Festivals and Events – best practices to reduce and recycle

As we hit the mid-point of the summer season, (weather notwithstanding this year!), and the zenith of festival-mania in Vancouver, it’s a good time to re-visit some of the tried and true benchmarks for guaranteeing your community event comes up clean and green in terms of its waste reduction and diversion efforts!

Over the last 20 years Recycling Alternative has gained a reputation for working closely with countless community events and festival organizers to collaborate, guide, educate and help implement robust recycling at various public events Vancouverites have come to associate with summer in our city.

Here are our TOP TRASHBUSTING TIPS for ensuring your event walks the talk by setting a high waste diversion standard that organizers and participants alike can be proud of when measuring the environmental impact of your celebration.


PLANNING – Be ahead of the Game!

Serious trash-busting requires serious planning. Your waste reduction and recycling plan is key, and it success will require a designated organizing lead or committee.

To avoid producing and dumping a tonne of garbage during your event, your waste reduction team will need advance lead time to research the best possible service providers for waste diversion. Explore the costs, equipment and materials that your provider will collect and begin working closely with that service provider to ensure the recycling program and collection run smoothly during the event.

A common mistake with many event organizers is leaving the trouble with trash to the last minute, sometimes, just days before the event is scheduled. Our 20+ years of experience recycling public events has taught us that last minute trash-busting never works and inevitably results in garbage overload on your site.


Follow these planning steps to keep on track trash-wise:

  • Secure a service provider aligned with your recycling values and waste reduction goals
  • Lean on your service provider for advice and guidance, as their expertise is a huge asset
  • Decide on the type and number of stations you will require
  • Plan how you will staff and oversee these stations
  • Consider the types of vendors you will have on site
  • Start to plan the procurement according to the materials streams your service provider can collect and recycle


PROCUREMENT – Go Upstream in Your Supply Chain!

Less garbage in = less garbage out.

Reducing the amount of non-recyclable materials used by vendors during your event will ensure that the streams generated on site can go into recycling rather than the landfill.

In the planning stages, decide what type of packaging and foodware your vendors will be using to sell their product. For example, by banning styrofoam and requiring your vendors use either paper or compostable take away containers, you will significantly reduce garbage volumes generated on the site.


STATIONS EQUIPMENT & SIGNAGE – Provide the options for festival goers to recycle!

The number of materials you want to divert and recycle will inform the types of bins and stations best suited to your event, whether that means separate bins for each category, or single, all in one stations that have separate openings for each material.

At a minimum, covering the categories below will make a serious dent in your garbage volumes:

  • Paper and cardboard
  • Mixed containers (can be a combination of glass, metal and plastics)
  • Food scraps and compostables

As for signage, pictures and samples speak louder than words. Signs should be large, simple and clearly identified with each bin.


STAFFING YOUR STATIONS – Front Line Trash-busting Troops!

A keen, green team, committed to maximizing trash-busting on the ground is just as important as the stations you set up. Since most community organizations are limited in terms of paying staff to oversee the recycling, volunteers will play a huge role in this area.

Hold at least one meeting prior to your event to educate, inform your green team volunteers about the materials you will be collecting, the stations and any other creative ideas for reducing and diverting waste during your event.

Make sure you have enough volunteers to share the work. Since at many public events, patrons do not pay attention to the signs, the biggest successes in festival recycling we’ve seen are always a result of positioning a volunteer at each station to help direct and educate the public.