Event Recycling

If you are planning an event, this information will help you with recycling and reducing waste. Event recycling directly reduces the cost of waste removal, as well as generating a positive event image.

Every event is different. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to event recycling.

The key components of integrating recycling into your event are the equipment required, logistics, education of event stakeholders and participants and the promotion of recycling as part of your event and monitoring. 

Equipment and logistics

The need for equipment differs significantly from event to event (based on type and size of event) as does the availability, size and shape of recycling receptacles.

If you are lucky enough to have a commercial recycling collector close enough to collect from your event, you will be able to organise your material collection, transport and disposal with them.

Equipment and logistics for event recycling can be split into the following categories:

Collection and recycling receptacles

Clearly identifiable, well labelled recycling receptacles, are central to effective recycling. The options for receptacles depend on what is available and what can be serviced. Receptacles should be highly recognisable and consistent with those currently used in the area.

Important considerations include:
  • Availability
    Can you get them in sufficient numbers? Do you have to buy or rent them? Do you have to store them, sell them or dispose of them after the event?
  • Size
    Too small and they will not be seen and be permanently full.
  • Serviceability
    Do you need to lift them? Do you need to re-sort the content? How do you transport them to and from the venue, how are you going to empty them? Do they match your collection vehicle.
  • Branding
    Is there a bin that people will recognise from a distance as a recycling bin?


Depending on the size of your event you might need a few permanent staff who are monitoring and emptying the recycling bins and/or advertising the service to visitors and exhibitors. Volunteers can be really valuable, particularly if the environmental message matches their group's objectives.


Transport is an important issue to consider, and needs to be solved prior to any commitment of providing a recycling service. Recyclables are high volume and likely to exceed the capacity of a normal car.

Trailers can be a solution (a normal 6x4 trailer usually holds six 240 litre wheelie bins), or you may consider hiring a small truck or getting the material collected by a trucking firm.


Most towns have free recycling drop-off facilities, some even have collection services available. Contact your local recycling depot operator about the possibility of dropping off large volumes of recyclables.

Take note of their opening hours or contact Hamilton Refuse Transfer Station and Recycling Centre.

Education and promotional tools

Education and promotional tools are fundamental to successful event recycling. Agreements such as vendor contract clauses can guide event stall holders with minimising waste and promoting recycling.

Many events have a MC who can incorporate recycling messages into their facilitation of the event.

Other promotion could be a small by-line on the advertising of the event (newspaper adverts, posters, flyers), banners and sails promoting recycling, or choosing from a range of other social marketing tools.

See 'The Great Race' case study for ideas. Marketing recycling at this event included handing out 'I recycled today' stickers.


Continue to build on successful recycling events. Use the Recording Sheet (PDF, 24KB) to record as much information as possible and practical, including site maps and lay out of recycling containers. Take photos and use a recording sheet to keep a record of the weight and volume of the materials you recycle. This allows you to compare the success of event recycling from event to event. 

Monitoring helps with planning future events and allows for efficient use of resources for future events.

The Great Race Case Study

Recycling at The Great Race

The Gallagher Great Race is New Zealand's most talked about rowing event, taking place on a central city stretch of the Waikato River. The event is usually a challenge between Oxford and Waikato University rowing teams, but this year the University of Washington took up the challenge.

The race is broadcast on a large screen located on the river bank, and the event includes entertainment throughout the day. The event is attended by thousands and the recycling operation took place in the central city area near Grantham St, across the river from the large screen.

Tools used:

  • Message convened via PA system
  • Commitment solicited by vendors when selling food/drink in recyclable containers
  • Volunteers staffing recycling bins/stations.
  • Message on big screen
  • Creative theatre and roving performers were used to spread the waste minimisation message.
  • Four recycling stations in areas with high pedestrian numbers
  • Volunteers wearing T-shirts carrying the 'Sort it out' logo
  • 'I recycled stickers Today' stickers were handed out
  • Sort-it-out truck on site for sorting and visibility of programme.

Visual assessment of waste/recycling contamination

Recycling crates were generally uncontaminated, failing only where volunteers were uncertain about the recyclability of certain materials or people being over-enthusiastic (e.g coffee cup lids). Rubbish bins close to recycling station generally contained few recyclables, with bins further away from the recycling stations being the usual mix of recyclable and non-recyclable materials.


Recycling weight and volumes were low - compared to residual waste. As a result, having the Sort-it-Out truck on site was unnecessary.

Lessons for future events

Carrying bins through the crowd was the most effective way to increase participation in recycling.

Options for future events

Low profile: Recycling bins/crates provided in clusters with rubbish bins.

High profile: Volunteers staffing bins, stickers encouraging recycling, mobile recycling crates carried by volunteers or mounted on wheelbarrows and taken around site.

Page reviewed: 11 Jan 2017 2:56pm