Whether you’re hosting a backyard summer barbeque or planning a big community event, recycling is an easy way to create a greener event and an opportunity to teach guests about the importance of recycling.
The average American generates 4.4 pounds of waste per day and 80 percent of this is recyclable (US EPA). In most communities, you can recycle many household items generated at special events, such as paper, cardboard, tin cans, plastic bottles #1 and #2 and aluminum cans.
Reduce & Reuse First
The first two “Rs” in the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle mantra are a great place to begin. When organizing your special event, use reusable plates, cups, napkins, utensils, food storage containers and decorations. Glasses, plates, utensils and napkins can all be rented from local party supply stores for almost the same cost as purchasing single use items. You can even return rentals dirty, making clean up a breeze. If you do buy paper plates, buy items made from recycled materials. Purchase products in concentrate, bulk and in refillable containers. These reduce packaging waste and save money.
Avoid wasting food by cooking only enough for the number of people attending. Online portion calculators are useful tools to help plan how much food you’ll need.
Event Recycling Options
To ensure successful recycling at your event make sure recycling is as easy and convenient as it is to toss something in the trash. Each trash container should have a clearly labeled recycling container right next to it so guests can separate recyclables with a mere flick of their wrists. No trash can should be without a recycling bin and no recycling bin should be without a trash can.
The New Mexico Recycling Coalition partnered with the City of Santa Fe at the 2008 Spanish Market on the plaza in Santa Fe to test event recycling practices. Below are general best practices developed from this experience and other resources:
At large public events see-through containers work very well. The see-through containers have less contamination than other bins because attendees can clearly see the recyclables inside.
Use volunteers to monitor containers once every couple of hours to remove trash from recycling bins and transfer bottles and cans to recycling bins. Attendees who see recycling bins full of trash are more likely to put trash into the recycling.
Provide information at the beginning of the event to attendees about where to place recyclables. For large events this could include detailed information to vendors and sponsors. For backyard barbeques this could include friendly reminders.
Keep trash containers from filling up. Trash containers should be emptied when ¾ full.
Coordinate where collected materials will be recycled and how they will get there. A great resource for this information is local Solid Waste and Parks and Recreation staff. Events often generate a lot of food waste that can be composted. Learn more about composting at http://www.recyclenewmexico.com/nmoro.htm.
Ensure recycling bins and locations are properly labeled.
Have a cleanup crew. After the event is over make sure that any straggling attendees (guests, vendors or the public) still have a place to recycle.
By recycling, you play a critical role in supporting jobs, assisting in economic growth, conserving energy and natural resources, as well as ensuring a quality of life for future generations.
For local recycling information, contact Tom Nagawiecki with Los Alamos County Environmental Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-662-8383.
Since 1991, the New Mexico Recycling Coalition has served as a resource to provide recycling information to professionals in the field, as well as to the general public. Our mission is to lead New Mexico to value waste as a resource. We serve as recycling advocates working with a diverse group of stakeholders, communities, businesses, schools and grassroots activists to help build sustainable and efficient recycling programs. Find more information at www.recyclenewmexico.com