23 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste at Conferences and Events

23 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste at Conferences and Events

Conferences and events are cesspools for single-use plastics. Bins overflowing with plastic waste and disposables are a common sight. If you’re a conference organiser or hosting an event or party, reducing single-use plastic is easy once you know how.

So here are 23 ways to cut out plastic and make your event more eco-friendly:

1. Send e-invites out to guests and delegates to reduce the need for physical paper invites and transportation (due to postal service).

2. Encourage attendees to bring their own reusables bottles and coffee cups. You can do this when you send out e-invites, event reminders, or promote the request on social media.

3. Partner with eco-conscious waste management services that can help to recycle and compost food scraps and other event waste. For example, Mallow Sustainability offers food waste collection services in Brisbane, Australia for homes, businesses and organisations.

4. Avoid plastic cups and provide attendees with reusable, washable glasses. Australian business Bettercup offers a reusable bar cup service for small or large-scale events.

Reusable coffee cups at TEDx Sydney. Credit: Ryan Everton via Unsplash.

5. Place water jugs with glassware on each table and strategically-place water coolers in and around the venue to encourage people to refill instead of buying bottled water or drinks.

6. For goodie bags, use fabric or natural tote bags as they can be reused, recycled or washed. If they are unbranded, their lifespan increases and reuse is almost certain as people nowadays dislike being walking billboards for businesses.

7. Rather than placing goodie bags on seats or forcing people to take a bag packed with samples, catalogues and marketing paraphernalia from event partners, stack goodie bags on a table at the back of the room and offer attendees the choice of taking one or not. Many conference and event attendees are now conscious of bringing waste into their homes and view some items in these goodie bags as wasteful (particularly if they are individually packaged or wrapped in plastic).

8. Source FSC-certified or recycled notebooks from eco-friendly suppliers such as Words with Heart (who also offer a custom service) and Notely. For handmade, personalised notebooks, Etsy businesses such as Bluestiggy and PaperchainG offer a great product range too.

9. If it is necessary to print signs, maps, programs and menus, make sure to use FSC-certified or recycled paper. Printworks Multipurpose printer paper is made of 100% post-consumer recycled waste fibres and is also chlorine-free.

10. Keep the registration process minimal. Instead of paper-based forms, use an electronic registration system instead.

23 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste at Conferences and Events
Offer ceramic or reusable drink ware and mugs instead of disposables. Credit: Jonathan Castellan via Unsplash.

11. Instead of using name badges in plastic pockets, use cardboard name tags.

12. If lanyards are necessary, choose lanyards made of natural fibres with metal clips. Avoid branded lanyards as that way they can be reused.

13. Rather than offering pens (lots of plastic waste!) choose sustainably sourced wooden pencils such as Sprout wooden pencils. Ensure there are eco-friendly bamboo sharpeners on standby!

14. Avoid individually plastic-wrapped candy/lollies and mints.

15. Say no to plastic plates or cutlery. Instead use proper ceramic plates, metal cutlery and glassware, or choose plastic-free alternatives such as paper or bamboo plates and cutlery that are biodegradable and compostable.

16. Keep tea-towels and hand-towels on hand rather than paper towels to wipe up spills, as many paper rolls are wrapped in plastic.

17. If supplying tea, coffee, sugar or milk, don’t purchase individual sachets. Instead, ensure you buy these items in bulk and store them in large stainless steel or ceramic containers on the day.

18. Avoid plastic drink stirrers. Provide metal spoons instead.

19. Ensure recycling bins are visible and clearly marked to encourage proper recycling efforts by attendees and delegates.

20. Offer banquet or buffet style meals with silverware where attendees can line up and help themselves (they can also determine their own portion sizes which can reduce food waste). A further eco-conscious step to take is sourcing locally-grown or locally-made food and choosing a plant-based or vegetarian caterer.

Offering banquet style meals to attendees reduces waste. Credit: Frank Zhang via Unsplash.

21. Have on-site coffee carts that offer ceramic or returnable cups that can be washed and reused.

22. Choose vendors and event partners that are like-minded. Ensure that all who are involved in the event; venue, organisers, exhibitors, caterers, panellists, moderators, speakers, workshop trainers etc. are aware of your goal to be cut plastic waste, and are themselves committed to reducing plastic waste. Share tips, tricks and plastic-free advice prior to the day of the event to help them reduce plastic consumption too.

23. Keep decorations to an absolute minimum. Veto streamers, balloons and any other unnecessary decorations, and particularly if they cannot be reused and recycled appropriately.

By following these steps, not only will you be helping to reduce plastic waste and minimise your conference’s environmental footprint, you’ll also save money and help to improve your bottom line!

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Featured image via Pexels.

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