A Zero Waste Event is one where careful consideration is given to the products used on site and where these end up post event. Planning in this manner may result in items being recycled, composted or avoided altogether. This approach encourages organisers and stallholders to design an event that generates less waste, and/or the right kind of waste for reuse. It also involves educating patrons and raising environmental awareness about waste production and disposal.
There are 4 easy steps to creating a Zero Waste Event.
- Reduce Incoming
- Choose The
- Let People
Why your event should be Zero Waste
- Less landfill is kinder to the environment
- Less litter makes it easier and faster to clean up
- Less litter makes your event look and feel better
- Patrons feel good about wasting less, giving your event a positive ethos
- It is a public demonstration of your brand values
- It makes your event more attractive to sponsors, funders and attendees
- Zero Waste staff can interact with and help visitors in multiple ways
- A Zero Waste Event creates goodwill amongst your team.
For a quick guide on how to run a Zero Waste Event, click here.
Reduce incoming waste
Simply determine what you and your stallholders require and ensure it can be reused, recycled or composted – if it can be, your event is Zero Waste. Multiple people, businesses, and organisations participating in your event, will have different and sometimes challenging ‘needs’. You will need to work with
- Stall holders and food and beverage vendors
- Suppliers & Sponsors
- The public
The following are some things to think about:
Do you really need it?
Is it possible to substitute something that causes waste with something that doesn’t?
- Avoid giveaways and promotional material that will get discarded, such as thundersticks, balloons and glowsticks
- Use ink stamps instead of paper wristbands
- Consider issuing electronic tickets instead of paper ones
- Avoid excess packaging and products sold in nonrecyclable packaging e.g. chip packets, candy bars, blister packs, chocolate bars
- Avoid disposable cups. Sell drinks in bottles or reusable cups
Tip – Stallholders
Your stallholders and vendors are vital to a successful Zero Waste Event. If they are on board, good results should follow.
The recommended approach is to:
- Use vendors that are committed to being Zero Waste from the outset.
- Establish your expectations with stallholders from the outset by asking them to agree to your Zero Waste plan.
- Direct them to sort their back of house waste and use recyclable and compostable packaging.
It is estimated that 3.2 million tonnes of waste was sent to municipal landfills in 2006
Can it be reused, recycled or composted?
If not, consider an alternative that won’t need to be landfilled. For example:
- Use paper, reusable, or compostable bags instead of plastic bags
- Replace disposable cutlery with reusable
- Do not use polystyrene or plastic clamshells, plates, cups, and cutlery. Instead use compostable alternatives if you are collecting material for composting (see here).
- Offer reusable cups with a deposit
- Paper coffee cups are not recyclable as they are lined with plastic. Compostable cups (lined with plant-based plastic) are an option, but ensure all these items are composted.
- Use paper napkins in place of plastic containers to serve food items such as baking.
- Use signs that can be stored and re-used for future events.
Although some plastic plates, cups etc. can be recycled, in practice they are often contaminated with leftover food, which makes recycling unviable. Hence it makes sense to use compostable alternatives where the plates etc. can be collected together with the leftovers for composting. There is no point in offering compostable alternatives, if you are not collecting waste separately for composting.
- Signage & props
- Washable cutlery and crockery
- Aluminium and tin cans
- Plastic bottles
- Clean cardboard and paper
- Glass bottles
- Plastic shrink wrap
- Food waste
- Compostable plates and cutlery
- Compostable coffee cups & lids
- Woodchips/sawdust/animal litter
- Cooking oil
- Meat waste
So what does ‘compostable’ mean?
The term ‘Compostable’ refers to the speed at which something breaks down, and what it breaks down into. If an item is ‘compostable,’ it breaks down the quickly and completely decomposes when composted.
‘Biodegradable’ will take longer and may not break down effectively in some systems (such as a home compost bin). ‘Oxy’ and ‘photo’ degradable plastics break down into little pieces but do not disappear completely. The rule is, use certified compostable if it is going to convert into compost! see Compostable Packaging
How much waste will there be?
Once your events incoming waste has been estimated, you can plan the management of recycling, composting, and other material. Then you can determine where the material will be generated. How much and where will depend on a number of elements, such as:
- Event type
- Attendee numbers
- Event duration
- Stall type / activity
- Event area material allowance
- Unique event waste e.g. coconut husks
- Event areas e.g. camping, bars, food etc.
You should also consider where the waste is being generated and at what time.
Waste can derive from:
- Setting up and packing down
- ‘Front of House’ – location of attendees
- ‘Back of House’ – location of vendors and stallholders etc.
Set up and pack down waste
This may include items such as pallets, cardboard, strapping, shrink wrap etc, all of which can be recovered, if you plan well.
Front of house waste
Front of house waste mainly takes the form of food and beverage packaging.
Back of house waste
This is the waste stallholders and vendors generate. Much of it will be bulk packaging used to transport items to your event site e.g. boxes, cans, plastic wrap and containers etc.
This area should be managed separately from your front of house area. Firstly because you will require bigger bins as the material will be bulky. And secondly, you will have better opportunities to educate vendors about recycling and composting systems.
Choose the right bin
What bins do you require?
The materials coming into your event will determine the bins you require.
GOOD: Rubbish and Recycling Bins.
BETTER: Rubbish, Recycling and Composting Bins.
Food and other compostable material constitutes a large portion of your waste. Collecting them separately will reduce what you send to landfill.
