Design and validation of a domestic waste management audit tool
This study was undertaken to design and validate a new domestic waste management audit tool (W-MAT) that would allow waste management companies to track waste trends more efficiently. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, 2007) identified the limitations of the current paper based domestic audit questionnaire that is used by local authorities to audit household waste and highlighted the need for an electronic audit tool. In 2007 Galway County Council (GCC), under the auspices of the Local Authority Prevention Demonstration Programme (LAPD), sought to develop such a tool, as the existing paper based audit methodology adopted was labour intensive and costly to administer. The need for such a tool is driven by requirements to monitor domestic waste production and recovery rates. Landfill is decreasing and waste recovery rates have risen from 19% in 2004 to 26% in 2008. However, there is still some way to go to achieve the 50 % EU Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC) diversion target by 2013. This emphasises the need for a greater understanding of household waste composition, volume of specific waste streams and changing waste trends. Increased understanding of domestic waste streams will allow local authorities and waste management companies to identify and provide appropriate and efficient waste management options such as reduce waste production at source, reuse material where possible and maximise recycling. The local authority should also investigate other available options such as incineration with energy recovery, combined heat and power (CHP) plants, bio-refinery plants and commercial composting plants, as economically viable and environmentally sustainable alternatives to landfill. GCC therefore identified a need for an audit tool that is: • Electronic based, to reduce the cost associated with data capture, compilation and analysis. • Easy for the householder to use. • Capable of data storage and retrieval. • Suitable for online deployment. • Able to generate waste trends for large sample size (>1000) • Modelled to provide a profile of the waste composition • Designed to generate a summary of results, that is supported by result charts • Administratively light for the local authority to deploy and implement Reflecting International best practice it was decided to base the W-MAT audit methodology on a combination of the Zero Waste New Zealand and the Irish Waste Characterisation, 2008 methodology. The W-MAT was designed using best practice software design methods that involved needs analysis with all stakeholders, design review meetings and field trials with 28 households. The waste management audit methodology developed is based on the well known Excel spreadsheet software, which can be easily deployed on-line. Both field trials demonstrated that the audit tool worked efficiently generating useful household audit results in the form of standard template reports. The results obtained were comparable with existing National data, generating confidence in both the quality of the data and the ability of the audit tool to capture accurate household waste trends. WMAT was well received by GCC and it is expected that the EPA will roll out W-MAT to other stakeholders in the near future.
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