Whether you are planning a festival, fund-raising event, wedding, conference or party, recycling your event's waste is important:
- Recycling protects the environment as it saves natural resources, energy and landfill space.
- Recycling presents a positive image to event attendees. Not only do you care about the event's goals, you care about your attendees and their future.
- Recycling may save you money by defraying disposal and cleanup costs.
- To help make your event a success, follow the recycling checklist. If you can answer each bullet, you are ready to event recycle!
Who will be in charge?
- Determine who will coordinate and implement the recycling efforts.
- How many volunteers and/or staff will be needed to set up, monitor and collect?
- Request volunteers to help, use Scout troops or other organizations.
What will be collected?
- Evaluate event waste stream composition and volume. Event organizers can influence waste stream composition by working with vendors and controlling what attendees may bring into the event.
- Contact vendors to find out what type of waste they will generate: Cardboard, plastic containers, cups, type of bottles, food waste? Are they willing to use bottles and cans that can be recycled and not cups that can't be recycled? Will there be a lot of food and paper waste generated by the vendors that can be collected separately for organic composting? Can utensils, cups and bowls be made of recyclable or biodegradable materials? Many composting operations can handle paper plates, cups and napkins in addition to food discards. Contact your city or visit mngreengatherings.org for a list of vendors.
- Can edible food be donated?
How will waste be collected?
- Design a collection, sorting and transportation system for trash and recycling if one is not established at the venue.
- Talk to the waste hauler or city contact to see what type of containers they can provide and how they need the material prepared for collection. Can the material be co-mingled? Can they collect food and paper waste for composting?
- Be clear with vendors as to what you want them to do with their waste. For example, should they flatten cardboard boxes, stack and then haul them to a central location? Should food waste be placed in separate containers?
- Determine number of bins needed. You will need to buy, rent or borrow recycling bins. Contact your city to see if bins are available for rental. Collapsible bins make for easy transport and storage. To prevent tipping, some light-weight bins need to be staked or weighted with something heavy in the bin's bottom.
- Recycling bins should look different than trash cans. Labels should be large, clear and specific. If possible have signs with examples of what goes in each container.
- How often will the bins need to be emptied? Are there volunteers or paid staff to monitor and empty bins? Do volunteers need a map showing the location of bins?
- It is important to keep contamination out of the recycling bins in the beginning or the whole bin can become filled with trash. Is there a central drop off for bags of recyclables? Is enough space allocated?
- Empty bins often, especially during the summer when bees and odors can discourage recycling.
Make it a success
- Gather support from all parties; educate and train staff, vendors and participants. Recycling at special events has no chance of success if event organizers do not support it. Organizers have many complex tasks to stage a successful event. If they consider recycling to be an extra headache, the program will not get the necessary attention it needs.
- Stress the environmental benefit of recycling and potential cost savings from reduced disposal to management and vendors.
- Emphasize that the public generally supports recycling.
- Be in constant contact with participants, you can never over train or provide too much education.
- Include recycling information in mailings and announcements for the event. Promote in advertisements.
- Promote environmental benefits from recycling at your event.