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How Much Event Waste Can You Divert from Landfill? Far More Than You Think!

Let's start by changing terminology. Instead of 'waste management', let's call it 'resource recovery'. Much of what's landfilled in the events industry is actually recoverable and has resale value or value as feedstock to create new products. Pink Elephant Events can get each of these waste streams recycled.

Plastic Film

  • Multipack wraps from back of house food prep

  • Ice bags from the bar are recyclable with plastic film. Companies like Trex use these materials to create composite decking, which is created with a blend of plastic resin and reclaimed wood.

  • Shrink wrap around pallets, chair deliveries, plate stacks, etc.

  • Visqueen, or plastic sheeting, used to protect surfaces during event set up, is recyclable with plastic film


  • Wine bottles and liquor bottles are fully recyclable, as are beer bottles. Clear, brown, and green glass are all accepted.

  • Any glass jars from back of house food prep are also included in glass recycling.


  • Beer cans

  • Aerosol cans used in disinfecting, event prep (spray painting, etc.)

  • Large foodservice prep cans from back of house

  • Any scrap metals (poster stands, metal sign clips, etc.)


  • Cardboard boxes are usually the largest source of paper recovery at events.

  • Leftover flyers and brochures

  • Pizza boxes


  • Carpet and padding - we can get this material either donated or recycled, depending on the material and the condition

  • Excess event t-shirts (we can donate, or in some cases recycle, textiles)

Miscellanous Plastics

  • Pink Elephant Events is able to take vinyl banners and flexible, thin vinyl tabletops for recycling.

  • EPS (Styrofoam) packing material from event signage and electronics, coffee cups and food boxes

  • Water bottles, juice bottles, plastic bottles from cocktail mixers, and back of house plastic foodservice jars and bottles

E-Waste/AV Waste

  • Electronic equipment, bulbs, cables, batteries

Organic Waste

  • Food scraps from back of house food prep, plate scrapings (including bones, fats, and meats), and compostable foodware, paper or bamboo napkins and paper towel.

  • Uneaten prepared food, unused bottled nonalcoholic beverages, and unused packaged food

  • Flowers and other natural items used in centerpieces, place settings, and decoration

  • Oils from deep fryers and other sources of food prep oils

Leftover Event Swag

  • Tshirts

  • Toys, balls, frisbees, mugs

  • Packaged food with commemorative labeling

  • Chip clips, USB drives, hand held fans, reusable bags

  • We can usually accept most of these items for donation. But consider skipping or cutting back on them. Choose what you order carefully, as some items are better for donation than others. No one really wants hundreds of leftover key rings from companies they've never heard of or events they've never been to. And it's hard to pull off the image of a sustainable event if it's filled with dollar store-ish, Made in China plastic swag. If you must use them, consider the supply chain and choose ethically sourced, more sustainable options from companies like Fairware.

What's left?

This list is not exhaustive, but these are some of the most common unrecyclable, not-compostable items at events. All of these items are landfilled - we cannot accept these:

Traditional Foam Core Boards - we are NOT able to recycle traditional foam core boards, which are typically made of coated paper attached to a polystyrene (foam) core. However, we ARE able to accept foam core boards that are composed of 100% polystyrene, like Sintra and Ultraboard. We are also able to accept 100% paper foam core board alternatives like notFoam boards, Falconboards, and EagleCell boards. We would advise that for your next sustainable event, if you must use foam core boards, use one of these options!


Lanyard fabric is recyclable, as we accept textiles, but the hard cards and plastic sleeves are not. Fairware has a unique lanyard lending program that you might want to check out.

Anything Acrylic

The majority of clear plastic wine glasses, martini glasses, and champagne flutes are acrylic. Just because it's plastic, doesn't mean it's recyclable! Acrylic is not recyclable. It's clear, sturdy, and attractive - but it's GARBAGE!

Conventional Ice Cream Bowls, Soup Bowls, and Coffee Cups

These may look like paper, but they're coated with a thin layer of plastic to prevent fluid from leaking. Compostable bowls and cups are instead coated with PLA (polylactic acid). Wedding ice cream carts are awesome - but if you're using compostable foodware for the rest of the wedding reception, demand that your vendor uses compostable bowls and spoons! No one wants to sift through soggy food scraps to sort out the plastic spoons and wet bowls from the compost bags.

Plastic Cutlery

These typically made of hard polystyrene and are not recyclable.

Paper Tablecloths with a Plastic Undercoating

Coffee Cup Lids

Many venues with have compostable coffee cups but unrecyclable polystyrene lids for the cups. Compostable cup lids exist - and we sell them!

Individually Wrapped Sized Snacks

Technically, foil snack bar wrappers and chip bags are recyclable with Terracycle, but the problem is that they inevitably end up contaminating the compost bins. People will often stuff their used napkins and banana peels inside their chip bags and toss the whole thing in the compost or recycle bin!

Various Items Event Attendees will Bring in from the Outside

Some folks think it's a good idea to forgo trash cans altogether. The reasoning is that if everything's compostable or recyclable, we shouldn't need any trash cans, right? The problem is that you can't control the used chewing gum, pocket full of cigarette butts, or CVS receipts that attendees may need to throw out at the event. If people can't find a trash bin, they'll toss these items into whatever bin is closest to them.

Reducing Contamination

If you are not able to use compostables for 100% of your foodware, you may want to consider just have recycling for bar items like beer and wine bottles and cans and things like cardboard boxes, plastic film, etc. Put the foodware in the trash.

Plastic foodware, while theoretically recyclable, is no longer recyclable when it's covered in cake crumbs, ice cream, or sauces. And having, say, just compostable plates while having ice cream service at the reception in conventional bowls with conventional plastic spoons means that all of those materials will end up all mixed up in the bins, and no one is going to separate out dirty ice cream bowls from the compostable plates in a food-soaked bag. If everything is compostable, there is no need to separate food scraps, plates, and utensils. Most folks understand that a plastic bottle and a beer can don't go in a compost bin.

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