Let’s sort it out!

Let’s sort it out!

Summer is full of festivals and outdoor events in Finland. While enjoying the venue and program, people typically dispose of bottles and cans, paper and plastic plates, cutlery, napkins, plastic bags, leftover food and drinks, including packaging, cartons, and cigarette buds. Although the types of waste differ, depending on whether it is an indoor or outdoor event, whether it is a ticket entrance or a free walk-through event open to the public, the problems with proper waste sorting and low recycling rate remain the same for all.

The situation with event waste management is difficult to evaluate, as no official statistics can be found on how much waste is generated yearly by all events happening in Finland. More often than not, event organisers subcontract waste management companies, who offer them the only option – mixed waste disposal, even when waste sorting would be required by the legislation. The outcome is appalling as thousands of kilograms of valuable materials end up being incinerated and landfilled.

A three-point checklist

Making event waste management is not an easy task because of the number of stakeholders and user groups involved in the process. Recycling targets and solutions need to be communicated in a very clear way to partners, contractors, volunteers and attendees. While preparations can be well executed, the target might still be difficult to achieve if visitors are not actively using recycling points as intended. Based on our experience and benchmarking studies, the most important things for reducing mixed waste and promoting recycling during events are:

  • Appropriate choice and location of waste containers
  • Visibility of recycling points
  • Personal assistance for waste disposal
Locating recycling points

When planning recycling points, it is important to know what types of waste are generated during an event and at what locations. It starts with analysing main waste sources and most common circulation paths. Lilli Mäkelä, a member of the Kallio Block Party 2016 environmental team, shared with us a solution she has been using:

“Set yourself in the role of the event visitor and think, how the waste points would be most easy to notice and conveniently available, when they are needed. By walking through the area, one can take note, whether the planned spots for recycling points actually work. The idea is, that you should always be able to either see the recycling spot or see a signpost to one.

Lilli Mäkelä, Designer, Environmental Team member, Kallio Block Party 2016

Maps and signs

One way to bring attention to recycling at events is to include them in printed maps to make it easy to locate the waste bins. In Kallio Block party, for example, recycling points were color coded and added to the event map. Recycling points were also marked by tall signs with the green balloons attached to them, to make them easily noticeable to the visitors, even from far away.

Color and font choice are other important elements for making it easy for the event visitors to locate recycling points.

The font should naturally be easily readable from a distance. To create a coherent look, it could be the same font that is used in the events graphic design. The coded colour should appear consistently throughout the design to help the event visitor to recognise the same waste category and the colour as a pair.

Lilli Mäkelä, Designer, Environmental Team member, Kallio Block Party 2016

Waste assistants

“People tend to spend very little time on reading recycling instructions, and therefore recycling symbols rather than a lot of text, are a much better choice for waste bin containers.”

– Elina Tarkkonen, Head of Sustainability at Slush 2015-2016

Typically, people make their decision on waste disposal very quickly and they tend to put waste fractions into the wrong bins if instructions are confusing. For example, according to Elina Tarkkonen, former Head of Sustainability at Slush, used paper napkins and biodegradable cutlery are often thrown into energy or mixed waste containers instead of biowaste. One great solution to the problem of contaminated waste fractions, which has been implemented in 2016 at Slush start-up event in Helsinki, is to have a waste assistant, dedicated person at each recycling point, to help event participants to deposit waste into the right containers.

Case study: Betre

This year The Natural Step, in collaboration with Remeo, the city of Helsinki and several other partners, and project funding from the Ministry of Environment, has set up a circular economy initiative called Betre. The first big challenge, undertaken by Betre, was making event waste management a lot betre in Sideways festival in Teurastamo on June 9th and 10th. Waste management was organised in close cooperation with festival organisers and volunteers, food trucks, Remeo, Teurastamo restaurants and Tukkutori crew.

Our goal was to lower mixed waste and increase amount of recycled materials. After all, we managed to reduce mixed waste by 16% and increase cardboard recycling by 21%.

In the next blog post we will tell more about our experience from waste management in Sideways festival, sharing our learnings and opening a discussion for possible improvements in the future.

We wish you a wasteless weekend and a sorted out new week!

In this blog we dived deeper into the trash theme and focused on planning recycling points for event waste management. We discussed these issues with two designers, who have been planning event waste management, Lilli Mäkelä and Elina Tarkkonen, and shared with you solutions that they have been implementing in their work.  

Author & graphics: Julia Bushueva

Photographer: Omer Levin, photo was taken during Sideways Festival where our team helped organizers with recycling.

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