Event waste management

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Event waste management in numbers

<h3><a href="https://www.quadrant2design.com/the-events-industry-key-statistics/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">10,000</a>


Event venues in the UK

<h3><a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/426464/direct-spending-in-the-events-sector-in-the-united-kingdom/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">4.1 Billion</a>

4.1 Billion

Spent on events in the UK annually

<h3><a href="https://www.grandnational.org.uk/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The longest running</a>

The longest running

The Grand National

Event waste management and disposal

Event waste management, including the collection and disposal of commercial waste, is a crucial aspect of event planning. It ensures cleanliness and safety and contributes to an event’s environmental sustainability.

By incorporating effective waste management strategies, event organisers can minimise their ecological footprint and promote recycling and waste reduction.

Committing to responsible event waste disposal is a key component of providing green events that attendees can enjoy with a clear conscience.

We cover the following subjects in detail:

Event waste streams
Event waste removal: Bins and containers
Waste minimisation at events
Sustainable waste practices at events

What types of waste do events produce?

Event organisers need to deal with a variety of waste types.

This section delves into the specifics of each waste type, offering insights and strategies to manage each classification of event waste.

<h3>Temporary infrastructure waste</h3>

Temporary infrastructure waste

Temporary infrastructure waste encompasses the materials used to create and dismantle stages, including wood and metal waste.

It’s crucial to efficiently reduce, recycle, and repurpose these materials, minimising waste and boosting recycling efforts.

<h3>Hazardous waste</h3>

Hazardous waste

Hazardous waste like batteries, fireworks, and chemical toilets presents environmental and health risks. Managing, storing, and disposing of these safely, following strict regulations, is crucial.

This underlines the need for specialised waste management to ensure compliance and safety for staff and attendees.

<h3>Coffee cup waste</h3>

Coffee cup waste

Due to its volume and recycling challenges, single-use coffee cup waste poses a major environmental issue. To address this problem, we must move towards reusable cup systems, offer compostable alternatives, and urge attendees to use their own cups.

Such measures are essential for lowering events’ environmental impact and supporting the industry’s sustainability objectives.

<h3>Healthcare and first aid</h3>

Healthcare and first aid

Healthcare and related waste, including medical supplies and protective gear, pose health risks.

Effective management requires strict compliance with safety and disposal regulations to avoid contamination and protect public health.

<h3>Plastic waste</h3>

Plastic waste

Managing plastic waste in the UK event industry requires strategic actions.

Firstly minimising waste by avoiding single-use plastic cups, utensils, and decorations.

For the remaining waste, establishing dedicated recycling stations significantly reduces landfill disposal of plastics.

<h3>Paper waste</h3>

Paper waste

Reducing paper waste from flyers, tickets, and programs is crucial. Effective strategies include embracing digital alternatives, promoting recycling, and utilising recycled materials.

These efforts reduce the environmental footprint and promote sustainable event management practices, encouraging a shift towards eco-friendly operations.

Waste disposal strategy at events

Each type of event will have its own particular waste strategy. Compared with a music festival, the waste produced by a football match will be very different.

To demonstrate here are two tables encompass a standard waste management strategy for a music festival and a football match.

Music event waste management strategy

LocationBin TypePurpose
EntranceMixed RecyclingFor recycling any waste brought into and taken out of the festival
Food & Beverage AreasCompostable WasteFor food scraps, paper plates, and other compostable items
Near StagesGeneral WasteFor non-recyclable items like snack wrappers and broken items
Camping SitesGlass OnlySpecifically for recycling glass bottles.
Exit PointsMixed RecyclingFor attendees to dispose of recyclable materials as they leave
Vendor AreasMixed RecyclingEncourages vendors to recycle packaging and product waste
Chill ZonesCompostable WasteFor organic waste, including food scraps and compostable napkins
VIP AreasGeneral WasteFor disposing of non-recyclable waste in exclusive areas
Art InstallationsHazardous WasteSafe disposal for batteries and small electronics from displays
Rest AreasCompostable Waste & Mixed recycling For napkins, paper plates, and other compostable service ware
Backstage AreasMixedSeparate bins for recycling, compostables, and general waste for crew and performers.
Car ParkMixed Recycling & General WasteCatch waste from attendees arriving by car.
First Aid StationsHazardous WasteSafe disposal of healthcare-related waste.
Merchandise StallsMixed RecyclingRecycling of packaging materials and leftovers from purchased goods.
Entry/Exit Gates of Camping AreasMixedFor campers to sort waste, including large items left behind.

