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Waste at events

We’re on a mission to help our community reduce waste at events. There are many ways we can all encourage less waste being created at events.

Why reduce waste at events?

Events that are taking steps to reduce waste (with good waste minimisation actions) are viewed by the public as being better organised, forward thinking and caring about the environment.

As an attendee, by reducing your waste at an event, you’ll have a lighter impact on the natural environment.

There are many different types of events; outdoor public events, markets/fairs, sports tournaments, cultural, music, business events, trade shows, dinners, awards ceremonies and weddings. Plus many more! Location and event type will play a factor in how you can reduce waste in your setting.

How can you help reduce waste when you go to events?

Depending on the type of event, you could:

  • Take a water bottle
  • Say “no thanks” to unnecessary napkins, food packaging, wrapping, bags, brochures etc.
  • Bring a reusable/camping cup if you might buy a takeaway drink
  • Remember to take a shopping bag if you’re planning to buy things
  • Bring a bowl/ food container and fork, knife, spoon
  • Give feedback to the event organiser and stall holders about their event waste systems. Tell them what you like and suggest any changes you’d like to see.
  • Take leftover food home to eat later.
  • If there are no recycling/food waste bins at the event, take your items home for recycling or composting.

Some waste myth-busting

Compostable packaging

Although it’s seen as a greener alternative, compostable packaging can’t be commercially composted in Hawke’s Bay (due to contaminants), and it can’t be recycled. For the same reason, we don’t recommend putting it in your home compost bin. Compostable packaging must go in the rubbish bin. 

Read more about compostable packaging here.

We hope that in the future compostable products will be contaminant-free and be suitable for any composting system.

For now, you can help reduce waste to landfill by avoiding compostable packaging. Try asking for a paper bag/napkin instead, if it’s suitable for the food item. Even better, bring your own container/cup. But don’t beat yourself up if you occasionally forget; we’re all human!

The best takeaway/event food packaging choice is for people to bring their own re-usable container. If you do, you’re an absolute sustainability champion!

What can event organisers do to reduce waste?

As an event organiser, you can:

  • Consider waste early in your planning. Talk to Council’s Waste Minimisation team about how to reduce your event waste.
  • Tell people to bring a water bottle and have a water refill station.
  • Communicate your values – in your advertising, tell attendees and vendors/partners that your event is aiming to reduce waste and what they can do to help.
  • Encourage stall holders to think about how they could reduce packaging and other waste at their stand. Give them ideas and support.
  • Use real plates if the setting is suitable. If not, could you encourage attendees to bring their own plate/bowl/cutlery? You could make this part of the ethos of your event, to emphasise your values.
  • Encourage your food stalls to have items that don’t require much packaging. Eg burgers in greaseproof paper/paper bags instead of cardboard containers, icecream in cones, food in bun/bread, paper bags of chips. Use serviettes/napkins/paper bags instead of containers.
  • Have recycling and food waste bins. Smaller events can hire Council’s Event Recycling Bins. Alternatively, use the Sustainable HB’s Waste Warriors event service or arrange bins via a waste collection company.  There are a number of waste collection companies that offer event recycling services. The best recycling bins are staffed to ensure the right things go in the right bin.
  • Have bowls, cups, plates etc that can be loaned out, for a small deposit. You could get some items from an op-shop or contact a reusable cup supplier like Turn or BetterCup.
  • Check out these excellent videos from Beyond the Bin.
  • Have waste advocates. Ensure staff and crew to share the waste messages of your event.

As a stall holder, how might you reduce waste?

Consider these ideas:

  • Think about the packaging you sell your products in. Can you sell them without packaging? If not, is the packaging easily recyclable? Could the packaging be re-purposed or returned to you afterwards for re-use/refill?
  • Bags – Instead of automatically putting something in a bag, ask customers if they need a bag.
  • Samples – If you offer samples/testers, can you do this without single-use items?
  • Decorations: How might your decorations be used beyond the event? Design them to be multi-use. If it’s a one-off event, could you hire or borrow the decorations for your display? Perhaps you could make decorations from materials that might have been considered waste (upcycling).
  • Giveaways – Are you sure people will want and use the item/sample you’re offering? Think about where they might end up and how useful they will be in a person’s life. Perhaps reserve these for people with a genuine interest in buying your product.
  • Could you recycle and compost your waste?
  • Use digital mail-outs. You could reduce paper usage through having an online signup via a tablet. Encourage people to take a photo of your business card instead of a physical one.
  • Product end of life – Where will your product go when it has finished being usable?

What can food sellers do to reduce waste?

  • Make these optional: serviettes, lids, straws, cutlery. Let people choose what they need.
  • Portion sizes – Observe your customers to see whether people are generally eating the whole serving and finishing their food. You might be able to reduce your portions and increase your profit margins!

Talk to us!

Contact our Waste Minimisation Team for guidance on how to reduce waste at events. Email

We can support event organisers, food sellers and caterers, stall holders, venues and anyone wanting to reduce their waste impact at events.


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