Waste management at festivals and events
Managing waste on site
- Tip Sheet for ideas about how to reduce waste at your event.
- Timeline Checklist to keep track of all the different activities associated with planning a zero-waste event.
- Food Vendor Memo Template to encourage food vendors to comply with your waste reduction initiatives.
- Volunteer Recruitment Template to find volunteers that can assist with waste diversion activities on event day.
- Waste & Recycling Pocket Guide to help volunteers guide event attendees about what waste goes where.
- If applicable, review last year’s waste, recycling and compost site plan.
- Think about the volume and types of waste that will be generated at your event.
- How will your waste management team function? Do you have a leader who is responsible for planning and operations?
- Is there a training program in place for seamless delivery of your plan?
- Determine if volunteers can be used or if you need to hire a hauler to help manage this waste. Available service levels could include managing waste at the waste stations, back of house (roll-off bins) and removing the waste from the site.
- Want to learn more? Request an education session from a City waste and recycling specialist
- Carefully think through the location of the waste stations. Consider placing bins in these areas:
- In high traffic zones.
- Where waste is most likely to be produced (e.g., near food vending stations or eating areas).
- Near any closed off garbage bins – this helps to discourage their use.
- Where bins would normally be found at the event venue.
- Provide garbage, recycling and compost bins at each waste station and colour code to provide a visual cue for what goes where.
- Add signage to the bins to remind users what goes where.
- Considered placing ambassadors at your bins to inform attendees on what goes where.
- Provide extra bags at each waste station and change bags out frequently to avoid heavy loads and overflowing bins.
- Develop a plan to manage the full bins during your event.
- Are the bins accessible to be emptied during the event?
- Plan for how you will transport full bags to the roll-off bins for the hauler to pick up. Will you use golf carts or hand carts? Do you have safe practices in place for volunteers of various abilities?
- Remove or close off any garbage bins on site that are not part of the event’s official waste stations.
- Determine where roll-off bins and back of house sorting (if applicable) will be placed. Ideally this will be away from public areas and easily accessible by the service provider for drop off and pick up. A hard surface is preferred to minimize damage to the site.
- Assist peripheral teams with strike down to ensure waste is still separated.
- Prepare for next year’s event by debriefing and documenting lessons learned and recommendations for next year; include all appropriate stakeholders in this process.
- Ensure carts/bins are collected and set out for service provider pickup.
- Clean up any remaining litter from the site.
Waste hauler directory for festival and event organizers
A waste hauler can collect, sort and/or remove garbage, recycling and compost from the event site.
Choosing the right hauler for your festival or event makes a big difference in the success of your waste management plan. Your relationship with them will play a key role in designing and implementing a plan that is simple and easy for your attendees, volunteers and vendors to use.
Use the directory list below to find a company that provides the waste services you need for your festival or event.
You can then visit the company website for contact and specific information.
Directory search tool
Calgary Urban Recycling (CUR)
Fin-Wall Site Services
GFL Environmental Inc.
Green Event Services
Green Planet Recycling
Waste Connections of Canada
Tips for hiring a waste hauler
There are a lot of considerations when choosing a hauler for your festival or event.
When setting up a new service, you can negotiate service level, frequency and cost as rates are not set by The City.
Below are some questions to consider when talking to a prospective hauling company.
- What types of festivals and/or events do you serve or specialize in?
- Will you provide a contract? May I see a sample?
- What will the service cost?
- How will I be invoiced?
- Will you help determine how many bins the event requires and placement of the bins?
- Do you collect all of the materials that the bylaw requires for recycling, compost, and garbage?
- Do you collect other items beyond this list? (e.g., certified compostable food ware, coffee cups, hazardous waste, cash recyclables).
- What kind of bin options do you offer for attendees? Vendors?
- Do you provide food waste containers (e.g. kitchen pails) for food vendors?
- Do you provide bin liners for the containers?
- Do you have roll-off bin service? If space is limited for roll-off bins, what are some alternative options?
- Do you rely on attendees/volunteers to sort items at waste stations? Or do you sort the waste back of house?
- Do you have staff who can monitor and service the waste stations? Empty the waste stations into the roll-off bins?
- Where do you take the compost after you pick it up? Where do you take the recycling?
- How will the material be picked up? When will the material be picked up?
- Do you work on weekends and evenings?
- Will there be a local contact to reach out to if any issues arise?
- How often will you collect the material?
- Will you offer information on our festival/events diversion rates?
- Will you provide signs or other support (presentations or training) to help volunteers, food vendors, and attendees?
- Do you provide event consulting services?
- Do you provide post event site cleaning services?
Resources and signage
Waste signage for event sites
Signs to remind attendees what goes where can help manage waste at the event site and reduce contamination issues. When working with a waste hauler, check to see if they have additional tools and resources you can use.
Choose a signage size that is appropriate for the location and post signs at eye level where possible. Consider also pointing attendees to the what goes where page if they’re unsure about an item.
Self-serve downloadable signage files coming in spring 2024.