Football match waste management strategy

LocationBin TypePurpose
Main EntrancesMixed Recycling Mixed recycling bins capture visitors' recyclable waste, such as plastics, and paper.
Seating AreasRecycling & General wasteIn seating areas, general waste bins are provided to manage non-recyclable items discarded by spectators, such as snack packaging and other disposables that cannot be recycled.
VIP BoxesRecycling & General wasteGeneral waste bins collect non-recyclables like premium dining disposables.
Concession StandsGlass Recycling"Glass Only" bins are specifically allocated for recycling beverage bottles.
ToiletsHazardous WasteSanitary waste bins are specifically designated for the safe disposal of personal hygiene products.
ParkingRecycling & General wasteIt is essential to provide both general waste bins for non-recyclables and mixed recycling bins to handle a wide range of recyclable materials.
Merchandise ShopsMixed Recycling & General wasteAt merchandise shops, mixed recycling bins are provided to manage both packaging and product waste.
External WalkwaysGeneral WasteGeneral waste bins are designated for miscellaneous non-recyclable litter, capturing a variety of waste items that can't be recycled or composted.
Staff AreasRecycling & General WasteMixed recycling bins are implemented to collect employees' recyclable materials, such as paper, plastics, and metals.
First Aid StationsClinical Waste & SharpsClinical waste bins are designated for the disposal of medical waste and sharps, such as used bandages, gloves, and needles.


Did you know?

Music festivals in the UK generate approximately 25,800 tonnes of waste annually. Efforts to reduce waste per attendee have progressed, decreasing from 2.8 kg per day in 2014 to 2 kg in 2019.

To combat this, organisers have promoted reusable cups and initiatives promoting waste reduction at campsites. Tents remain a significant waste problem, with many abandoned at events contributing to landfill challenges.

Waste minimisation strategies at events

Adopting waste minimisation strategies at events is crucial for reducing environmental impact and promoting sustainability. This section explores practical approaches like digital ticketing, food donation collaborations, and the use of compostable materials.

Aiming to inspire event organisers to implement eco-friendly practices, these strategies exemplify how the events sector can lead the way in sustainability.

<h3>Implement digital ticketing</h3>

Implement digital ticketing

Implementing digital ticketing and event apps is a pivotal strategy for eliminating paper waste in the events industry. By transitioning to digital platforms, organisations can significantly reduce the need for physical tickets, programs, and promotional materials – streamlining the attendee experience and offering convenience and security.

<h3>Engage with local food banks</h3>

Engage with local food banks

To engage with local food banks for festival food waste donations, consider partnering with organisations like The Trussell Trust, which operates a network of over 1,300 food bank centres. These centres provide emergency food and support to people in need. Partnering with such organisations can help festivals donate surplus food effectively, support local communities, and reduce waste.

<h3>Use compostable cutlery</h3>

Use compostable cutlery

Compostable cutlery and crockery at food stalls significantly reduce environmental impact at events. This sustainable practice minimises waste by reducing landfill accumulation and ensuring disposable items can naturally decompose. Adopting compostable materials encourages vendors and attendees to support eco-friendly initiatives.

<h3>Utilise digital platforms</h3>

Utilise digital platforms

Leveraging digital platforms for event networking significantly reduces paper usage. With tablets and other digital devices, events can facilitate networking without needing physical business cards, brochures, or paper schedules.

They preserve resources and enhance the attendee experience with real-time updates and interactive features.

