Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.
What do craft shows, outdoor rock festivals, the Boston Marathon, and 4th of July fireworks celebrations have in common? Other than a good time for attendees, each event involves the generation of waste and recyclables by the public, vendors, concessionaires, and exhibitors.
When looking for a place to host an event, keep in mind that many venues already have recycling programs in place.
If the special event is held in a venue without a recycling program, collecting recyclables usually is a temporary activity supported by volunteers. Recycling programs often reduce disposal costs for special events and can bring in revenue from the sale of recyclable materials.
- Target Areas
- Success Stories
- Tools & Resources
Because many special events occur outdoors, and often take place in public spaces without a permanent recycling infrastructure, planning is particularly important to ensure the success of a recycling program at a special event. Decisions about what types of bins to use, where and when to place them, and who will empty them need to be made early in the planning stage.
- Use a timeline to stay on task during planning.
- Involve all relevant stakeholders, which might include partner organizations, concessionaires, waste haulers, and volunteers, in planning the logistics.
- Plan to have trash and recycling bins emptied regularly so waste does not end up in recycling bins.
- During and after the event, it is important to monitor and evaluate the recycling program.
- Visit the How to Set Up a Recycling Program page for more details.
The nature of the event, the anticipated weather conditions, likelihood of reusing the bins in future events, costs, and many other factors contribute to the decision about what types of bins to use at a special event. Event organizers can choose one of several approaches: renting, purchasing (particularly for an annual event), or using disposable bins. In addition, some recycling service providers may supply bins as part of their contracts for service.
- Consider using bins with clear bags. They serve as an instant advertisement about what materials may be recycled and make it easy for contractors or volunteers to see when the bins need to be emptied.
- Take the weather into account if the event is outside. Temporary cardboard bins, for example, are not durable enough for heavy winds or rain.
- Distribute the bins throughout the event grounds, placing more in high-traffic areas.
- Place a recycling bin next to each trash can. Pairing the two may reduce contamination (mixing trash with recyclables) and encourage more people to recycle.
- Hand out bags for visitors to use to collect their own recyclables.
Education and Signage
Clear and noticeable signs indicating where the public can recycle are essential to ensuring a successful recycling program at a special event.
- Use big banners above the recycling bins to make sure that their location can be seen from a distance.
- Use brightly colored signs to ensure that the recycling bins stand out from trash cans.
- Put a sign or label on each side of the bin, and the top as well if space permits.
- Label trash cans clearly.
- Use both graphics and words on signs to communicate, especially with non-English speakers. Clearly show what goes in the bin and what does not..
Although volunteers are not needed at every special event, their support can help ensure the success of recycling programs for many events.
Vendors and Event Staff
Work with concessionaires, exhibitors, vendors, and event staff before, during, and after the event to reduce unnecessary waste and recycle as much as possible.
- Send letters to concessionaires, exhibitors, vendors, and event staff before the event, outlining their responsibilities and the logistics of the recycling program. View a sample letter.
- During the event, make sure recycling staff and volunteers are available to offer support.
- Remember to continue recycling during the breakdown of the event.
- View a fact sheet explaining how to involve concessionaires and vendors in your recycling program | PDF Version (4 pp, 113K, about PDF).
- Woody Guthrie Folk Festival Strikes a Chord with Recycling (PDF) (4pp, 551K)
- San Francisco Uses Ordinance to Promote Recycling in Public Places (6 pp, 586K, about PDF)
- Wisconsin Uses Ordinances and Permits to Promote Recycling in Public Places (PDF) (7 pp, 516, about PDF)
- Delaware State Fair Recycling Initiative (PDF) (4 pp, 358K, about PDF)
- City of Pittsburgh Ordinance for Recycling in Public Places (PDF) (4 pp, 540K, about PDF)
- Cherry Blossom Peepers Recycle On the Go [Press Release, March 29, 2007].
- National Cherry Blossom Festival (PDF) (2 pp, 105K, about PDF).
- Lowell Folk Festival (PDF) (4 pp, 167K, about PDF).