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Zero Waste Events


Envirohub Marlborough's Guide to Zero Waste Events


Hosting a zero waste event is much easier than most event organisers realise. From a small morning tea to a large scale festival, here is how you can plan your zero waste event with less stress and maximum benefits to the community and the environment.


Essentially the zero waste philosophy works towards:

‘Eliminating waste by using reusables, home compostables and recyclables’.


A win for the environment and a win for your community. 


Advantages of Holding a Zero Waste Event   


  • More attractive to sponsors and funders

  • A desirable setting with no rubbish

  • Educates the public

  • Creates a sense of pride between the organisers, vendors and patrons

  • Reduces/eliminates the cost of waste disposal

  • Reduces costs to vendors by eliminating expensive disposable serveware

  • You are protecting our stunning Marlborough environment! 


Before the Event


  • Think about the different ways that waste would be created.Visit the venue and note any existing rubbish receptacles. Decide what bins you will need to bring to deal with compost, recycling and any rubbish that may occur unexpectedly. 

  • Determine what can be eliminated and what can be substituted with reusables,  home compostables and as a less preferred option, recyclables.  

  • As there are no commercial composting facilities currently in Marlborough, home composting and using food scraps as animal feed are currently the only options for food waste. These rely on a community approach. Consider how much food waste your event may generate. Work with your networks to find people who can take the waste for home composting/animal feed.

  • Let stakeholders know early about your plan to ensure correct marketing & preparation  

  • Provide vendors a clear zero waste policy for them to sign and agree to. Vendors should be encouraged to reduce their “back of house” waste as much as possible by choosing reusables, recycling, composting,etc . If any “back of house” waste is created, the vendors need to agree to pack it out with them. A “pack in, pack out” system will also make vendors aware of the amount of “back of house” waste being generated.

  • You need to explain to vendors that so called “biodegradable” or “compostable” serveware is not acceptable at this time because Marlborough doesn’t have commercial composting facilities, so it will go to the landfill. 

  • Offer to meet, and provide plenty of support to vendors/stakeholders ensuring the event is a positive and successful experience for everyone. 

  • Vendors may need to advise you in advance what dishes / cutlery they will need from you at the event

  • Organize volunteers to help with making your zero waste event a success.  

  • Proudly let everyone know it’s a ‘Zero Waste Event’. Get the word out there on all your media channels to: BYO water bottle, coffee cup and picnic set


At The Event 



Ensure clear and bold signage for recycling, compost bins and dish wash area. 


Existing Rubbish Bins

If your event has existing rubbish containers in the vicinity these will need to be covered with a tarpaulin so they are not used . This will allow you to have a true reading of your zero waste event results.

Reusable Serveware

  • Ideally attendees will bring their own picnic sets (cups, plates, cutlery, etc) but for those who don’t,  provide food vendors with reusable crockery and cutlery for serving their food and beverages

  • Envirohub Marlborough has re-usable serveware available to borrow or it can be sourced cheaply from local second hand shops

  •  Volunteers will need to  keep the vendors provided with clean serveware as needed.  

  • A wash station can be set up for washing the serveware if an existing kitchen is not available.  A template for this is available from Envirohub Marlborough. 

Zero Waste Dishwashing Marquee Set-up Template


You will need bins for recycling glass, cans and clean cardboard. These bins need to be manned by volunteers as if they become contaminated, it will all end up in landfill. Alternatively volunteers can walk about with a rubbish bag and a recycle bin to collect any rubbish or recycling. This works really well because it prevents the possible problems occurring.



  • You will need bins or buckets for compost. If the compost is going to be fed to animals make sure you have a separate bin for serviettes

  • Food scraps can be taken to a home compost or fed to pigs or chickens. If food scraps end up in landfill they break down without oxygen and create methane and leachate, highly toxic substances.

  • If serviettes are used, ensure vendors know only unbleached ones are acceptable as they can be composted at home. 

One step at a time

It is not always easy to go from a regular event to one creating absolutely zero waste all at once. You can always ease into your zero waste journey with manageable steps or a 3 year plan. For example:

  • Don’t sell bottled water. Set up a water refill station or stations.  Ask attendees to bring their own water bottles. 

  • Ask attendees to bring their own picnic set 

  • Don’t allow single use pottles or sachets, go for reusable jars and bottles of condiments

  • Sell coffee without lids or ask vendors to ask “Do you need a lid?”

  • Offer reusable cups for a refundable deposit (see for festivals) 

  • Avoid giveaways such as promotional materials, balloons, glow sticks etc

  • Avoid prizes that create waste, eg. give an experience or an electronic voucher

  • Use an ink stamp instead of wrist bands

  • Use reusable decorations, eg. bunting 

  • Use electronic tickets

  • Use blackboard signage or other reusable signage. 


Feedback After Your Event


Find out from your attendees, vendors and volunteers what worked well and what could be improved and share these results with the community. 

Write a report to send to Council and offer advice for future events. 

How Envirohub Marlborough Can Help

  • We can help with advice and planning your zero waste event 

  • We hire equipment to help your event be zero waste - reusable crockery, wash station boilers, water containers, dishwashing tubs, etc 

Resources for Event Organisers


Please contact Heather Barnes, Zero Waste Coordinator, if you have any queries or need support with achieving your event's zero waste goals. 

Good luck and thank you for supporting the shift towards Zero Waste Events!


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