<h3>Eco-friendly cleaning products</h3>

Eco-friendly cleaning products

Eco-friendly cleaning products for event clean-up are made from natural and biodegradable ingredients and minimise environmental harm, ensuring that post-event cleaning doesn’t contribute to pollution.

They support the planet and promote health and safety for attendees and staff by reducing exposure to harsh chemicals.

Sustainable waste practices for events

There isn’t a single governing body that pushes the strategy for sustainable waste management in the UK events industry. Each event will implement specific sustainable waste practices to ensure a sustainable future.

Here are some examples:

Shambala: Renewable energy and sustainable shopping

Shambala sets a global benchmark in sustainability, achieving more than 90% reduction in carbon footprint and fully transitioning to renewable energy while eliminating single-use plastics. The festival promotes public transport, diligent recycling, and composting.

They encourage attendees to minimise waste and plastic use, offering zero-waste shopping on-site. Shambala emphasises eliminating waste and exemplifies leading sustainable event management, inspiring others in the industry.

The COP26 (Glasgow): Eco-friendly transportation

For COP26 in Glasgow, organisers prioritised reducing the environmental impact of travel. They advocated for green transport options, such as electric shuttle services, public transportation, bike sharing, and car-sharing.

The event showcased a comprehensive sustainable transport strategy, incorporating hydrogen-fueled buses and rewards for choosing low-emission travel methods.

Formula E: Carbon offsetting and renewable energy

The Formula E racing series (held annually at the London Excel) is pioneering sustainability in motorsports. It aims for carbon neutrality by balancing emissions through carbon offset initiatives.

It champions renewable energy, powering its races with fully electric cars, showcasing its commitment to environmental responsibility.

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Glastonbury event waste management strategy

Glastonbury Festival’s waste management initiative is grounded in its “Love the Farm, leave no trace” philosophy. It aims to reduce landfill waste drastically.

The festival boasts its on-site recycling plant, the largest for events in the country. This plant enables meticulous waste sorting for recycling.

Significant measures include the ban on single-use plastic bottles since 2019, compostable packaging for crisps, and the commitment to compostable or reusable food service items.

The festival encourages attendees to participate actively in waste reduction, such as bringing reusable water bottles and ensuring tents and equipment are taken home, enhancing its efforts towards sustainability.

Event waste management FAQs

Here are the most common questions answered surrounding waste management at events in the UK.

What are the best practices for recycling at events?

Best practices for recycling at events include setting up clearly labelled recycling bins for different types of waste (plastics, metals, paper, and organics) in accessible locations.

Also, educating attendees about recycling processes through signage and digital platforms and working with waste management services that offer sorting, recycling, and composting.

Ensuring staff and volunteers are trained on waste management practices is also crucial for practical recycling efforts. Collaboration with vendors and exhibitors to reduce polystyrene packaging and use recyclable materials further enhances the event’s sustainability.

What are the challenges in managing food waste at events?

Addressing commercial food waste at events involves navigating several hurdles.

These include the practical separation of compostables, the logistics of collecting and transporting organic waste for composting and motivating vendors and attendees to minimise food waste.

Strategies to tackle these challenges include clear signage for food waste disposal, staff training, collaboration with waste management services, and precise food demand forecasting to reduce excess.

How can event attendees contribute to waste reduction?

Event attendees can significantly reduce waste by practising simple actions.

For instance, they use reusable water bottles, cups, and cutlery instead of single-use items. They properly sort their waste into designated recycling, composting, and general waste bins and minimise it by avoiding unnecessary packaging.

Choosing digital tickets over physical ones, carpooling, or using public transport to reach the event can further reduce the environmental impact.

How can digital tools be used to minimise event waste?

Digital tools can minimise event waste by facilitating paperless ticketing, digital program guides, and event schedules, reducing the need for physical printouts.

Apps and websites can promote car-sharing and public transport options, reducing emissions. Social media and email campaigns can educate attendees on waste reduction strategies before the event. Interactive maps can guide users to recycling and composting stations, ensuring waste is disposed of correctly.