Reducing Waste at Events


The Solid Waste Alliance Communities (SWAC) is committed to reducing wasted materials everywhere.   There are many considerations that go into hosting a “waste-free” event.


  1. Development a waste reduction plan that provides waste reduction for both public areas and private areas such as kitchens.
  2. Work with food vendors and encourage appropriate portion control to minimize food waste.  Request food vendors work with local food donation programs to handle any excess unserved food.
  3. Select food vendors that offer the use of washable plates, silverware and linens  OR;
  4. Choose reusable plates, utensils, cups and packaging whenever possible.  
  5. Select venues, including outdoor venues, which offer paper, metal, plastic and glass recycling, along with food waste collection in both public and  private  (kitchen)  preparation areas.  Choose locations where the  cleanup crews are trained to keep recyclable and reusable items out of the garbage OR;
  6. Plan ahead, and if needed, hire pick up services for proper collection and disposal of recycling, trash and compostables.
  7. If it is not possible to use reusable items, choose recyclable or compostable containers or minimally packaged goods instead.
  8. Think of tasks that create the most waste and brainstorm ways to reduce them.
  9. Confirm what can and cannot be recycled or composted and communicate it with everybody involved in the event, including vendors and attendees.
  10. Use technology to reduce waste at your event.  This could include online registrations, advertising, and downloadable online material. Encourage conference presenters to make their material available for online download.
  11. If printed materials are needed, use recycled paper, and utilize double-sided printing. Ask event attendees to bring business cards for insertion into reusable name tag holders instead of printing nametags.
  12. Create “sorting stations” with one recycling bin, one compost container, and one trash can at each. This makes it easy for guests to sort their materials properly. Create an event waste reduction handout that shows number and placement of bins.
  13. Make sure the recycling and composting options are promoted and clearly marked during the event to encourage proper use of all the containers.
  14. Choose decorations and display materials that can be reused or recycled. 


event recyclingLarge Zero Waste Event Video - 5 Step Guide to a Zero Waste Event - Nicely done video from Vegware Compostables showing how the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasglow, Scotland, achieved an 81% diversion rate!  While the event did not occur in the United States, the event planning would be similar.  

Medium-sized Zero Waste Event Video - This video explains everything you need to know in order to successfully host your next medium-sized Zero Waste event for 200 - 1,000 participants. This video takes you through all the necessary steps from planning to wrap-up to ensure that you, your participants and your vendors know what makes for a successful Zero Waste event. www. 



 State of Vermont list of  Mandatory Recyclables

In Vermont, it is illegal to send recyclables to the landfill.  They must be separated from the trash and recycled at a facility approved to accept recyclables.  Here is a list of  items that are required to be recycled.

  • Glass food & beverage containers. Without lids.
  • Plastic food & beverage containers. Without lids. Clean, plastic lids at least 2” in diameter are recyclable.
  • Metal food & beverage containers.   No bottle caps or other metal objects.
  • Aluminum foil, pie plates, etc.
  • Paper used for communication.
  • Cardboard — corrugated, boxboard.  Flatten. Must be clean & dry.

NOT recyclable • Paper cups, plates, bowls, napkins • Disposable cutlery • Straws/coffee stirrers • Wooden utensils, toothpicks • Plastic bags/wrappers • Waxed paper wrappings and bags • Any item that has food residue

compost-events-8.5x11-1What can be composted?

If it’s edible, it can be composed! This includes:

•Fats and oils
•Meat and bones
•Fish and seafood, including shells
•Fruits and vegetables (remove stickers!)
•Eggs and egg shells
•Milk, cheese, & all other dairy products
•Bread, pasta and grains
•Coffee grounds and tea leaves
•Condiments (ketchup, mustard etc.)
•Soups and sauces

Food-soiled paper & compostable packaging

Please recycle everything you can and compost only small amounts of food-soiled paper including:
•Uncoated paper plates
•Greasy take-out pizza boxes (recycle parts that aren’t food-soiled)
•Uncoated paper take-out containers
•Beverage cups marked “compostable”
•Paper napkins and towels
•Uncoated paper bags
•Coffee filters
•Paper tea bags
•Wooden BBQ skewers
•Compostable products such as cups, take-out containers, utensils, etc. (MUST be BPI Certified or meet ASTM D6400 or D6868 testing standards and be CLEARLY labeled).

Yard debris
•Grass clippings
•Garden debris
•House plants
•Twigs less than 1/4 in. in diameter