Recycling at Outdoor Events - Blog

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Thursday 21st April 2016

Back in August, we visited The Open Market to talk about our work with the FoodWISE project and how we could help stall holders to increase their recycling rates. We have been working with Brighton & Hove City Council on a project providing food waste recycling at outdoor events. The main aim of the project was to find out the key success factors for increasing recycling rates. There were 5 events: Brighton Big Screen, The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, The Big Sussex Food Market, The Brighton and Hove Food and Drink festival and The Spieltent and Pub.

Brighton Big Screen

The Brighton big screen was a month long event held on the beach. The event was ticketed to limit numbers and showed a variety of films. A total of 38% of waste was recycled.

Bins on the beach for The Brighton Big Screen

The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

The car run takes place each year and is the world’s longest running motoring event. Starting at Hyde Park and ending at Madeira Drive in Brighton. The event was ticketed and all food packaging was compostable. Outdoor containers were provided and a member of Brighton Paper Round was on hand to help point people in the right direction. 27% of the recycling generated there was food waste and 55% of all the waste was recycled. This was the highest rate out of all the events.

We were on hand to answer questions at the car show

The Big Sussex Food Market

The food market was a free-to-access, non-ticketed event held on New Road. The event organisers aim to promote Brighton and Hove as a world-class food tourism destination. Waste stations were set up to help attendees recycle properly in addition to bins situated back of house. This event reached a recycling rate of 35%.

The Big Sussex Food Market

The Brighton and Hove Food and Drink Festival

Run by the same organisers as the food market, the food and drink festival was free to enter and ran for 3 days. The large numbers of caterers present and the different types of packaging made arranging recycling difficult. 14% of food waste was recycled.

The Brighton Food Festival

The Spiegeltent and Pub

The Spiegeltent is a part of the Brighton Fringe Festival and operates in the Old Steine Pleasure Gardens. The venue is popular for acts of all kinds. It’s an open access venue and attracts a wide variety of people.

Fenced in recycling bins worked better at outdoor events

The Results

There was a recycling target of 30% for each of the events and a rate of 41% was achieved. In addition to this, there was a target of 5% food waste recycling and the project averaged 10% across all events, with the highest being 27% at the car run. As a result of the project, Brighton and Hove City Council have been able to identify factors in achieving high recycling rates, and in turn what factors lead to a lower recycling rate.

Higher Recycling Rates

Higher recycling rates were achieved when:

  • Events were ticketed and attendees only consumed food and drink obtained at the event.
  • Caterers were using compostable packaging.
  • Pre-event planning took place with the event organiser and day to day site managers. Particularly important was agreeing the design of the bins so that they suit the event, that there are the right number and they are put in the right places.
  • Waste containers were designed specifically for the event. The large yellow containers worked on the beach where wheelie bins would have fallen over, but they did not work so well for bar areas where lots of people were standing close to them with drinks and could not see the signage on the front.
  • Information was sent out to people booking or made available on a website to tell them about the environmental aims of the event, including recycling.

Lower Recycling Rates

Factors in lower recycling rates include:

  • Events were not ticketed and had open admittance, which meant the organisers had no control over the food and packaging being brought into the site.
  • Alcohol consumption was higher. People putting unfinished drinks into recycling containers was a major factor in reducing recycling rates through contamination.
  • The event took place all or partially at night outside.
  • Many caterers were involved, making asking all of them to use compostable packaging difficult.
  • There was a lack of communication about the aims of the project with those responsible for running the site, particularly at site breakdown time.


Overall, the project was a success, achieving double the target rates for recycling and raising awareness about food waste recycling in general. A key aim of the project was to see whether or not food waste recycling is a feasible option for outdoor events and the findings show that it is possible, if the factors above are taken into account.

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