Earth Day 2024: Ending Single-Use Plastic

Plastics are one of the most pressing environmental threats we face. And it is a threat that the events industry can do something about.

Author: Barbara Palmer       

plastic cups piled on floor

r.World, a company that provides reusable service ware, estimates 4 billion single-use plastic cups are used annually at live events in North America.

The official theme for Earth Day 2024 is “Planet vs. Plastic,” a call to arms issued by to reduce all plastic production by 60 percent by 2040 and to rapidly phase out all single-use plastics by 2030. Plastics are not only an imminent environmental issue, polluting our rivers and oceans and killing marine life, “they present a threat to human health as alarming as climate change,” according to a statement posted on, which grew out of the first Earth Day in 1970. “As plastics break down into microplastics, they release toxic chemicals into our food and water sources and circulate through the air we breathe.”

Single-use plastic is a particular problem in the U.S., a top global producer of plastic waste and where 100 billion plastic beverage containers were sold last year — more than 300 bottles per resident, according to Recycling programs aren’t putting even a dent in the demand for new plastic production: 95 percent of all plastics in the U.S. won’t be recycled at all, the organization reported. There is no comprehensive data about the amount of plastic waste in the events industry, but one marker is the 4 billion single-use cups that r.World, a company that provides reusable service ware, estimates are used annually at live events in North America.

On a more hopeful note, eliminating single-use plastics is an issue that not only has broad support in the events industry, but one in which multiple organizations are making significant progress. Just last week, ASM Global, which operates more than 350 venues around the world, announced that it would partner with r.World to introduce reusable service ware in venues in its North American portfolio, beginning with the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center.

At the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the campaign to end single-use plastics began eight years ago with an effort to remove single-use plastics from the venue’s gift shops and which now includes the Aquarium’s events and catering operations and has had a ripple effect throughout Monterey’s hospitality community.

On this Earth Day, it’s good to celebrate these examples of small changes that create greater impact — and to vow to do better.

Barbara Palmer is deputy editor of Convene.

Related Posts

Become a Member

Get premium access to provocative executive-level education, face-to-face networking and business intelligence.