Zero Waste Community Event Toolkit


Contracting with Vendors, Exhibitors and Suppliers

Clearly communicating your zero waste message to vendors, exhibitors ,suppliers and waste diversion service providers early in the event planning process is important so that they are aware of your diversion goals and clearly understand their roles as it relates to those goals.

Vendors – particularly food vendors – are the major contributor to the quantities of waste generated at most events. Much of the waste comes from disposable dishware, cutlery and cups, beverage containers, and food scraps. Food preparation discards (e.g., corn cob skins, potato peelings) and packaging materials can make up a large portion of waste generated behind the scenes.

If your zero waste plans include organics waste collection, then you will need to inform your vendors and exhibitors of this, and of their related responsibilities, prior to contracting with them. Some education of these groups may be needed to inform them of what materials can be composted. You will also need to check with waste diversion service provider receiving your organic waste to see what types of biodegradable and compostable materials they will accept and share this information in your contracts with vendors, exhibitors and suppliers. You should note that not all “biodegradable” materials are necessarily “compostable” in all municipal centralized composting systems. [see Understanding “Biodegradable” and “Compostable” module]

Action Checklist

  • Inform vendors, exhibitors and suppliers – prior to contracting – that your event will be zero waste and talk to them about what they can do to meet your zero waste policy.
  • Find out in advance what types and amounts of materials vendors and exhibitors are likely to use and dispose of and when (e.g., during set-up, at the end of the event). How these materials should be dealt with should be laid out in your zero waste plan.
  • Work with these vendors to find areas where wastes can be reduced and/or avoided. (e.g. Can goods be delivered with returnable packaging?)
  • Consider having meetings with vendors, exhibitors and suppliers prior to the event to discuss waste collection.
  • Incorporate a specific zero waste clause in vendor/exhibitor/supplier contracts and agreements. Identify any specific items that are disallowed on site because they can’t be recycled (e.g., polystyrene). Suggest alternatives where necessary.
  • Be clear with vendors and exhibitors about how waste needs to be separated and collected, and give them the tools (e.g., collection bins, signage) to be able to do it properly.
  • If your event decides to use a “dishwashing” system with reusable plates and containers, ensure that vendors are “on board” with this system well in advance of the event.
  • Watch for unauthorized marketers/sellers on the site. They may be selling trinkets or disposable items that contradict the zero waste message of your event and add to waste volumes.

Global Best Practice

What is Centralizing Composting?

Municipalities use centralized systems to turn municipal food and plant waste into valuable compost. The systems vary by municipality and include the following:

  • Open Windrow Composting – involves forming windrows of organic materials and periodically turning the windrows to improve aeration and mixing
  • Covered Aerated Static Pile Composting - organic waste is placed over a network of perforated pipes, typically on an engineered base, and then covered with a membrane permeable to oxygen and carbon dioxide but impermeable to larger molecules
  • In-Vessel Composting - composting takes place in a controlled manner in an enclosed vessel or chamber
  • Vermiculture - organic waste is fed to and processed by worms
  • Anaerobic Digestion - organic waste is degrade by bacteria in an oxygen-free environment, producing biogas as a by-product

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Window into Zero Waste

Glastonbury Festival, U.K.

The vendor permit for the Glastonbury Festival specified what type of foodware could be used and banned the use of certain disposables. Sellers were only allowed to serve food and drinks on biodegradable paper plates, cups and use wooden utensils. Wholesalers of biodegradable products were on site to sell to vendors. A non-profit composting group was engaged to monitor vendors and service providers. 15,000 bins around the site are labelled for different types of recyclable materials. About 50% of waste is recycled, which is a larger amount than for most UK towns.

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Related Tools

Zero Waste Policies