Why Does Reducing Event Waste Matter?

February 18, 2019

Julia Spangler

Julia Spangler is the owner of Ecosystem Events, a sustainable events consultancy company. Julia helps organizations and event professionals reduce the environmental impact of their events in order to preserve our planet and deliver powerful sustainability stories. 

It seems like a no-brainer that reducing waste from any source, including events, is the sustainable thing to do. But do you know why reducing waste is sustainable?

In a country like the U.S. with robust waste management infrastructure, the issue isn’t rampant litter pollution or unsightly garbage piles. Most trash ends up in a landfill or incinerator, and these facilities are generally safely and professionally managed.

So why bother to reduce and divert event waste away from landfills and incinerators?

First, materials that end up in landfills and incinerators are missed opportunities. 

Many items that are thrown away are still usable or are made of materials that could be recycled into new products. Even organic waste like food scraps and yard debris can be turned into nutrient-rich compost. Although some incinerators produce energy from burning trash, this is a less valuable form of reuse for many materials that could be put to higher use if they were collected separately.

Second, throwing items away drives the demand for new production and the extraction of new natural resources. 

It takes energy and natural resources to produce any of the supplies we use. The more times we reuse an item, the more those sunk costs are distributed, reducing the environmental cost per use. The longer we reuse our supplies, and the fewer supplies we use and throw away overall, the lower the demand is for the energy-intensive process of mining, farming or otherwise extracting resources from the earth, and manufacturing those materials into new products.

Third, waste disposal of any type generates greenhouse gas emissions. 

All waste disposal methods typically require hauling by vehicles, most of which are powered by fossil fuels. Both incineration and recycling require a lot of energy, again typically still supplied by fossil fuels. And landfills and compost piles both generate methane in varying amounts depending on how they are managed. Some landfills capture methane and turn it into energy, but most do not.

These three reasons are why it’s sustainable to reduce waste, and also to keep any waste we do generate out of landfills and incinerators if possible.

What does this mean for the meetings and events industry?

Meeting and event professionals should be mindful of the waste they generate and work toward the production of zero waste events.

What is a zero waste event?

A zero waste event successfully diverts 90 percent or more of its solid waste from landfills and incinerators. Alternate channels for waste often include reusing, recycling, composting and donating materials. A true zero waste event also actively reduces waste as much as possible, avoids the purchase of toxic or polluting products and seeks out recycled and sustainable versions of any necessary supplies.

For additional reading, the Zero Waste International Alliance provides excellent guidelines for the philosophy that should underlie a zero waste event.

By reducing and diverting waste at your events, you’ll keep useful materials in the economy, cut demand for natural resource extraction and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. With today’s growing audience of environmentally-conscious attendees, this powerful story will add tremendous value to your events.


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Partner Voices
Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact