Sustainable Event Tip #18 – Staffing Waste Receptacles for Better Diversion Rates

This tip is based on a simple premise: the idea that event participants will not properly sort their waste when left to their own devices. Now this may not be because of ignorance or a lack of caring on their part, but rather the by-product of a great event. Perhaps they’re in the middle of networking with a great business prospect or they’re rushing across a convention centre between sessions. Or maybe they just finished a half marathon and don’t have the least bit of wherewithal to think about diverting their waste!

Either way, it’s not getting done and you’re ending up with garbage, recycling, and compost bags that all look the same:

Zero Waste Event Fail

Two bags, each taken from a recycling bin. The recycling bags are so contaminated with garbage that they cannot be diverted and must be sent to landfill after all.

One way to address this is to limit the variety of input materials on the front end (as we’ve alluded to before). Another strategy, and the focus of this tip, is to position workers next to all waste stations (or at least the critical ones) to assist event attendees in properly diverting their waste. This creates an experience that is both educational for attendees and beneficial for the organizer.

What are the benefits of doing this?

Now you’re probably asking, “won’t this cost a tonne?” Well, it doesn’t have to.

Properly diverting the waste of your event can greatly reduce your waste management costs (i.e. it costs less to have a tonne of recycling hauled away than a tonne of garbage). For large outdoor events like festivals, concerts, etc., the organizer is normally responsible for managing the waste and this could represent considerable savings. In turn, this could offset the cost of hiring workers for the task. There’s also the option of recruiting volunteers if appropriate. We’ve seen this work well for events hosted by charitable organizations and industry associations.

Beyond the cost equation, image and branding come into question. For instance, consider a company that prides itself in its corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability programs. Now imagine them being the presenting sponsor of an event where the waste receptacles are overflowing with contaminated recycling and organics waste. It’s inconsistent with their branding and any attendee connecting those dots will immediately see the hypocrisy.

Take some proactive steps towards diverting your event’s waste and you’ll not only be helping the planet, you’ll be helping your bottom line too.

A Word from Green Meeting Ninjas


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