Four easy steps to creating a zero waste event


With only one week to go before EcoFest West, our annual festival offering more than 100 environmental events taking place across West Auckland, we thought it would be the perfect time to provide some tips on how to organise a zero waste event!

When we talk about waste, we mean any unwanted material that ends up in the environment or landfill, rather than being reused, recycled or composted to feed the soil. A few simple steps can help you drastically reduce, or even eliminate waste from your event. 

1. Reduce waste coming in

Think about all the ways that waste could be brought into the event. 

For example, food and drink can be a big generator of waste. Instead of providing disposable plates, cups and cutlery, you can provide reusable alternatives or ask attendees to bring their own.

If you’re running a large event with vendors, outline your expectations for packaging, serving and waste disposal in your vendor agreement.

2. Provide the right bins

Do you need a recycling, composting and landfill bin? Providing the right bins is key to making sure that recyclable and compostable items end up where they need to go.

Put them together in bin stations so people don’t have to work hard to find the right one. If you’re aiming to completely eliminate waste, you may decide not to provide a landfill bin.

Hot tip: Make sure you have enough bins and that they’re big enough and placed in convenient spots, such as places where people are likely to eat. Overflowing bins are a nightmare for clean-up.

3. Let people know

Set your expectations early and make them clear.


Promote the fact that your event will be zero waste when you publicise your event. In the lead-up, you can send reminders for people to bring their own gear like water bottles and reusable coffee mugs.

Create clear signage

Signs should be clear and bold, so your bin stations are easy to find. What you accept in your compostable bins may depend on whether their contents are going to be commercially or home composted, so work with your composter to create signage around what will be accepted. 

Staff bin stations

There is often confusion about what can be recycled or composted. The best way to stop items from ending up in the wrong bin is to make sure there’s someone there to help attendees choose the right one.

4. Capture feedback

Find out from your attendees what worked and what didn’t, so you can do even better next time. If you can, record and share any information on how much you’ve diverted from landfill. You never know who you might inspire.

Looking for an easy way to save this information? Download our handy flyer listing all the information as mentioned in this blogpost!


Need some equipment for your zero waste event? You can hire reusable crockery and cutlery, washing equipment and bin stations from EcoMatters. 

Organising a big event or want to find out more? The Zero Waste Events website has case studies, information on packaging, event gear for loan, and contact details for advisors you can contact for free.

Want to learn more about composting at home? The Compost Collective runs free composting workshops across Auckland.

Looking for someone to help with composting for your small event? ShareWaste can connect you with people who accept food scraps for home composting. 

Want to crowdsource a solution to a waste problem? The Zero Waste in NZ Facebook group is a community brimming with ideas.