What happens to all the stuff – the glass, plastics, balloons and banners – that you see and use at events, both big and small. As we move quickly into end-of-year events season we chat to three people in the events industry on how they manage and minimise waste.
Dan Sims doesn’t mince words, “I fucking hate palate wrap!” cries the founder and director of events company, Revel Global, when asked what his pet-hate about wastage is in the events industry.
“I detest it! We work very hard on managing recycling, working with bottles and cardboard and separate those things with all events but pallet wrap is something else.”
Pallet wrap is stretch or bundling wrap and is commonly used to secure goods onto pallets which enables those goods to travel intact and safely to their destination, and it’s not recyclable.
Sims has discovered a solution, a biodegradable pallet wrap, “and we will make sure our pallets are wrapped with it, but there’s a lot more to be aware of, too.”
As we move into events season, how waste from events – from large corporate events to a small business and personal celebrations – is managed and minimised is an ongoing question for events business owners, their staff and their guests.
Eloise Murphy, who has worked in hospitality for the last ten years, specifically managing events for the last four, sees much of her role in this space as an advisor to potential clients.
“I find that food waste is one of the biggest problems with events,” Eloise says, “when clients come to me, I advise them to consider if they’ve potentially ordered too much food.” She continues, “It’s okay to under-cater or, just be aware that the amount of food ordered may be too much which can lead to waste. There’s often the ability to add dishes on the day of the event, if something comes up, but I encourage people to be conservative on their initial order.”
Noah Crowcroft, executive chef of Collingwood events space, Aunty Kim’s – owned by the team behind restaurants, Rice Paper Scissors – is also passionate about food waste.
“I used to work at a big events space where we would do buffets for hundreds of people, and I saw hundreds of kilograms of food being thrown out. When we opened Aunty Kim’s, which is a small space comparatively, being conscious of managing waste is very much a part of who we are.”
Having two Rice Paper Scissors venues are helpful in food that isn’t used at Aunty Kim’s, “we can send unused fresh herbs and other produce to one of the restaurants, for a special and sometimes the staff get great staff meals, too,” he says.
As well as food waste in events, there’s the use of balloons and other decorative accessories that are not friendly to the environment.
The visual impact of a balloon arch, floating paper lamps and the much-maligned use of glitter and confetti are all easy on the eye and may set a mood for an event but most of these ‘extras’ go straight to landfill.
There are definite yeses and no’s in the industry
“We don’t allow glitter,” says Eloise, “and guide people on choices for decorations that have little environmental impact, a lot of guests want to know what’s out there.”
“No confetti is allowed here,” says Noah, “it’s hard to clean up and is terrible for the environment.” Crowcroft adds that guests and staff are leading the charge on requesting thoughtful decorations and added-extras in events, “a lot of our staff are driving choices and the way to approach it, which is great.”
The team at Revel Global also look at Banners and how they decorate the events regardless of location.
“We update our core flute signage once every two years and with other decorations, if
we can’t use it again and again, I don’t want it,” says Sims, “we want banners and signage to be usable over years not just on a once-only basis.”
Revel Global recently partnered with the team from Hey Tomorrow boxed wine to run the wine bar at an event.
The casks Hey Tomorrow make contribute a ten times lower carbon footprint than wine bottles, “If wine was invented today,” says Sims, “there’s no way it would be in a 750ml glass bottle imported from France that goes off after three days of opening!”
“We saved so many hundreds of kgs of weight and glass by using Hey Tomorrow,” he says, “The waste of Tomorrow wine, that’s 700 litres went into one wheelie bin!
I have paid $4-5000 just to get rid of the bottles after one Pinot Palooza, using the Hey Tomorrow was of significant benefit to the environment.”
When asked about how to approach events and keep waste down, Eloise suggests, “use equipment you already have, look at what you have before buying anything extra.”
Noah says it’s about research and finding the most ethical resources you can afford and “Do you research, who’s your demographic, how can you manage expectations and remain profitable. It’s often trial and error and always important to learn from your mistakes.”
Dan Sims adds, “Put waste reduction front-of-mind, ask yourself, how do I minimise impact? You might want something that looks pretty but is that vanity on your part. It’s about creating a great experience for your guests and looking after the environment.”
Just don’t mention pallet wrap… not yet anyway…