Recycling at events

Hundreds of fairs, markets, races and block parties are held in Hennepin County each year. With all the food waste, packaging and beverage containers, a lot of waste can be generated at events of any size.

Need help greening your event?

Hennepin County can help event coordinators develop waste-reduction plans, educate vendors, train volunteers and find collection options. For more information, email the event recycling program coordinator at carolyn.collopy@hennepin.us or call 612-596-0993.

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Portable recycling containers

Hennepin County has free portable recycling containers available for recycling and organics (food waste and non-recyclable paper) collection at events.

The loan program is available to cities, community groups, non-profit organizations, businesses and others who wish to collect and recycle materials generated at events held in Hennepin County.

About the containers

Up to 60 containers for recycling of plastic, metal and glass and up to 40 containers for organics recycling are available, subject to availability.

Each portable recycling container consists of:

  • Frame and cover
  • Labeling
  • Clear plastic or compostable bags

Containers are available for the on-site collection of recycling and organics at events only; collection and transport of materials for recycling is not included. See haulers and drop-off locations below for options.

Reserve recycling containers

To reserve portable recycling containers, complete the portable recycling container loan program application/agreement form.

Deposit

A refundable deposit is due upon pick-up of the portable recycling container. Make checks payable to Hennepin County Treasurer. A deposit is not required for city-sponsored events.

The refundable deposit varies depending on how many units you borrow:

  • 1 to 5 containers: $100
  • 6 to 15 containers: $200
  • 16 to 25 containers: $300
  • 26 to 35 containers: $400
  • 36 to 45 containers: $500
  • 46 to 60 containers: $600

Event recycling and waste reduction planning guide

A lot of waste can be generated at events of any size, but with careful planning you can make your event low- or no-waste. The following tips will help you get started.

Before the event

Planning for waste reduction and recycling

  • Determine who will coordinate and implement the recycling efforts.
  • Evaluate all the materials that will be at the event (e.g., packaging, giveaways, decorations, banners), and try to eliminate as many disposable materials as possible. Then assess the waste that will be generated to identify recycling opportunities.
  • If food waste makes up a significant portion of the waste generated, consider collecting food waste for donation or composting. Also use compostable foodservice ware.
  • If your event is being held in Minneapolis, avoid using bottled water by getting tap-water dispensers from the City of Minneapolis' Public Works Department. Dispensers are available for certain large events, such as races and festivals. For more details, email casper.hill@minneapolismn.gov or call 612-673-2342.
  • If collection service isn’t provided by the event site, find a hauler or drop-off site that can process the materials. Find out more about collection options here.
  • Determine the number of collection containers needed. Limit the number of recycling/waste stations to allow for ease of monitoring. Place larger stations in areas where high volumes of waste will be generated. 
  • Reserve the county's free portable recycling containers.

Communication and education

  • Inform vendors of waste-diversion efforts as early as possible to ensure they have adequate time to prepare for the event. To get started, use our customizable sample letters.
  • Recruit volunteers and/or staff to help set up and monitor waste stations on the day of the event.
  • Include information about your recycling efforts in news releases, event programs, marketing and advertising materials.

At the event

  • Greet each vendor and exhibitor during set-up and provide clear instructions for recycling their materials, such as rinsing food out of containers, flattening cardboard boxes, etc.
  • Always place recycling, composting and trash receptacles together to form a recycling station. This will help ensure that materials end up in the correct container, reducing contamination.
  • Make recycling stations highly visible and convenient.
  • Make sure recycling containers look different than trash cans. Label containers with large, clear and specific signs. If possible, include pictures or post examples of what goes in each container. Download and use our event recycling signs.
  • Staff recycling stations at all times to help event participants place their waste in the correct container. If this is not possible, assign someone to check each area periodically.
  • Empty bins often, especially during the summer when bees and odors can discourage recycling.

After the event

  • Calculate your diversion rate by using the following formula: diversion rate = amount recycled/(amount recycled + amount disposed)
  • Share your success with sponsors, participants and coordinators!
  • Take note of what, if anything, you can improve for next year.

Need help?

Hennepin County can help event coordinators develop waste-reduction plans, educate vendors, train volunteers and find collection options. For more information, email the event recycling program coordinator at carolyn.collopy@co.hennepin.mn.us or call 612-596-0993.

Green event resources - signage and communication tools

Use the following resources to plan and implement green events.

Communicating to vendors

Download and customize these letters to communicate your waste reduction goals and recycling guidelines to vendors and presenters.

Signage

Having well-labeled recycling, organics and trash containers is one key step to making recycling at your event a success.

Download and print these signs for your event:

Use these signs for collecting sorted recycling:

Haulers and drop-off locations

Check with your event venue first to see if they offer recycling and organics collection service.

If recycling and organics collection is not provided by the event site, coordinators can either hire a hauler or self-haul recyclables to a drop-off site. Depending on what is being collected, it may be economical to do a combination of both.

Questions to ask potential haulers

When hiring a waste hauler, ask the following:

  • What materials will the hauler collect?
  • What will the services cost?
  • Will the hauler donate any portion of the service?
  • What is the hauler’s experience with event recycling?
  • Can the hauler provide the collection containers?
  • Will the hauler provide signage and container labeling?
  • Where will the organics be taken for composting?
  • Will recyclables be collected together or do they need to be separated?
  • Is the hauler able to measure and report garbage and recycling data?

Collection services

Finding a hauler that will take all of the materials generated at the event – garbage, recyclables and organics – is the most convenient method for waste removal.

Drop-off locations

Self-hauling some materials to a drop-off site for processing can be an economical way to manage event waste.

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