Waste and resource recovery - event sustainability guidelines

Plan your waste management by implementing general waste, recycling and organic waste streams, avoiding the use of plastic pollutants and encouraging your stakeholders and patrons to work with you to reduce waste at your event.

Use this page to find out about:

Waste reduction

By reducing the amount of waste your event creates, you can minimise the impact on the environment and save time, energy and money.

Follow the waste and resource recovery hierarchy to plan your event.

This table includes steps in the waste and resource recovery hierarchy - avoid, reduce, reuse and recycle.
Step Considerations
Avoid Work with vendors to:
  • avoid using disposable or single-use items. 
  • avoid the top five plastic pollutants, including plastic straws, balloons, single-use water bottles, plastic bags, and disposable coffee cups. (Some people with special needs require plastic straws to drink, so please keep a small supply available for these customers.)
  • choose products with minimal or recyclable packaging.
Reduce Encourage vendors and patrons to reduce food waste by catering accurately and ordering carefully.
Reuse Encourage attendees to bring their own reusable shopping bags, water bottles and coffee cups.
Recycle Provide recycling bins for items that cannot be reused e.g. plastic, metal, glass, paper, cardboard. Food waste should not go in the recycling bin, encourage food and liquids to be emptied (into organics collection bins if provided) before recycling the containers, rinsing is not required. A small amount of residue is acceptable and will not ruin the whole load of recycling.

Inform your suppliers, vendors and stakeholders about ways to reduce and manage their waste and provide advice about recommended products. As well as the tips above, encourage vendors to:

  • choose compostable coffee cups, lids and serveware if providing an organics collection; otherwise, recyclable items should be used
  • choose good quality, multiple-use giveaways and merchandise
  • produce maps and programs electronically, highlighting the location of bins, walking and bike paths, train stations, bus stops and water refill stations.

Waste types

Consider the types of waste your event will generate before you order bins. Choosing the correct bins for your event will increase recycling and reduce waste to landfill, as well as potentially save money.

Use this table for guidance on identifying and planning how to dispose of different types of waste.

Types of waste Guidelines

Organic matter accounts for a large amount of waste sent to landfill from events. It can include: 

  • fruit and vegetable scraps
  • coffee grinds
  • juice pulp
  • compostable (not biodegradable)^ packaging
  • serveware including coffee cups.

Organic materials are compostable and waste can be recovered by providing an organics service at your event. Visit Planet Ark Business Recycling to find a service provider. For smaller events, consider collecting organics and giving it to a community composting hub located at sites around Brisbane.

If you decide to have organic waste collected at your event, ensure you clearly communicate what type of serveware can be used. To simplify the streams for your patrons, vendors will use the same type of serveware, compostable (preferable) or recyclable, not a combination of both.

^ Biodegradable items are not the same as compostable items. Biodegradable items such as cups and plates are made from bioplastics, derived from plant products, rather than petroleum. These items do not readily break down like compostable materials and can only be composted through a commercial provider, however, they are considered more sustainable than regular petroleum-based plastic.


Recycling is often referred to as 'comingle recycling' and can be identified by a yellow lid and should be clearly signed at events. All recyclables must be placed loose in the bin, not in plastic bags, otherwise they will be sent to landfill. The comingle recycling stream includes:

  • cardboard, glass jars and bottles, metal tins and cans (including aluminium cans)
  • plastic bottles and containers
  • paper (including unsoiled paper plates and napkins, and only if organics collection is not supplied)
  • recyclable packaging and serveware.
Soft plastics

Soft plastics include plastic wrap used for boxes on pallets, plastic bags and soft plastic packaging. They can be recycled using a special service. ​​​​Discuss this option with your waste service provider.

Soft plastics cannot be placed in yellow lid recycling bins, only firm plastics should be discarded in recycling bins, e.g. plastic bottles and containers.
Paper and cardboard Paper and cardboard can be recycled through comingle recycling bins. However, if your event is generating large amounts of paper and cardboard waste, you can provide a dedicated paper and cardboard recycling service. This may reduce your waste management costs. Discuss this option with your waste service provider.
Rubbish (general waste)

Rubbish bins should have a red lid and be clearly signed. The general waste stream includes:

  • ceramics and some types of glass, such as wine glasses
  • food and organics, including soiled paper towels and napkins (if an organics collection is not provided)
  • soft plastic packaging, unless a specialist soft plastics recycling service is provided
  • waxed cardboard which is not recyclable. It may be recycled by providing a specific recycling service. Ideally, return waxed cardboard boxes for reuse.


Reusing or recycling signage

Printed plastic corflute signs can be recycled through a specialist waste stream (not comingle recycling), but only if it has not come into contact with any adhesives. Discuss options with your waste service provider. 

Waste management 

Ordering the right number and type of bins and positioning them effectively encourages people to dispose of waste correctly and can save money in contracting and cleaning.

This table includes waste management steps for events.

Steps Guidelines
Make a waste plan

Complete a waste plan and share it with your suppliers, vendors, staff and volunteers. Include information about:

  • prohibited items including plastic straws, balloons, single-use water bottles and plastic bags
  • different waste streams which are being collected
  • what items should go in each bin
  • location of waste stations and skips for back-of-house use
  • where spare empty bins will be kept
  • a roster and process for monitoring the correct use and replacement of bins
  • a plan for cleaning up litter
  • post-event storage and placement of bins for collection.
Estimate waste quantities Use the amenities calculator to help you assess the number of waste and recycling bins required. Approximately one waste station is required per 100 attendees, but may vary depending on the food service and other event waste. If possible, add an organics collection bin to each station to prevent even more waste from going to landfill.
Order your bins Search for waste providers at Planet Ark Business Recycling. Order bins at least four weeks prior and ensure the waste and recycling services match the types of waste expected to be generated.
Position your waste stations effectively

A waste station includes one of each of the streams being collected (e.g. one general waste, one recycling and one of each of the other streams such as organics collection). 

Place waste stations approximately 25 metres apart (closer in food and beverage areas). Place bins at entry and exit points and on routes to and from transport stops in close proximity to the venue. If skips or specialist streams will be provided for vendors or back-of-house, ensure they are conveniently located.

Place signs on and around bins, communicate your expectations to vendors and monitor compliance.


Assign volunteers to monitor bin stations if possible. They can assist and encourage patrons to separate their waste into the correct bin and monitor when bins are full. 

Bins in high-volume areas should be monitored frequently

Keep spare empty bins aside and use them to replace full bins. This will minimise litter and avoid overflowing.


Help your event attendees by:

  • putting signs on and around bins identifying what items go in what bin (include images)
  • having bins with colour-coded lids (e.g. rubbish – red, recycling – yellow, and organics – lime green).

Reduce waste by keeping signs for future events.

More information

Learn about the following event sustainability guidelines topics:

Last updated: 5 August 2019