Ecofriendly event organizers are concerned about the substantial stream of trash generated by large crowds and vendors and where it goes once it is sorted. A waste audit will reveal what is being discarded and whether or not it is being recycled.

There are benefits to a waste audit that go beyond keeping material out of landfills. You can reduce costs, keep sensitive information secure and prevent your brand and vendor brands from getting a reputation for being wasteful.

Here are five trash auditing tips that will make you more waste-wise when organizing future events.

1. Choose an effective sample size for your audit
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Australia has been a leader in effective waste auditing. It’s EPA recommends auditing at least five waste containers and five recycling containers for events with 50 or less of each type of container. As the event size increases, the percentage of containers sorted and audited can decrease, but you should always audit at least two percent of them to get an accurate assessment of what is being discarded. Additionally, audited containers should be selected from every part of the venue and grounds to ensure an accurate sample.

2. Keep event waste streams separate from one another

If there are multiple events going on at the venue, insist that the waste from your event be kept separate from waste generated by other events. Let the venue staff know you’re making an attempt to reduce waste at your event, a practice that will lower the venue’s operating costs too. If you find a listening ear, offer to share suggestions for how the venue can reduce its waste stream by, for example, becoming a EPA WasteWise participant and implementing the practices taught by the EPA.

By the way, if your company isn’t a WasteWise participant, why not become one? You’ll have access to waste auditing and reduction help, best waste management action plan practices and much more great information.

3. Address excessive waste

There are a number of ways you can do this. For example, if too many recyclables are being thrown into waste containers:
● Add more containers for recyclable material
● Improve signage, so that event attenders know where recyclable containers are located and what goes into them
● Make periodic general announcements reminding people to use the recycle containers

You might have a chat with your vendors and sponsors too to discuss:
● Being more selective about printed material next time, that is, bringing less, and giving it only to those who ask rather than handing it out to each person.
● The negative impact to their brand and the event brand when participants see an enormous amount of trash with the vendor or sponsor names on it.

4. Lower costs by reducing and recycling

Two principles are at work here. First, the less trash your event generates, the lower your costs will be. Secondly, many venues charge less per pound for handling recyclables than they do for landfill waste. Therefore, use the waste audit to know what and how much of it is being thrown away. From there, make sure that you are:
● Reducing the use of material wherever possible, especially items that might be discarded
● Emphasizing the use of recyclable materials or materials such as biodegradable cutlery over non-recyclables
● Providing an abundance of containers with clear signage for recyclable/biodegradable items

5. Check for sensitive information

Waste audits often show that sensitive information such as participant lists that include names, addresses, company information and phone numbers has been thrown away. Such information in the wrong hands can lead to a host of problems and do lasting damage to the event’s reputation.  If you find this kind of information in the trash, remind those responsible to keep it secure and to shred it when it is no longer needed.

The benefits for one and all

A waste audit yields important information. When it is used to develop and implement a waste-reduction strategy, everyone wins. Your events will be greener, more cost-effective and more secure and the environment will be healthier. Those outcomes are well worth the effort.