Arts and entertainment waste management

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The arts and entertainment waste management in numbers

<h3><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">£83.40</a></h3>


was the average West End theatre ticket price in 2023

<h3><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Wicked</a></h3>


was the bestselling theatre production in 2022

<h3><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Mousetrap</a></h3>

The Mousetrap

is the longest running West End production with over 28,735 performances

The arts and entertainment waste management and disposal

Arts and entertainment are a huge part of British culture, from the dazzling architecture of Alexandra Palace in London to the historic Old Vic in Bristol. We’ll explore commercial waste collection and management in the arts industry, an unfashionable yet important part of the entertainment sector.

We’ll delve into the unique challenges of costume and textile waste, set construction and dismantling waste and other common waste types. Our experts will explain innovative approaches by industry leaders to mitigate the environmental impact of waste.

Arts and entertainment waste streams
Waste minimisation in the arts and entertainment sector
Recycling for the stage: RSCs story

Arts and entertainment waste streams

Here our experts explore the common waste streams you’d expect in the arts and entertainment industry.

<h3>Costume and textile waste</h3>

Costume and textile waste

Design teams create elaborate costumes and set designs, often used only once. A theatre production might use hundreds of yards of fabric for costumes and backdrops, much of which is discarded.

💡 Recycling for the stage

<h3>Set construction and dismantling waste</h3>

Set construction and dismantling waste

The construction and dismantling stage sets in the arts and entertainment industry rely on materials like wood, metal, plastics, and paint, leading to considerable waste. Once dismantled, elaborate film sets rarely see their materials reused or recycled commercially.

<h3>Food waste</h3>

Food waste

Commercial food waste generated from unsold popcorn, drinks, and ice cream poses a significant challenge in cinemas and concert halls. These staples of the entertainment experience often end up as general landfill waste, reflecting a broader issue within the industry.

<h3>Paper waste</h3>

Paper waste

Each production cycle consumes vast amounts of paper and cardboard, from rehearsals to final performances. For example, scripts are often printed in multiple copies for cast and crew, only to be discarded after each rehearsal.

<h3>Electronic waste</h3>

Electronic waste

Electronic waste from replacing lighting and sound equipment poses a significant challenge for film studios, theatres, and art exhibitions. Venues frequently update their technology, leading to a cycle of discarding older, yet often still functional, equipment.

<h3>Hazardous waste</h3>

Hazardous waste

Surprisingly, the arts and entertainment rely on several materials and equipment that, once used, are classified as hazardous waste that needs to be carefully disposed of. Examples include led lightbulbs and waste paint from theatres, film sets, and art installations.

Did you know💡

The Theatre Green Book is a free, evolving guide integrating sustainable innovations. It outlines the best practices for minimising environmental impact across set design, lighting, and costumes. The book is divided into three volumes, each focusing on different facets of theatre production and management to promote sustainability.

Waste minimisation strategies in the arts and entertainment industry

Minimising waste in the arts and entertainment industry involves incorporating sustainable practices across each stage of production.

Here are some ways to minimise waste, with specific examples to take inspiration from.

<h3>Costume recycling</h3>

Costume recycling

Establish costume libraries where costumes can be stored, shared, and reused across productions. The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) operates a costume workshop that reuses and repurposes materials for their productions, extending the life of costumes and reducing waste.

<h3>Use digital scripts</h3>

Use digital scripts

Transition to digital scripts, scores, and administrative documents to reduce paper use. Many UK theatres now use tablets for script readings and rehearsals.

<h3>Use sustainable packaging</h3>

Use sustainable packaging

Implement sustainable practices for packing and transporting artwork using reusable crates and materials. The British Museum employs reusable packing materials to reduce waste generated by temporary exhibitions.

<h3>Public engagement</h3>

Public engagement

Engage visitors in sustainability through educational programs and initiatives highlighting the importance of recycling and waste reduction in the arts.

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) hosts events and exhibitions focused on sustainable design, raising awareness among visitors.

