How do I estimate the amount of waste at my event?
When planning for your waste management needs, the first step is identifying sources of waste [and where you can minimise] . Whilst there is no magic formula, there are factors to consider that will help you assess your likely footprint.
Sources of waste
- Food: Generally food waste is the biggest contributor, particularly if you have catering on site. Waste left behind includes plastic packaging, boxes, catering tin cans, used oil and leftover food – that’s just back of house.
- Consumption: Depending how food is being served, you will also have disposable plates, serviettes, coffee cups etc from consumption. Be clear about what’s being served, how it’s being served and how much is going to be served, as that will help your waste management provider to estimate.
- Alcohol: Bars are the second biggest generators of waste at an event. Whether it’s wine bottles, plastic cups and/or cans, you can also expect packaging waste in this area. Glass onsite presents its own OHS challenges due to weight and risk of cuts. Ensure you have bins and skips close to the bar and plan for unhindered, safe access for your staff to dispose of bottles.
- Construction: Fence screening cloth, building materials from temporary structures, bunting, flags, etc are often left on site after bump out and you will need to allow waste capacity in your management plan. It’s recommended you have a contractual arrangement with the suppliers setting up your infrastructure as to how used, broken and single use building materials will be removed – and who is paying.
- Vendors and stallholders: Staff on site will usually consume water bottles and coffee cups, so at a minimum expect a waste paper basket sized bag in each area. If they are giving out flyers, brochures, balloons, flags, poppers or glitter, then a fair amount of this is likely to end up on the ground or in bins post event. If they choose not to take away unused boxes of brochures or programs, you will need capacity to dispose of these too. Being clear with vendors about what they can give out at your event and your expectations regarding what they take away at the end is a good idea. If you are planning a low waste event, you may consider banning disposable giveaways.
Types of waste
- General Waste – Goes to landfill
- Recycling – The only items universally accepted for recycling from events in Melbourne at this stage are cardboard/paper, bottles and aluminium cans – when free of contamination. Depending on your event site and waste management supplier, it may be possible to recycle from a comingled bin, but this varies. As an organiser, you can provide separate bins, use signage and put Bin Monitors on your recycling bins to help educate the public and give yourself the best chance of resource recovery. Please be aware that it’s not enough to just provide recycling bins front of house; you have to keep the waste streams separate all the way to their final destination. This means you need to plan for separate recycling skips back of house too.
- Compost – Where food waste can be clearly separated from any plastic and infrastructure has been set up to remove compost, this is an excellent idea. Unfortunately, food waste gets heavy so is a challenge to move and there are limited commercial options for composting. Whilst some progress has been made in this area, acceptance of event waste at this stage is limited to major venues where there is confidence waste streams are controlled. There are some innovative technologies in this area and a number of small eco businesses who may be interested in taking away bins of compost, depending on your event.
Length of event
For events running over multiple days, it’s a good idea to assess your estimates at the midway point, understanding that 20-25% more will appear in the bins when the gates close.
Rubbish will get rank after a few hours, so consider waste removal mid event if you are running over several days, to minimise the risk of it spreading around site or starting to smell.
Unless you have permission to leave rubbish on site overnight and can secure it, you will need a waste removal supplier with a weekend service. Be aware that bins left full until Monday can be at risk of vandalism and the bill for clean up of strewn rubbish will often fall to you.
Number of patrons
Obviously the more people and the more movement to, from and around your event site, the more rubbish you can expect.
Under Point 2 we discussed waste generated by products purchased at the event, it’s also worthwhile to consider disposable items patrons will bring to the event. For example, picnic food, cigarettes, tissues.
At BYO outdoor picnic events, expect to be disposing of at least 1 broken umbrella, chair or forgotten blanket!
A final note: patron movement to and from your event site can also have an impact on surrounding streets and waterways. Bus stops, pick up zones and carparks are considered part of your event site for the purposes of planning and will probably need bins and post event clean up. The sooner you can arrange to do this the better, to avoid environmental problems and complaints to the Council. Ensuring you have a cleaning plan that covers this is best practice.
Total Event Solutions is committed to environmental protection and working with event organisers to implement waste minimisation strategies. We can write your Waste Management Plan as part of your Council event permit and of course, have a weekend waste service. If you need advice on your event in Melbourne’s South Eastern Suburbs/Peninsula area, feel free to contact us for advice.