Sustainable Park Waste Management Solutions for Events
If you want to create a sustainable park waste management system, take your cues from the National Park Service. Across all 411 national parks, the NPS has pledged to keep at least half of all waste out of landfills (as of 2018, they were nearly there, with a 40-percent diversion rate). To reach that 50-percent diversion threshold, the NPS encourages parks to separate post-use materials into multiple streams: reuse, recycling, composting, and — when all else fails — landfills.
But diversifying waste streams can create serious logistical hurdles for park officials at the local and municipal levels. One California study found that people generate 2.44 pounds of waste each when they attend public events — which means it only takes about 800 visitors to generate a full ton of waste materials! Separating that waste into multiple streams is a big job, but the NPS, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and others have developed procedures that can help. Here are a few proven solutions for park waste management during special events.
Waste Prevention in Park Waste Management Plans
The EPA’s Waste Management Hierarchy is an inverted pyramid that ranks waste management strategies from “most preferred” to “least preferred.” At the very top—the most effective way to avoid pollution—is source reduction. You don’t have to dispose of waste that’s never created in the first place. So how can your event waste management plan encourage waste prevention?
- Reduce packaging. Work with vendors to cut down on food packaging as much as possible. Ask them to avoid plastic bags and outer wrappers, reducing packages to just what’s necessary for food safety.
- Provide water refill stations. Accessible water coolers encourage the use of refillable bottles, reducing the number of disposable plastics your event will generate.
- Use bulk condiment/dressing dispensers. Encourage food sellers to set up dressing stations rather than offering single-serving packages, like ketchup packets, for instance.
- Choose vendors who have a waste-reduction plan of their own. Ask vendors how they plan to limit excess waste; you can even add the question to vendor application forms.
Of course, no matter how much waste you prevent, there will still be plenty of recycling, composting, and landfill materials to handle at any public event. Let’s talk about how to keep those waste streams separate.
Handling Recycling, Composting, and Landfill Waste at Park Events
Haulers and materials recovery facilities (MRFs) won’t take recycling loads that are contaminated with non-recyclables. That makes it the organizer’s job to keep waste streams as clean as possible. To meet that goal, here are a few ways to reduce contamination in recycling and composting collections at your outdoor event.
- Color-code bins for recycling, composting, and landfill waste. The simplest way to encourage proper disposal of waste materials is to color-code bins throughout your event. Make recyclable bins blue, compost bins brown, and landfill bins yellow or red, for instance — just keep it consistent.
- Label bins with clear, easy-to-read descriptions — and graphics. Large, easy-to-ready fonts and accompanying pictures will help to reduce contamination. In addition to labeling bins, it helps to post signs that attendees can see from a distance. That way, they’ll always be able to find a waste disposal site, reducing the chance that they’ll give up and resort to littering.
- Place bins where people need them. Each waste disposal site should include bins for all three waste streams. Place these bin stations where people are likely to generate waste; for instance, outside restrooms, at entrances and exits, and around vendors and dining areas.
- Collect bins on a strict schedule. If the landfill bin is full, guests may reach for the next-nearest trash can — even if it’s clearly labeled “recycling.” Prevent contamination by collecting waste regularly throughout your event. The simplest way to do this is to use a waste collection train. The Turnkey Waste Handling Solution from Solus Group provides everything you need to collect multiple waste streams throughout your event with a single operator, including an ergonomic Bin Dumper to keep that operator safe while emptying bins.
- Sort materials prior to collection. No matter how clearly you organize your bins, you’ll find some level of contamination in your recycling stream. Set up a staging area at your final collection point, the dumpsters your haulers will pick up at the end of your event. Have staff or volunteers monitor the loads your collection train delivers, sorting out contaminants as necessary.
Start Planning Your Park Waste Management Plan Today
It helps to get all your stakeholders on the same page well in advance of any event. Clearly outline your waste management policies and procedures, and share that plan with all event vendors and workers before the event takes place. A pre-made plan gives workers, vendors, and volunteers time to understand your park’s goals, and to train for execution.
Finally, provide the material handling equipment your waste management team needs to operate safely and efficiently. That may include Roll-Out Carts, Mobile Bins, and Bin Dumpers, available from Solus Group individually or as part of a Bulk Waste Handling Package or the Turnkey Waste Handling Solution mentioned above. For more information about how material handling equipment can help you run a more sustainable park waste management system, contact Solus Group at 314-696-0200.