Hundreds of items can get piled into a skip after an event; you can create your own Zero Waste Event with helpful tips from Event Cycle.
Event Cycle turns your excess event materials into charitable donations. Collecting anything leftover, it gives them a new home in community centres, amateur theatres, charities and much more. Simply get in touch, tell the team what you want to donate and they will give you a quote. Event Cycle also advises on waste and carbon reduction, from concept to project completion, and writes sustainability and social impact policies. Carina Jandt and Chantal Kerr-Sheppard have a combined 20 years in the events industry before they created the charity after seeing first-hand how many leftover items ended up in a skip.
Hosting a zero-waste event begins in the planning phase. It’s too late to think about what to do with waste at the end, sustainability must be addressed throughout the process. A good place to start is making an accountability list. Chantal says: “This lists everything you’ve purchased before the event and details where every item on the list going at the end. It really encourages you to think about the lifecycle of everything you buy. You can also plan this into your event and use it to tell a story.” Imagine watching
a Q&A where the speaker announces: “these chairs on stage have already been donated to charity”, it gives a visual representation of how sustainable the company is because they’ve thought ahead.
When making your accountability list you’ll find a couple of trickier items to repurpose. Promotional materials are often thrown away because print products take a lot of damage or are handed out and then binned by the public. Chantal recommends the alternative to print and PVC banners, and other non-recyclable materials, is polyester: “It’s currently the best option. Polyester is very easy to sew, so by handing it to sewers after the event is done the brand can make merchandise like pencil cases, tote bags, and backpacks from the banners. Printing your branding on items can also be tricky because some companies may not feel comfortable having its logo used in situations they’re not aware of. We once had these puffer jackets which were set for the bin because their branding was deemed too sensitive to be handed out. But when we patched up their logos with some old fabric the company was happy, and the jackets went to Ukrainian refugees.”
Food waste is another large issue facing the events industry. But with solutions like a People’s Pantry, as utilised by Wyboston Lakes Resort, there are always new options to consider. The People’s Pantry ensures unsold or unused food from the Resort’s hotel and two event venues are made available for colleagues to take home to share with their families. Its chefs package the meals in a range of portion sizes, which are then stored in fridges for employees to take home. Similarly, event organisers can cut down on food waste by calculating portion size more precisely and by getting in touch with food redistribution charities like Fair Share or Food Cycle.
As an industry, Event Cycle thinks we could reuse common items much more frequently. Common items like staging and stairs get built for most events and then taken down and thrown out again. If the materials could be returned to where we got them from, or shared throughout the industry, that would be so much better than throwing them out: “We need to stop turning up, causing chaos, and then disappearing while leaving skips behind us because that’s the legacy events currently lead.”