Creating Plastic Free Events

It’s no shock to hear that plastic is not good for our environment and with the population growing that a rate of 1.5% in the past 12 months, reduction of plastic should be at the top of mind for everyone. As an event manager, you will find potentially that a large percentage of events that you create a “pop up” which would include a large volume of once off or disposable gear. So, as an event manager is there anything you can do about this…. Well the answer is YES and they might seem like small changes but these small changes can have a massive impact on our environment.

So how can you create a plastic-free event?

Often, event manager make use of plastic disposables as they are extremely convenient. Plastic cutlery, water bottles, straws, decorations, are some of the things that are used in any event. Though plastic may seem quicker and more efficiently, plastic waste is harmful to the environment.

Educate everyone!

The first and foremost step to having a plastic-free event is to educate everyone! Yes, you heard it right, ‘Everyone!’ Awareness of the harmfulness of plastic must start from home, from your family. Only then will you be able to say ‘No’ to any event organiser that makes use of plastic. If, as a person, you insist upon the ban of plastic use in your event, no matter how small or how big the event is, many will follow your lead.

Talk about why you chose not to host an event where plastic is used, talk about all the environmental pollution that plastic gives birth to, talk about the consequences of using plastic. There are so many reasons to say no to plastic, but only one reason to say yes.

  • Plastic takes centuries to decompose, and potentially leak pollutants into water and air.
  • Plastics are one of the main reasons for drain clogs, littered parks, polluted landfills, among others.
  • They are one of the main products of fracking.
  • Has a negative effect on wildlife.

Almost every person is aware of the impact of plastic, they talk about it but are they willing to take the necessary steps to eliminate the use of plastics. This is the question you need to ask.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Reduce, reuse and recycle is the mantra upon which the environment is built. You can successfully organize a plastic-free event by following the mantra. It might be difficult to completely eliminate plastic in some events such as conferences or marketing events where name tags, pens among things are made from plastic. But you can find a suitable substitute for these items, such as the use of recyclable plastic instead of nonrecyclable ones. It is important to know that not all plastics are recyclable, and not all plastics that are recyclable are recycled. Just because the cup can be recycled you need to find out will the waste be separated and recycled.  

Communicate with the client and the guests

As an event manager, you can offer a plastic free event to your clients and reach out to a large crowd. You can set an example to others and take a step in saving the environment. If your client, as well as their guests, know that you have a serious focus on reducing plastic, they can come prepared. So, make sure you communicate your low to no-plastic commitment when offering your services.

What else can an event managers do?

An event manager has a huge role to play in ensuring that the event organized by then is free of plastics.

Tips for a plastic free event include

  • Make use of durable dishes, cutlery and glasses instead of compost or disposable ones. They not only reduce the use of plastic but also reduce compost and recyclable waste.
    • Offer filtered tap water instead of water bottles. Water bottles not only are made of plastic, but a lot of water goes to waste when people throw behind half used water bottles. Instead, set up a water bar filtration system in the venue and offer filtered tap water in durable glasses. If guests insist on compost cups, charge a fee for a compostable cup. Though compostable cups are not a great option, they are much better than plastic cups.
    • Collect the plastic badges back after the event. In many events and conferences, name tags are mostly made of plastic which is never used after the event. This name tag is thrown into the bin and becomes a part of the plastic waste that pollutes the environment. Instead, as the guests to return the plastic name tags towards the end of the event and reuse them in another event. Make sure you mention why it is being taken back.
    • Waste Management: Make use of different bins for different purposes. Every event has food, drinks, and a lot of waste is thrown around. Offer bins in every corner that is easily reachable. Use a different bin for recyclable and compost. Place another bin for plastic waste, which will help you judge if you have succeeded in organizing a plastic-free event.

You can also appeal to your guests to bring their own reusable water bottles, coffee cups, pens, among other items as a clear and conscious effort to reduce the use of plastic.

Sync with the caterers

Disposable boxes, spoons, cups are some of the things that are a huge contributor to plastic pollution. Catering is a concern for an event manager if it has to be plastic-free. Most of the disposable catering items are made from plastic. To make sure that the event s plastic-free, it is vital to ensure that the caterers are aware of the cause and are fully on board with your no-plastic event. Imagine an event where you talk about an effort to reduce the use of plastic and hand over single-use food plates and cutlery provided by your caterer to your guests. Wouldn’t that spoil the whole idea of a no-plastic event? So, make sure that you communicate with the caterer before the event.

Giveaways and gifts

Giveaways and gifts are a part of almost every event, from networking events to conferences. Make sure that the giveaways bags are not made from plastic. The hard part is to make sure that the giveaway and return gift themselves are non-plastic items. Most times, in conferences, the contents of the giveaways feature plastic, such as a pen, USB flash drives, fridge magnets, among others. The first and foremost thing to investigate is the ultimate need of the giveaway and gifts. Make sure to concentrate on quality and sustainability than quantity. Remember, you can get one good item that is used several times instead of several small plastic items that may or may not be used.

Your responsibility starts with your home

You do not have to be an event manager to reduce the use of plastic, or an environmentalist to advertise its adverse effects. Your responsibility starts at your home. You can start by reducing the use of plastic at home. How can you contribute?

  • Make use of stainless steel or glass instead of plastic boxes.
  • Carry your own bag instead of asking the vendor for a plastic bag. Cloth bags are reusable and better than paper bags.
  • Celebrate plastic-free birthday parties and festivals and set an example to others.
  • If you are organizing an outdoor event, ask your guests to carry their own water bottles, cups, and cutlery.
  • Educate your children of the adverse effects of using plastic and the consequences that many have suffered.
  • Follow the mantra, reduce, reuse, recycle!

Whilst some of the suggestions might seem simple, you would be surprised how often you see elements of plastic usage at events that would be so easy to remove or replace with a more environmentally friendly option. So, the question you need to ask yourself is are you ready to make a positive impact on the environment?

David Yakas
Managing Director
Wrapped Creations