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Event planning for waste reduction

As we approach the main outdoor events season in Hong Kong, which is followed closely by the Christmas and Chinese New Year festivities, Dr Merrin Pearse notes that it is worth organisations reflecting on what new initiatives they can and will adopt to reduce waste at their events.

Why is reducing event waste important to think about?  Well the public’s expectations around the role companies have in reducing waste, especially if their products end up discarded in nature, are continuing to grow.

If we cast our mind back just one year it is amazing what has happened with respect to recycling in that time. China introduced its National Sword Policy,Glass Bottle Recycling scaled up massively in that time via the Glass Management Contract, restaurants and bars have been introducing bans on plastic straws, bans on beverage bottles under a 1 litre on Hong Kong University campus, sale of single use water bottles at Government facilities, WEEE plant opened in Hong Kong to help address the city’s with e-waste, Organic Resources Recovery Centre (ORRC) for food waste recycling, the formation of Drink Without Waste – bottlers/beverage manufacturers, recyclers, NGOs, supermarkets….

Now that is not an exhaustive list though rather a quick reflection on how much interest is being placed on reducing waste especially single-use plastic.  Those images with thousands of pieces of polystyrene strewn across carparks, forecourts, and beaches of Hong Kong following the recent Typhoon Mangkhut reminded us all of how much plastic is polluting our environment. If your companies branded products are in those photos chances are someone will be reconsidering whether they buy your product in the future.


Plan for action

So what are the actions that any organisation can take as part of organising their corporate events?

1. Choose one area or item to focus on

It might be the waste or recyclable item that your event produces the most of by either weight or number of items, or it might be the most visible item at your event.  Whichever you choose doesn’t matter because as you explore was to reduce the usage of that one item you will become more aware of options to reduce other items.

2. Communicate the message

Ensure all business units know about the initiative and have the core of the message available as simple one line or one paragraph messages to they can share it with their team and potential partners/contractors.

3. Meet and discuss

Whether it is internal teams or external teams hold briefing sessions with them at an early stage so that they can hear about the solutions you are proposing and they have time to consider the impacts and also provide alternative solutions.  Providing a range of solutions that indicate the ideal, the acceptable and the unacceptable solutions will enable them to see that you are providing flexibility so that they can participate more easily.

4. Show participation

It is vital that the team proposing the change leads by example and that senior management as takes on board the changes through their personal action.


If you are looking for an introductory guide to reducing waste at any size event then the Hong Kong Government’s Waste Reduction Guidebook for Large Scale Event Organisers is worth reading along with other resources available from www.wastereduction.gov.hk.

TPB colleagues have been advising a wide range of organisations including multi-nationals and NGOs on how a strategic review of their procurement policies and operational procedures can reduce waste being generated.  We have found that organisations’ own events and the events they sponsor are a great place to expand the discussion on changing mindset on how the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and then recycle) can lower the resources sent to landfill after any event.

If you have faced challenges previously of not having the budget to trial new initiatives then now is the time to put together proposals for inclusion in your budget for the upcoming financial year.  Feel free to reach out to TPB if you would like assistance scoping projects for the year ahead.


If you would like to talk about how your organisation could benefit from better waste management planning, please contact Merrin

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