Check the Trash

When was the last time you checked the trash at your business?  While attending a recent seminar, the man sitting in front of me said part of his company’s business was to review trash to find ways customers were losing money.  In one example alone, he discovered over $30,000 worth of discarded merchandise, missed recycling and evidence of theft in just one “dumpster dive”.

Periodically, take the trash cans from your business, spread out a large plastic tarp like painters use and dump out the trash.  Use a broom handle or yardstick to sort through it.  What are you looking for?  Anything that shouldn’t be there.

You may find cardboard, clean paper, plastic and can which could be recycled.   Many businesses are able to collect, bind and sell their cardboard.  Same with some plastics.  Printer cartridges can also be sold or refilled.

Empty packaging from products you sell could be evidence of theft and would bear investigating further.  Perfectly good items or those with minor blemishes should be sold or at the very least, donated for the deduction.  Employees can get sloppy and that can cost you!

Also look for documents that should have been, but were not shredded.  These can be dangerous in many ways – liability for personal or sensitive data and valuable to competitors.

Don’t think any of your competitors would ever check your trash?  Don’t be so sure!  In the early days of my business, my sales manager and I used to routinely check the trash behind our competitor’s store.  You’d be surprised how often we found pricing sheets and even the layout for their upcoming sales advertisement!

Your trash is a microcosm of your business.  Once you analysis your trash, you may decide  you need to  invest in some good quality shredders.  Shredded paper also is recyclable and should be.   You may find you need more recycling labeled trash cans next to the ones for actual trash.  You may just find you need to train your staff on what is – and is not – trash.


Once your team realizes you are serious about looking for every dollar to add to your company’s bottom line – even looking in the trash – they will become more conscientious as well.


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