Many companies are taking advantage of the growing momentum in the environmental movement by claiming to be “green” or “zero-waste”. However, most of these claims are not supported by actual data. In order to truly understand the environmental impact of an event, an analysis of the waste stream or a “waste audit” must be conducted.
A waste audit is a way of collecting detailed information about the waste generated by an event. The procedure can quantify the different types of waste being created as well as the effectiveness of a given waste management policy. One of the most important pieces of data resulting from a waste audit is the diversion rate. The diversion rate is the percentage of material generated from an event that is being diverted away from a landfill (i.e. the percentage of waste being recycled or composted).
A high diversion rate means that most of the waste generated by the event is staying out of the landfill. An event with a 100% diversion rate is considered to be zero-waste. If composting and recycling is an option at your event then a diversion rate between 65-75% should be easy. With proper planning and an educated staff, a diversion rate of 75-85% percent would be quite good. A rate above that, approaching true “Zero-Waste” or 100% diversion, would take full cooperation of event planners, staff, and participants, and would be considered outstanding.
There are three categories of waste in a typical waste stream: compostable material, recyclables, and trash. Compostables are any food items that are no longer fit for human consumption (food waste) as well as other items which must be marked biodegradable: bags, napkins, plates, cups, and tableware. These compostables are sent to a facility to be broken down into organic soils and fertilizers. Recycling is a concept that most people are familiar with and includes the processing of bottles, cans, cardboard and paper products for reuse.
Trash is the material that cannot be processed or reused, which must be sent to a landfill. The ultimate goal of a “zero-waste” event is to divert 100% of the waste away from a landfill. Throughout the event, waste is sorted into the three distinct categories by trained staff. After the event, the different waste categories are analyzed in a variety of ways to come up with accurate information that reflects the waste management policy specified at during the planning of the event.
This will result in detailed information regarding which waste management policies are working well, and which have large room for improvement. Consequently, one can then use this information to invest more time and energy into the areas where they can improve the most, and create a comprehensive policy that will be mutually beneficial to both the environment and the organization. In this way, an organization can ensure that the waste is being disposed of in the most environmentally responsible manner. In addition, an organization can promote the data of the waste audit in order to show a quantifiable commitment to sustainability.
Merryl Brown is the President of Merryl Brown Events, a Santa Barbara based green events company that is known for its elegant, classic events that are created within a framework of environmentally friendly practices. For more information, visit our website http://www.merrylbrownevents.com.
By: Merryl Brown
Merryl Brown Events, LLC
Merryl Brown is the President of Merryl Brown Events, a Santa Barbara based wedding and event planning company specializing in elegant, classic events created within a framework of environmental and social responsibility. Elegance with intelligence is our motto!