Waste not, want not: Managing waste after your event

Until we’ve perfected the art of the zero-waste event, at present the industry is faced with an ongoing issue; events are inherently very wasteful.

Why? Every event is unique and the likelihood is that some elements of your event will be specially made for that occasion. Whether that’s branded merchandise for the company getaway, a bespoke stage set or printed agendas and guest lists; sometimes there isn’t the time, budget or resource available when planning the event to avoid creating or using some single-use items.

So what do you do to manage your leftovers, and how can you minimise items going into landfill and therefore reduce your event’s overall impact on the environment?

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Let the staff take it home

Make it clear from the start of the event that there might be some items left over that the staff can take. Things like decorations or unspoiled food can go down a treat with the people working at the event. Don’t just limit it to the events team; ask the tech crew, the bar staff and the cleaners too. The less waste the better, so make sure people aren’t shy when it comes to the end of the event.

Gift it to the guests

In a similar vein, clients and attendees at events LOVE free stuff. So have a plan in place for the end of your event that allows people to take home anything thing that you’ll have to throw away. Can you box up leftover cakes in takeout boxes for guests to take home? Did you print branded items that can’t be reused? Set them up on a table at the exit with a “take me” sign. You’d be amazed what people like to keep as mementoes.

Recycle as much as you can

Work with your venue and suppliers to identify what recycling facilities they have and ensure that plastic and paper waste makes it into the right bins. We’re often very time-poor onsite at events and it’s easy just to shove everything in the same bin. Consider allowing extra time to separate waste or nominating a recycling champion in your team who will prioritise this task throughout the day.

Donate it

Look for local charities or organisations that will accept donations and contact them prior to the event to arrange a collection or drop-off. Items they might be interested in could include non-perishable food items such as sweets and chocolates, games, toys or gifts. Branded clothing can also be donated to charity shops. I’ve included a list of organisations who might be interested in partnering with you, especially on a larger scale event.

Store it

Look for options for cheap storage lockers where you can keep props and event items that can be used again. Instead of binning things to buy them again, if you can, factor in the cost of storage into event budgets and look to reuse items multiple times. That might mean printing more generic signage that can be used for multiple events, and opting for a company logo instead of an event logo to give certain items more longevity.

As the old saying goes, “waste not, want not”. It might take a bit of forward planning, and allowing time for it on the day of your event but you’ll be rewarded ten-fold when you see items flying out the door that were destined for the bin, and happy staff and clients who had a little something extra out of the day.

List of charities to consider donating to after your next event

The Tussle Trust – Long-life food, toiletries and household items

The British Heart Foundation – From books to beds, footwear to fridges

FareShare – The UK’s national network of charitable food redistributors


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Zoë Perkins

The events industry is a broad and beautiful industry, and working in it gives me the opportunity to be both creative and pragmatic. I’ve been involved in hundreds of events over my fifteen years as an event manager and have learned a lot along the way. It’s nice to have a blog space where I can share some of those experiences and knowledge with my readers, especially those who might be thinking of getting into events or working with me in the future. This blog is a little piece of me. I hope you like it x

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