Waste Not, Want Not: Making Leftover Event Materials Serve the Community

After WrestleMania concluded in Philadelphia, the CVB found a way to give the professional wrestling event’s banners a second life, while giving back — joining several other large events that have made sure that what’s left over goes to a good cause rather than the landfill.

Author: Casey Gale       

WWE sign near city hall tower

The Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau conducted an online auction for fans to get signage, like the one shown here near Philadelphia City Hall, from WrestleManiaXL, which took place in April in the city. (Photos courtesy PHLCVB)

In early April, when WrestleMania returned to Philadelphia for the first time in 25 years to make its debut at Lincoln Financial Field, more than 145,000 World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) fans attended over two nights — making it the highest-grossing event in WWE history. But the fans’ enthusiasm went beyond the event itself: Many expressed a desire to take home WrestleMania XL’s promotional signage, which included 59 banners hung on street polls around the city and one large banner that decorated City Hall.

“There was an outpouring of interest, and we wanted a fair way to offer them to fans,” said Larry Needle, executive director of PHL Sports, a business division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB). The CVB came up with a sustainable solution: an online auction of the banners “to benefit the city’s tourism and hospitality industry through the PHLCVB Foundation,” Needle said, “which stepped up to support the WWE and their fans during WrestleManiaXL weekend.” The Foundation supports such projects as training and educating individuals for careers in the hospitality sector, providing annual scholarships for students enrolled at regional universities, as well as supporting programs that benefit Philadelphia public schools.

The auction, which closed on May 6, raised more than $33,000 for the PHLCVB Foundation, with some banners selling for more than $1,000.

“Typically, banners that aren’t reusable for future years are often donated back to the event host and local stakeholders for the event,” Needle told Convene. “In recent years, we have also worked to repurpose the banners into tote bags and made them available to PHLCVB customers and their partners.” Auctioning signage, however, is a new reuse method, he said.

“Based on the demand that we’ve seen and the success in supporting the PHLCVB Foundation,” Needle said, another online auction is “something we’ll consider for future big events.”

wwe signs in downtown philly

Wrestlemania signage was posted throughout Philadelphia during the event. The online auction for signs raised more than $33,000 for the PHLCVB Foundation.

Gone but Not Forgotten

Other events have found sustainable and charitable ways to reuse what might otherwise be seen as waste, such as the Stagecoach and Coachella music festivals that both take place annually on the 642-acre Empire Polo Grounds in Indio, California. Items left behind on the festival grounds after the events include clothing, camping gear, and dry goods. Local community organizations like the Galilee Center, a nonprofit that fulfills food, clothing, and other basic needs for local disadvantaged individuals, send trucks to the festival grounds to collect what is left behind.

For the last five years, the Galilee Center has sent two trucks to Stagecoach and four to Coachella the day after the event ends. And the amount of reusable goods is significant — this year, the Galilee Center collected 48,480 pounds of donations from Coachella alone. Last year, Goldenvoice, the promoter that puts on Stagecoach and Coachella, donated 34.6 tons of materials from the music festivals. Clothing and furniture vouchers given to low-income individuals can be used at Galilee Center’s thrift store to purchase the abandoned goods, while cots and sleeping bags found on the festival grounds are typically donated to unhoused individuals.

“Some of it is trash and we throw it away,” Lupe Torres-Hilario, director of operations at the Galilee Center, told the L.A. Times. “But for the most part, a lot of the stuff is in good condition that I could easily grab from Coachella and hand it over to a family in need.”

Casey Gale is managing editor of Convene.

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