Three Steps to Zero Waste Events

By Erik Schneider, Greening IU Athletics Intern

As more and more organizations and event planners take environmental impacts into account, many have realized that waste doesn’t have to be a fact of life. With some planning, an event can go from having only landfilled waste to having everything reused or recycled.

Anything from a 100,000 seat football game to your next potluck can aim for zero waste. In some cases having no waste at all may not be feasible, though it is possible to get very close, while in other cases, this goal can be reached. To do so, there are 3 steps to take:

(Before) 1. Limit the food and packaging: Ensure everything is reusable, recyclable, or biodegradable.

  • Use reusable items first. Provide and encourage washable items where possible.
  • If not, ensure that everything can be recycled or is made from plant fiber.
  • Note that some products or foods, such as meat, may require industrial-scale composting.

(During) 2. Set out bins: Have out two types of bins: recycling and compost.

  • All food or plant fiber items, including napkins and paper plates, can go in the compost.
  • Everything else can go in the recycling.

(After) 3. Recycle: Transport items to a compost pile or recycling facility.

  • Arrange for a drop-off or pick-up of the 2 bins.

Pretty straightforward, right? In many places, the tricky part is finding a place to bring the compostable food scraps. Certainly, if you or someone you know has a compost pile, or if you live in an area with curbside compost pick-up, then it’s a little easier.

If that’s not the case, you may be able to get in touch with a local community garden or small farmers that would gladly take the food scraps off your hands. Or, if you’re in a larger organization, especially one that has regular, large events, you can set up a contract with a company to pick-up up the food scraps to bring to their facility. In Indiana, Greencycle can provide this service. In some places, you can also drop them off directly at their facility.

The same goes for recycling. While many apartments and other facilities here in Bloomington do not currently have a recycling contract, you can drop-off items at the two Bloomington recycling centers, including one downtown.

As more and more events move this direction, we’ll get closer and closer to a closed-loop of resource use. With so much value still remaining in empty packaging and discarded food, why let them go to waste?



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