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Event Industry Trends – Sustainability – Waste Management

Sustainability has become a major concern for the event industry, and one of the most critical aspects of sustainability is waste management. In addition to environmental considerations, financial safeguards such as event cancellation insurance also play a crucial role in ensuring sustainability from a business perspective. Events can generate a significant amount of waste, which has a substantial environmental impact. In this blog post, we will discuss the industry trend of sustainability in waste management at events, including the sub-topics of waste types, waste sorting and disposal,  event waste strategy, and the waste hierarchy.


July 4, 2024

Types of Waste


Events generate various types of waste, including food, plastic, paper/cardboard, and construction waste. Food waste is a significant contributor to event waste, and organisers can reduce this by improving menu planning, reducing portion sizes, and donating excess food to charities. Plastic waste is another major contributor to event waste, and organisers can reduce this by providing reusable or compostable alternatives to plastic serveware. If single-use serveware is absolutely necessary, it’s worth considering which types are more suitable for recycling – for instance aluminium cans achieve better recycling rates than plastic bottles. Paper and cardboard waste can be reduced by using electronic communications and reducing the amount of paper promotional materials. Cardboard packaging is widespread, and whilst this is often recyclable, organisers should think about how the volume of cardboard can be reduced with reusable packaging and storage options.


Disposal and Sorting


Many event organisers will appoint a waste management contractor, or alternatively use a venue’s existing waste facilities. In both cases, it’s important to understand how waste will be disposed of, which is a significant aspect of festival liability. Disposal methods include recycling, landfill, incineration, and composting. To maximise rates of recycling, speak to the company disposing of your event’s waste and find out exactly what can and cannot be recycled. Translate this information onto clear bin signage that will encourage attendees to sort their own waste. Avoid sending waste to landfill or incineration as much as possible, first by identifying whether any non-recyclable waste will be generated at your event, and then considering whether you can change your plans so that this waste is not generated in the first place. The current trend for compostable serveware is a step in the right direction, but be sure to ask your waste disposal contractor whether their facilities can accept compostable plates and cutlery – as not all can. In almost all cases, a good way to decrease landfill/incinerated waste is to make sure it’s sorted properly on-site – and it may be worth having a dedicated team to do this for you at your event site.


Event Waste Strategy


As well as looking closely at waste types and disposal, event organisers can develop an overarching waste strategy to manage waste more sustainably. This strategy should include waste reduction targets, including goals for recycling and composting . A waste audit can help event organisers identify areas of waste generation and develop strategies to reduce waste. Additionally, securing event cancellation insurance is crucial in managing financial risks associated with unexpected event cancellations. Event organisers can also work with waste management companies or consultants to ensure that waste is handled responsibly.


Waste Hierarchy – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle


The waste hierarchy is a concept that prioritises waste reduction, reuse, and recycling in that order. The first step in the waste hierarchy is to reduce waste generation by minimising the use of materials and resources. Event organisers can reduce waste by using reusable or compostable materials, providing water refill stations instead of bottled water, and encouraging attendees to bring their own reusable cups and containers. The second step is to reuse materials that cannot be reduced. Here, you should closely consider the waste produced while designing and building your event. Items such as signage, scenery, and decor can contribute substantially to an event’s waste footprint. Try to design and build these to last for many years; in many cases this is as simple as not printing event dates on your signage and branding, so they can be used year after year. It’s natural for event organisers to theme their event differently every year, and sometimes this can make it difficult to re-use scenery and decor, but perhaps consider how these items can be re-worked annually, rather than disposed of and made afresh for each event. Once an item is no longer of use to you, think about whether it could be reused by other event organisers or charities. The third step is recycling, which should be the last resort after reducing and reusing materials. Event organisers can provide recycling bins and work with waste management companies to ensure that waste is properly sorted and recycled.


Sustainability in waste management is an essential aspect of event planning. By reducing waste generation, reusing materials, and recycling as much as possible, event organisers can significantly reduce the environmental impact of events. Developing an event waste strategy, conducting waste audits, and working with waste management companies can help event organisers manage waste more sustainably. The waste hierarchy of reduce, reuse, and recycle is a helpful guide for event organisers to prioritise waste reduction efforts. Sustainable waste management not only benefits the environment, but it can also enhance the reputation of event organisers and attract environmentally conscious attendees and sponsors.


Hear from event organisers about the behind the scenes madness that comes with organising events, large or small, from music festivals to conferences, the insurance required for events, the chaos of the day itself, and the highs and lows of event organising, on Freddie’s podcast, WHEN SH*T GOES WRONG AT EVENTS.

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