Can you trust the waste diversion rate supplied for your event?
Venues hold the key to greening your meeting, so don’t be afraid to ask key questions to put their credentials to the test and ensure the sustainability of your event, says MeetGreen’s director of sustainability.
One of the big challenges in making environmentally responsible choices for your meetings is being able to trust that the vendors you work with use the same standards that you do to quantify the results. I had one such experience she had with a venue.
It used a system of waste diversion calculation for events that included only the recycling numbers and omitted all of the waste that was taken by another company. When the venue was questioned about these measurement methods, it said it stood by them, end of story. To complicate matters, the venue has since continued to publicly claim these high diversion rates, based on this method.
So here are my recommendations of what to look for to make sure your expectations are being met in terms of reported diversion rates:
• Ask for direct-reported data from the haulier
Data filtered by a venue can be manipulated. Also be aware the venue may deal with different haulers for different materials and they may only be disclosing partial data in their report.
• Does reported data includes all material hauled, including recyclables, trash, donations and any other streams?
Sometimes venues will not factor in all streams, which can have significant impact on reported diversion trends.
• Try to isolate your data specifically, or find out if the data might be affected by multiple events on-property at the same time as yours
Most facilities would have to take special measures to do this for you. If your venue can’t do this, it’s probable that you’re getting more than your own event’s weight, although percentage diversion could still be accurate, overall.
• Find out if you can go back of house to visit where waste is marshaled
Observing staff and how they handle waste in the back of house is a good way to gauge what kind of diversion you might expect. If two of every three trash bags are being put in the landfill, there’s a good chance you’re likely lower than 40% diversion of waste. Don’t be afraid to peer into a dumpster or ask how full it is, either. It’s important to see these things with your own eyes in order to know if reported waste metrics are accurate.
• Ask if you can contact or visit their recycling and/or compost facility to see for yourself how waste is sorted
Any facility that is transparent will be glad to connect you with their hauler to verify practices.
• If possible, refer back to any previous records you might have about landfill or recycling at your event
Often if you can estimate per participant amounts in previous years, you can gauge roughly how much waste you could expect, assuming a similar event format and attendee composition. So if last year you produced 10lbs of left over material per person and you’re expecting 1,000 people onsite, you can expect your total waste and recycling to measure about 10,000 lbs.
• Clarify if the venue includes incineration in their diversion from landfill calculations
MeetGreen chooses to not include incinerated waste in diversion from landfill as it often does not provide the highest use option for organic waste, which could be used as compost. It can also create significant local air quality issues. Sometimes venues will treat this as recycling of waste-to-energy, so clarify if this is the case.
• Finally, if your venue doesn’t have composting and they’re claiming a diversion from landfill rate of greater than 70%, be suspicious
Compostable waste tends to account for at least 25% of event waste streams. If your venue doesn’t have composting your event likely shouldn’t be achieving over 70% diversion.
Shawna McKinley is director of sustainability at MeetGreen