How to Recycle at Your Event

With so much emphasis being put on Recycling it is important that people know what to do and how to do it.

Actually very simple:- Bins or skips labelled up with the stream that you expect to go into it. But in reality, not very simple. Visitors are excited- have invested much time/ money to attend- are late or rushing- and are possibly under the influence !!!. And then some cleaver Venue or organiser gives them the choice of
several bins each loaded with a virtual “novel” of descriptions of what is excepted and into what whole they should drop their tin-bottle-wrapper. After standing there for several minutes the visitor will invariably do a perfect slam dunk and just drop it into the nearest whole.

Labelling should also be simple preferably done with Pictures. Some people may have reading difficulties and believe or not, not everyone is a reader of the English language. You will often get young children running over to the bin on a recycling mission. Youngsters like to look at coloured pictures not reams of script.

I will deal with the stupidity that is labelling another time.

The option of Recycling will often fall within the brief of the Venue and be overseen by the cleaning  company. Best option is Do not give an exhaustive choice. Give the choice that best suits the capability of what is achievable in Recovery / Recycling in your area and be guided by your waste carrier. Bins and their labelling should be easily visible and obvious.


Separating into several streams can also prove to be pointless. In my opinion for public facing areas a better way is to separate into the basic streams. Dry recycle- Glass – Food. If the venue have a policy whereby all packaging is recyclable no need for mixed general. Unless the bins are actually monitored by a
member of staff there will be contamination. This is particularly true on large public participation sports events or festivals. Unless the streaming is really accurate much waste will also be treated / charged as Mixed general and then separated at the MRF. It is very difficult to get a truly accurate stream when there are large numbers of public and it is outside of an office environment.

The waste carrier will then refine the separation at the MRF.


Another reason for not separating into several streams is this: Suppose that you have seven (7) streams, it means that you will probably need 7 vehicles all trundling around at 5-10 MPG (Dustcarts) each dropping a huge carbon footprint to collect 1 ton each. Whereas with a basic separation on site the same collections will be carried out by fewer vehicles and the MRF will do the rest.

That’s the visitors/ public sorted now to deal with the Back of house / staff/ contractors. In my experience these are the worst at offending. On a regular basis I have had bins/ skips clearly signed as Glass or Dry recycle only to find that some Ignorant/ stupid / Lazy contractor has just dumped a load of straw or other unwanted rubbish just because it is easy.

Caterers on a regular basis drop unwanted food into the dry recycle skip. Why because they either do not want to pay for bins or they are just to lazy to walk a few extra paces to the correct container. In these cases, everything will probably be sent for incineration and not recovery. And this will probably cost you more.

Back of house (BOH) venue streaming can be decided upon on a basis of each event or the general requirements of the venue. Mixed general – Wood- Dry recycle- Glass – Food – Metal. In some areas
laminated wood will be treated as General and in other areas it can be put in with the wood. For decisions like this it is again best to have had a discussion with the waste carrier who will know best on what streaming should take place.


You will probably notice a reoccurring theme here of “Talking” to the relevant people. Not just appointing a member of staff who either has a Degree in Environmental studies or is really interested in this subject.
Going onto Google for a couple of hours is also not good enough. So much of the information out there is stuck in the past or from a perfect world scenario and may not be practical to your event or venue / site.

I have personally dealt with a number of appointed “Sustainability” staff who have issued protocols that are to be followed and would not listen to reason. These have proved to be a disaster practically- financially and environmentally. We have been working to a certain system for a reason, and that reason is what we actually know what was possible having gotten the info from the waste carrier / MRF.

The Waste carrier of MRF operator which is servicing your Venue/ Site will give the correct solution on what is possible and required locally.

This subject is very much like Health and Safety. The words Where – What is practicable are relevant. There are so many contractor companies that are doing such fantastic work in order to use the correct products that can be recovered/ reused, but there seems to be a lack of information being passed onto staff to tell them what to do with the waste. This includes the organiser/ venue who often do not let you know what facilities are on site.

Do not over think it, simple is best and will hopefully avoid contamination.

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