Hosting a zero-waste event may seem impossible but it is, in fact, doable. The future of events lies in having no waste or lasting impact on the environment and some South African events have already achieved this.
Zero-waste does not mean that there is no discarded trash at the event, rather it means that none of this waste ends up in landfills – it is either completely recycled or composted. Landfills produce large volumes of methane as the gas builds up under the surface from decomposing materials. This methane is harmful to the environment and is one of the causes of global warming.
If you plan on hosting an event and would like to aim for zero-waste, here are some guidelines that will work for any type of event.
Collaborate with the venue
Hold meetings with representatives from your chosen venue and make them aware of your zero-waste goal from the outset. Take a tour of the space and meet with the managers and staff members to share your ideas and thoughts. Venues are generally receptive to new ideas and will be willing to assist you in your plan for a sustainable event.
Establish what waste infrastructure is already in place at the venue. See if they already have composting and recycling partnerships with other businesses. Find out if attendees will discard their food items themselves or if the staff can take care of the food waste (it’s better if the staff can do it because fewer people will need to be trained and the composting will be done correctly).
Be thorough and take note of the details. Use a venue map to mark the locations of bins and who will be in charge of emptying them. Know what type of waste items will end up in the bins and set up recycling stations if the venue doesn’t already have them. Make sure the kitchen also has recycling bins and compost buckets.
The back-of-house staff may need additional training (if only 10 minutes) on what can and can’t be recycled or composted. The staff will be your new zero-waste practitioners, so encourage them to dispose of the waste correctly by sharing why it is so important to you. Inform them that their efforts really will make a difference and that zero-waste events are becoming the norm.
Get the vendors and guests on board
If your event includes sales reps and vendors with stalls, then make sure that they are also aware of your initiative during the selection process. Ask similar questions about your vendors’ stalls and methods as you asked the venue. Know what type of waste your vendors are likely to produce and make sure it is included in the venue’s waste plan.
Once you have selected the vendors that agree to the zero-waste goal, you can then use them for future events knowing that they share the same values as you.
At the event itself, have visible and clear signs around the venue informing the attendees that it is a zero-waste event. Place signs above the recycling stations and bins and have one venue employee stand nearby so that they can help guests dispose of their waste correctly.
It is crucial to make the attendees aware of your goal so keep reminding them before and during the event by raising awareness on social media and at the venue. Remember, people find it easier to recycle if there are many bins nearby, rather than having to walk to the opposite side of the venue. Have enough bins available at strategic points around the venue.
Follow up after the event
After the event, get feedback from the staff members and the venue. They can provide some valuable insights and will allow you to adapt your strategy for the next event. Ensure that the recycling and compost were taken care of by a licensed waste management provider in the aftermath.
Your efforts in hosting a zero-waste event and education around the importance of such an initiative may have a lasting impact on the attendees and the venue staff. Communication is key and careful planning is needed, but the results can be amazing.
Averda is a leading waste management provider with over 50 years of experience across three continents. Through growth, transformation and engagement, we strive to find new ways of managing waste while protecting the community and environment.
By pairing international expertise with local insights, we have secured our position as one of South Africa’s most respected providers of waste management and industrial cleaning services. We also operate in the recycling, infrastructure inspection, hydro-demolition, high-pressure water jetting and catalyst handling industries.
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