsheet – start with the Instructions tab as it can be overwhelming! 
      2. Review existing programs (excel & market offerings) and identify your criteria, which might include:
        1. Is waste data entered for you (electronically by the waste vendor)?
        2. Do you have someone on staff who is good at excel?
        3. Does the program have the ability to track all waste, special pick-ups by local groups for example? 
        4. Does the program have the ability to compare hospitals within your system?
        5. Does the program have reporting and graphing flexibility
        6. Does the tool come with training and will it exceed your capability to do it alone
      3. Even if you ultimately use an excel spreadsheet, it might be worth it to conduct software vendor presentations/demos to the Subcommittee to learn more about options
      4. Determine the ROI on buying an off-the-shelf program.  There’s no doubt this overall effort will save money, so it might be worth the investment. 
    4. Establish a baseline year upon which future progress can be benchmarked. Benchmark against industry best practice to determine environmental and financial gaps. Typically the baseline is the earliest full year you are willing to go back and input data, whether last year or 3 years ago.
    5. Collect the data.
      1. Collect 12 months of relevant volume and cost data for all waste streams including:
        1. Solid waste
        2. RMW
        3. Recyclables
        4. Universal Waste
        5. Hazardous Wast
        6. Pharmaceutical Waste
      2. Ensure information (even estimates) for all materials leaving your facility is measured
      3. Data can be gathered from invoices, manifests or monthly reports provided by the vendor.
      4. Understand volume to weight conversions. Industry and vendor standards may differ, so make sure an agreement is made with your waste stream vendor when reporting these estimated weights.
    6. Determine waste stream percentages, cost and volume per waste stream, cost per ton for each waste stream.  By evaluating, measuring, baselining & benchmarking, your facility should have a good sense and understanding of where “gaps” or improvement opportunities exist. The team, with leadership support, can now begin setting both short-and long-term waste management goals. Consider using the Roadmap’s Waste Target-Setting Tool to assist with setting reasonable waste reduction goals to understand the implications of reducing certain waste streams while increasing recycling and implementing waste minimization programs.
      1. Create SMART Goals using the Top 3 Opportunities. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely:
        1. Specific goals are straightforward and unambiguous. They emphasize what you want to happen.
        2. Measurable goals are explicitly defined so you know when you’ve met them. Terms like “as much as possible” or “soon” are not as measurable as “reduce by 5 percent” or “by the EOY.”
        3. Achievable goals and action plans are reasonable and attainable. Because they are specific and measureable, there should be no ambiguity as to whether the goals and actions are practical. If they are not, they are not the right goals.
        4. Realistic action plans are those the organization is both willing and able to work to implement
        5. Timely goals set a timeframe and schedule to ensure that work can get done within a specified and realistic timeframe.
      2. Example goals include:
        1. Obtain a 30% recycle rate by June 2013.
        2. Implement a reusable sharps container program by March 2013.
        3. Define and implement a standard waste collection process for all waste streams by July 2013.
        4. Re-negotiate solid waste contract to align with industry best practice pricing by November 2013
        5. Implement a know where to throw staff training program to ensure that waste materials are placed in the proper containers by December 2013.
    7. Implement the performance improvement measures (PIMs) to help meet your identified goals.
      1. For every project, identify the measurements for success.  Then make sure to track that information to report on what’s work and what’s not.
      2. Understand your drivers and barriers to ensure the implemented programs will satisfy the goals of the particular driver and that you are prepared with solutions to overcome the barriers.   
      3. Review, assess and identify improvement opportunities recognized during the measurement, baselining and benchmarking phases.
      4. Categorize these opportunities using a Value-Effort Matrix Grid. Choose the top 3 opportunities with the highest value & lowest implementation effort.
      5. For each project, develop an “accountability matrix” that details the necessary steps to accomplish the objectives of the project, by who and when.
    8. Develop a reporting system that measures and reports data regularly to track progress
      1. Example reports include: waste stream percentage, waste stream weight, waste stream costs, financial and environmental gap analysis, etc.
      2. Clearly communicates the organizations waste management goals, the progress made, and encourages staff, leadership and the community to further engage in waste management initiatives. Communication vehicles include: newsletters, e-blasts, websites, social media, etc.
      3. Uses dashboards to present snapshots of key performance indicators, like recycling rates, RMW rates and cost savings.
  • Tools

    • EPA created the Waste Reduction Model (WARM) to help solid waste planners and organizations track and voluntarily report greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions from several different waste management practices. WARM is available both as a Web-based calculator and as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet (The Excel-based version of WARM offers more functionality than the Web-based calculator.
    • Roadmap’s Waste Target Setting Tool will help you set goals and understand the cost benefits with your new goals.
    • Roadmap’s Waste Data Collection Tool, an Excel spreadsheet to capture and analyze data. 

    If you have an ROI tool, calculator, or similar resources to share, please contact us or participate in the discussion below.

  • Case Studies

  • Regulations, Codes and Standards, Policies

    Some states require waste data reporting.  If you are a large quantity generator of hazardous waste, you have to complete quarterly and annual reports.  But states have different requirements, for example, Wisconsin requires annual reporting of RMW and RI requires annual recycling reporting for all business.  Check with your state on your data reporting  requirements.

  • Cross References: LEED

    LEED 2009 For Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance

    • Materials & Resources Credit 6: Solid Waste Management: Waste Stream Audit 
  • Cross References: GGHC

    GGHC v2.2 Waste Management

    • Prereq 1 – Waste Management Plan
    • Prereq 2 – Waste Generation Profile & Measurement
    • Credit 1.1 – 1.3 Solid Waste & Material Management Indoor Chemical Contaminant Reduction – Laboratory
    • Credit 2.1-2.2 – Regulated Medical Waste Reduction
  • Cross References: EEP

  • PIM Synergies

  • Education Resources

    If you have any information or resources to contribute, please contact us or participate in the discussion below.

  • More Resources

  • PIM Descriptors


    Level: Essential

    Category List:

    • Measurement and Reporting
    • Strategic Operations
    • WASTE

    PIM Attributes:

    • Measurement and Reporting
    • Optimize Operations

    Improvement Type:

    • Operations


    • Environmental Services
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