<h3>Recycle display materials</h3>

Recycle display materials

Use recyclable or reusable materials for exhibition stands and displays. The Tate Modern and other galleries often design exhibitions with sustainability in mind, using materials that can be recycled or repurposed for future exhibitions.

The ALBERT certification and why it matters

ALBERT certification was developed by the BAFTA Albert Consortium; the certification aims to encourage productions to minimise their environmental impact and reduce waste generated during filming.

ALBERT certification significantly enhances sustainability and waste management efforts within the TV and film industry. By setting standards for productions to minimise their environmental footprint, ALBERT encourages practices such as recycling, reusing materials, and reducing the use of disposable items.

Productions aiming for ALBERT certification must integrate sustainable waste management strategies, ensuring an environmentally conscious approach throughout production.

This certification assists productions in measuring and reducing their carbon footprint through its carbon calculator and promotes an industry-wide shift towards more sustainable practices.

ALBERT plays a crucial role in driving the arts and entertainment sector towards greener, more responsible production methods, thereby setting a precedent for environmental stewardship within the industry.

Recycling for the stage: RSCs story

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) exemplifies environmental sustainability, notably on Global Recycling Day, by integrating the Theatre Green Book’s recycling and reuse principles across all operations.

The “Much Ado About Nothing” production stands out. It achieves an Afrofuturistic look by creatively reusing costumes and items from earlier shows, blending artistic expression with environmental responsibility.

The RSC’s Costume Hire and props teams further this commitment by transforming vinyl records and plastic bottles into props, demonstrating an innovative approach to sustainability.

These efforts reduce waste and commercial waste collection costs and position the RSC as a sustainability leader in the theatre industry, fostering a culture of reuse.

Circular economy in set design

Theatre companies and film studios lead the way in circular economy practices by reusing and recycling sets.

For example, the National Theatre has a workshop dedicated to repurposing set materials for future productions.

Pinewood Studios is known in the film industry for donating materials from dismantled sets to local schools and community projects.

The circular economy is crucial for the arts and entertainment industry, presenting a sustainable model that diminishes environmental impact, bolsters cost efficiency and stimulates innovation.

Adopting practices focused on reusing and recycling materials, such as sets, costumes, and props, the industry reduces its carbon footprint and meets stricter environmental regulations.

This strategy promotes collaboration within the industry and communities, leading to innovative solutions and securing the sector’s long-term sustainability.

Arts and entertainment commercial waste management FAQs

Your frequently asked questions are answered by our commercial waste experts.

How can digital transformation help reduce waste in the arts and entertainment industry?

Digital transformation significantly reduces waste in the arts and entertainment industry by replacing physical materials with digital alternatives.

Transitioning to digital ticketing and scripts minimises paper waste, while digital marketing replaces the need for printed promotional materials.

This shift reduces paper and ink use and streamlines operations, making processes more efficient and environmentally friendly.

Embracing online streaming and cloud-based technologies diminishes the reliance on physical sets, costumes, and IT infrastructure, reducing physical and electronic waste.

Where is arts and entertainment waste the biggest issue?

According to the Daily Waffle, here’s the top-five entertainment capitals of the UK.

In each location the waste and recycling services available to local theatres are different. Visit our local waste guides to each below:

  1. Edinburgh commercial waste
  2. Manchester commercial waste
  3. Glasgow commercial waste
  4. Leeds commercial waste
  5. Cardiff commercial waste

What is the significance of the Waste Hierarchy in managing waste in the arts and entertainment industry?

The Waste Hierarchy plays a pivotal role in managing waste within the arts and entertainment industry by providing a framework that prioritises waste prevention and encourages more sustainable management of resources.

At its core, the hierarchy outlines a preferred order of waste management practices, starting with waste prevention, reuse, recycling, recovery (such as energy recovery), and disposal as a last resort.

The industry can significantly reduce its environmental impact by adopting the Waste Hierarchy.

Prioritising waste prevention encourages productions to design sets and costumes with durability and versatility in mind, extending their life and utility across multiple productions.