BEST: Recycling and Composting or Composting Bins only.
You will require different bins for the Front of House and Back of House areas of your event. For example, you may need cardboard cages, or cooking oil collection drums at the back of house, and bin stations for waste, recycling, and compostable materials at the front of house.
Always place bins together in ‘stations’ e.g. a recycling and rubbish bin, or a recycling, composting, and rubbish bin in a group.
A solitary recycling bin will accrue rubbish, and a solitary rubbish bin will accrue recycling. This is NOT the desired outcome.
Why compost and food waste bins
Food waste is a resource that has a variety of utilities such as fertiliser or animal feed. It is often assumed that food waste is ‘natural’ and will break down in landfills. However, this occurrence creates methane – a powerful greenhouse gas. Although a portion of this gas is captured in modern landfills, it is still environmentally unfriendly. Composting food waste both mitigates methane production and generates compost to help grow crops.
How many bins?
To determine the number of bins you require, define the quantities and types of waste material you expect to produce.
Here are some suggestions:
- Too many bins is better – insufficient bins create overflow, which looks unattractive, causes cleanup difficulties
and escalates cost.
- Ensure you have capacity for peak periods.
- The more you empty your bins, the less you require. To avoid overflow, set your service schedules to empty bins before
they get full.
- Talk to your collection provider to help ascertain the number of bins you require. (view a list of waste & recycling collectors here).
Where do your bins go?
Here are the key things you need to remember:
- Place the bins where they are needed most. For example, large numbers of bins are not required where people purchase food and beverage. Instead, place them where they gather to eat. See ‘Case Studies’ for further guidance.
- Position public recycling stations up to 20 metres apart – the maximum distance people will walk out of their way, to avoid littering.
- To determine placement of bins, create a site plan and mark where the main activities will be held.
- Consider how your bins will be accessed and serviced, especially if located in a crowded area. Bin liners provide a useful solution for waste removal. Use clear bags for recycling (helps spot contamination), compostable for food waste and black bags for rubbish.
- Allocate space for storing waste materials, prior to removal. Choose a location that collection trucks can access safely.
Let people know
It is essential to educate and guide event goers to use your Zero Waste system properly. To achieve this effectively:
Create clear signage
Promote Zero Waste
Staff the stations
Create clear signage
- Signs should be clear with bold text. Where possible, colour code your signs and bins and use symbols or pictures that provide visual cues.
- Use flags or large signs to denote bin stations.
- New Zealand has a standard for bin colours. – www.wasteminz.org.nz/pubs/standard-colours-of-rubbish-and-recycling-bins/
- New Zealand Recycling symbols & signage – www.wasteminz.org.nz/pubs/ronz-symbols/
Promote zero waste.
Publicise your event as a ‘Zero Waste Event.’ Apply messaging to promotional material, websites, social media, programmes, event day announcements and any other publicity outlets. Keep the messages clear and simple to help event goers retain information.
Research reveals that bins with lids makes people more careful about what they put in. Bin lids are available from Auckland Council (<link to page>) or from your collection contractor.
Staff the stations
Clear signage doesn’t always prevent attendees from distributing waste in the wrong bins, as there is often confusion about what can and cannot be recycled. The most effective way to ensure the correct waste-to-bin allocation is to staff your bin stations. Your staff can help attendees dispose their waste properly. Here are some ways to help staff your bin stations:
- Use volunteers. Depending on the amount of bin stations at your event, you may require a significant number of helpers.
- Aim for at least one volunteer per station.
- Look after your volunteers. Offer them incentives e.g. free entry, a meal or a T shirt.
- Ask sponsors to provide incentives (e.g. t-shirt, cap, etc.) This benefits both parties.
- Consider offering a koha to a local charity in return for their help.
- Keep their shifts to a reasonable length, so their experience isn’t draining.
- Invite your staff to come together for training, prior to the event. This builds teamwork mentality and commitment.
- Choose people who are friendly and helpful. As event brand ambassador, they will assist the public in more areas than waste disposal.
- Appoint someone to measure and record data from all event recycling systems.
- Ensure someone measures and records waste and recycling amounts from each collection stream (by weight or volume).
Collection contractors should also be able to supply this information.
- Note stations with poorly distributed waste, such as rubbish in recycling or food waste bins.
- Consider conducting a rubbish audit of waste going to landfill. To audit rubbish is to decipher its contents, allowing you to ascertain what can be recycled or composted, and what can be avoided. This will help you understand requirements for system improvements.
- Note where and when litter is a problem. Doing so will help determine where you need more bins or increased emptying of bins.
- Request feedback from suppliers and the public about what worked and what didn’t.
Once you have accrued data, write up the results and share them with suppliers, staff and sponsors etc. A simple email with key figures will suffice. These numbers will highlight their effort and achievements. Your data will also aid you in planning your next event. Finally, you may consider documenting your event as a case study so you can pass your learnings onto others.
Methodologies for useful event data generation:.
- Tally bags or bins of rubbish and recycling to reveal how much of each has been generated.
- Analyse your rubbish, estimate the waste types within, and determine how much could be recycled or reduced
- Ask your contractor for the data – they should be able to provide you with weights for each waste stream removed.
- Conduct an audit. This means doing accurate measurements. You will need a set of scales and an allocated area to weigh all waste and categorize before disposal. When auditing, use protective gear such as gloves, overalls and masks.