Green Geese Go Dumpster Diving!

Posted on Wednesday, March 4, 2015 by Goose Island

On a chilly January afternoon, 6 brave members of the Goose Island Green Team went dumpster diving.  To most of our coworkers passing by we looked like a bunch of crazy people up to our elbows in and covered with trash, but we were on a mission.  Our seemingly silly antics were, in fact, a scientific study!  The ultimate goal of our solid waste audit was to:

·         Collect data to better understand solid waste and its sources at our brewery

·         Verify that our current recycling program was still successfully operating

·         Determine if we generate enough organic material to justify starting a composting program


After we thoroughly sifted through a 1.5 cubic yard landfill dumpster and sorted and weighed over 300 pounds of “garbage”, we came up with some interesting results (see chart below).  The material inside the dumpster we audited actually contained 40% recyclable or compostable material, and only 60% of the material in the dumpster was in fact landfill material.  Based on this information we estimated that around 1,000 lbs of recyclables and 500 lbs of compostable material was being sent to the landfill every month…YIKES!  It was time for some action, so we dug deeper.


To gain further insight on where our waste was coming from throughout the brewery, we created waste flow charts for each department similar to the figure below.  Color coding each waste type showed where it was being sent and clearly indicated areas of potential improvement (Red = sent to landfill, Green = recycled/reused, Orange = sent to wastewater, Blue = unknown).  Follow up interviews with department operators confirmed these findings and helped us kick off improvement projects brewery-wide.


Supporting Websites:

Learn more about solid waste and brewing industry sustainability through the Sustainability Manuals on the Brewers Association website:

Learn more about solid waste audits on the Natural Resources Defense Council’s website:

Helpful Waste Audit Toolkits through Waste Management and Environment Magazine:


The information from our audit and follow up activities allowed us to fully wrap our minds around our solid waste program at the brewery, and taught us an awful lot about our trash.  Two of our biggest takeaways from our audit were that we needed to improve our existing recycling program and that we were generating enough organic material onsite to start a composting program.  We have been working hard on those items and have already made some impressive improvements!  In the next two Green Goose blog posts we will showcase those improvements by diving deeper into our brewery recycling/reuse programs and also sharing our experience with starting a composting program.  Stay tuned!

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