“Will You Give Over the Time-Space-Resource?”
I am frequently asked about setting up a sustainable waste management operation. Many don’t comprehend the difficulty of this, not only from a logistical and operational viewpoint, but also in getting clients and their operations teams to understand how it will work and what they need to provide.
The three crucial aspects are “Time-Space-Resource”. We will delve into these later, but first…
Many believe that simply putting signs on a few bins will absolve them of responsibility, but this is not the case. Bins and signage are just the starting point and give the perception of a functioning system, but it’s important to understand what can be recovered in your area. I have seen signage that says paper, card, plastic, glass, and food can all go in the same bin, but this often means incineration. Even in efficient recovery operations, there will be residual waste that cannot be recovered.
Time starts with planning. During this stage, it’s important to understand what will be brought to the event site, including materials used to construct the event. Will they be reused or disposed of later? Will the caterers and bars use reusable cups and plates? Is it necessary to have that carpet or MDF?
Once these questions are answered, time must be spent communicating this information to the venue, cleaning contractor, and waste carrier. These parties can then provide input and make changes, and the organizer can even say “no”. For a sustainable event, the organizer must learn to just say “no”.
Time must also be incorporated into the build and derig schedule. A proper recycling operation cannot be carried out with a limited 1-day build or 4-hour derig. Sorting a bin into its components takes longer than just dumping it into a skip or dustcart.
Space is necessary for public-facing and BOH bins. The “not very smart” mentality with regards to bins is not acceptable. You need these bins, with clear and monitored signage. You must also allocate space for the correct skips, dustcarts, and bins to be on site. If space is limited, the results will also be limited.
Budgets are often tight, but the cleaning and recycling budget is often the first to be cut. This is a crucial subject that must be at the top of the agenda. You need enough trained and reliable staff as well. Simply having someone with an interest in the subject attend a 1-hour zoom or spend a couple of hours on Google to get a certificate is not enough. You must talk to experts in the field, in this case, your waste carrier and cleaning company.
This is a “Big Ticket item” that is not going away. As time goes on, there will be more legislation and possibly cost, so the sooner people take it seriously, the less of a problem it will be. By forward planning and allocating time and space, much of the cost can be reduced.
Upcoming Legislation I have been advising clients against using single-use plastic plates and cutlery for a long time. Soon, a ban on these items will be introduced in Scotland and will soon follow in the rest of the UK. The ban may be in effect by the end of 2023, so it’s important to plan ahead.
Martin Cottrell is a seasoned Managing Director with a decade of experience in the event and exhibition industry. He oversees operations, health and safety compliance, and waste management at A1 Event and Exhibition Cleaners Martin has successfully implemented custom recycling packages for clients of all sizes, from small events to large-scale festivals and conferences.