Planning Plastic-Free Events

How a Scotland venue and an England triathlon are leading the way.

By Boardroom editors

Plastic is one problem that continues to plague events. But planners can focus on sustainable efforts by placing plastic reduction at the forefront, reducing waste by reusing and recycling.

In Scotland, the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) is helping eliminate plastic and offering advice to make it easier for planners to create low- or no-plastic events.

According to Marion McKean, operations director at EICC, one of the first courses of action is to start talking about plastic early with the host venue. “Identify how plastic might be ‘consumed’ at your conference, where it can be suitably left out or substituted, and what goals you could realistically work towards. It’s much easier to address plastic reduction early on than to make big, last-minute changes,” McKean says.

Attendees also play a large role when it comes to plastic reduction. Recommending ahead of time that they bring their own reusable water bottles is one EICC suggestion and one way to get everyone involved in the 3Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. EICC also promotes the use of compostable cups and advises against plastic signs and prizes.

In addition to the EICC efforts, United Kingdom campaigns to cut down on single-use plastic consumption extend to steps taken at the Croyde Ocean Triathlon, which was reported to be the first such plastic-free event of its kind.

“We want to show that it is possible to put on incredible events in beautiful locations without damaging the environment in the process,” Croyde Ocean Triathlon Race Director Peter Wright told The Independent.

The July triathlon took place in the villages of Croyde and Georgeham in North Devon. At the event, plastic bags were banned everywhere from the catering area to the wetsuit changing location. Even energy gel sachets often thrown on the side of the road by cyclists (and swallowed by deer) were replaced by plastic-free sustainable foods like protein balls and flapjacks.

The Independent reports that after large-scale sporting events like the London Marathon, more than 750,000 bottles — and seven tonnes of waste — can be left. Planners face a similar, though smaller-scale, issue at meetings. Just one plastic cup can take 500 years to disintegrate, according to various reports. Meanwhile, the oceans contain over 150 million metric tonnes of plastic, the organization One Green Planet says. Given this factor, it’s no surprise that by 2050, it’s predicted by the World Economic Forum that the amount of plastic in the ocean will outweigh fish.

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