• Teja Hudson

Waste Hierarchy: Events

Updated: Aug 11, 2019

This week, in honour of the Edinburgh Festival, we're looking at EVENTS.

As usual, we used the Waste Hierarchy Pyramid to identify opportunities in your workplace and how you might approach your consumption differently. The idea is to work through the levels in order, but ultimately for all levels to work together at the same time to prevent and minimise your waste.

Remember, it's ok to take it in stages, to focus on your quick-wins first and then move towards deeper change as you gain confidence.


There are a lot of single-use behaviours around events that can be avoided with a little thought, and a big part of the journey is having reuse and recycling in mind when you design your event.

What are going to be the main sources of waste for your event, and how can you avoid them before they happen?


Events can be very wasteful, so a good start is to work out what you can REFUSE. Keep decorations to a minimum as they are often plastic and single use, and avoid releasing anything inorganic (like balloons, sky lanterns or plastic confetti). Going purely digital for ticketing is a good way to refuse an entire paper stream, and avoid individually wrapped items, like mints or sweets.

REPLACING items that are going to create waste with more sustainable materials that can then be recycled or reused is also a good way to start making changes.

As an attendee, you can refuse to make waste by taking your own drink bottle and/or coffee cup so that you don't have to use disposables, and politely refusing to take goodie bags or flyers or branded gifts that you're probably not going to use anyway!


Events with catering often create a lot of food waste, so you can make a real difference by finding ways to REDUCE this. Keeping a tight eye on the number of attendees, and communicating with them about your efforts to reduce waste can make it much easier to avoid over-catering.

Not going crazy with free gifts and decorations can also minimise the amount of material that ends up in landfill.


Introducing REUSABLES (instead of disposables) into your event is a great idea if you possibly can, and will prevent a LOT of waste. From eating and drinking vessels, to cleaning equipment, name tags, and signage, there are many opportunities to eliminate single-use items.

Partnerships with organisations who can take uneaten food or left over items after your event are also a good way to include yourselves in the circular economy.


Make RECYCLING a priority in your events by having recycling bins available and encouraging your attendees to sort their waste. As always, choose items that are made from recycled material, and that can be recycled / composted again at the end of their use, making them an intrinsic part of a circular economy.

If you design everything in your event with the end use in mind, you can include this step seamlessly and make sure everything you produce is taken care of properly instead of ending up in landfill.


This is just one example of how to work through a problem using the Waste Hierarchy Pyramid; every workplace is different so don't be intimidated by all the different options, just do what you can and work towards long term change.

Sustainability is a process, and starting imperfectly is better than not starting at all!

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