'Waste not want not' - Exhibition Recycling
by Alex Tietgen - Tuesday, September 20, 2011
About twelve months ago I saw a doco about plastic – a whole hour-long program on the origins of plastic and the detrimental effects it’s had on our environment ever since it was mass produced in the 1940s.
I was horrified to find out that every piece of plastic ever produced would not yet have broken down and is still somewhere on this planet.
It got me to thinking about the waste I generate. I recycle tins and milk cartons like all good citizens and I know I can do more. But what about the waste generated in my area of business at the Centre – exhibitions?
It’s pretty well known that our organisation has been really focusing on sustainability in the past few years through fostering a “green culture” among staff and through the EarthCheck program. However, exhibition waste has been the hardest area to tackle. We’ve put systems and processes in place to manage what we do when it comes to staging exhibitions, but getting external contractors and members of the public to change their habits has been a much bigger ask. Some want to do it; some will do it; and others either don’t think about it, or don’t really care.
Exhibitions generate vast amounts of waste. As a road show leaves one venue, bound for the next, people chuck things into a bin, rather than recycling it, or repacking it and sending onto the next destination. Why? Because they reckon it’s ‘easier’.
How could I change this mindset and what initiatives could we, as the Centre, implement to encourage our exhibitors, contractors and suppliers to think about where their waste will end up? And, even more daring –would it be possible to have exhibitions that generate zero waste to landfill?
The next Monday I broached the topic with our management and I was surprised AND ENCOURAGED by the support I got for my ideas. All of a sudden the challenge was real, the gauntlet was thrown and the desire to achieve exhibitions that produced ‘zero-waste-to-landfill’ was born.