Recycle at special events Because many special events occur outdoors, and often take place in public spaces without a permanent recycling infrastructure, planning is particularly important to ensure the success of a recycling program at a special event. Decisions about what types of bins to use, where and when to place them, and who will empty them need to be made early in the planning stage.

  • Use a timeline to stay on task during planning.
  • Involve all relevant stakeholders, which might include partner organizations, concessionaires, waste haulers, and volunteers, in planning the logistics.  
  • Plan to have trash and recycling bins emptied regularly so waste does not end up in recycling bins.
  • During and after the event, it is important to monitor and evaluate the recycling program.
Recycling bins

The nature of the event, the anticipated weather conditions, likelihood of reusing the bins in future events, costs, and many other factorscontribute to the decision about what types of bins to use at a special event. Event organizers can choose one of several approaches: renting, purchasing (particularly for an annual event), or using disposable bins. In addition, some recycling service providers may supply bins as part of their contracts for service.


  • Consider using bins with clear bags. They serve as an instant advertisement about what materials may be recycled and make it easy for contractors or volunteers to see when the bins need to be emptied.
  • Take the weather into account if the event is outside. Temporary cardboard bins, for example, are not durable enough for heavy winds or rain.
  • Distribute the bins throughout the event grounds, placing more in high-traffic areas.
  • Place a recycling bin next to each trash can. Pairing the two may reduce contamination (mixing trash with recyclables) and encourage more people to recycle.
  • Hand out bags for visitors to use to collect their own recyclables.
  • Education and Signage
  • Clear and noticeable signs indicating where the public can recycle are essential to ensuring a successful recycling program at a special event.
  • Use big banners above the recycling bins to make sure that their location can be seen from a distance.
  • Use brightly colored signs to ensure that the recycling bins stand out from trash cans.
  • Put a sign or label on each side of the bin, and the top as well if space permits.
  • Label trash cans clearly.
  • Use both graphics and words on signs to communicate, especially with non-English speakers. Clearly show what goes in the bin and what does not.
Recycle at stadiums

Concessionaires can be a key partner in facilitating recycling. Most stadiums do not allow patrons to bring in consumables from the outside, so concessionaires can control most of the waste that is generated. Many concessionaires discard tons of corrugated cardboard, one of the easiest products to recycle. Work with concessionaires to use packaging that cuts down on waste and is conducive to recycling.


  • Encourage concessionaires to collect corrugated cardboard.
  • Instruct either concessionaires or janitorial staff to bring corrugated cardboard to a compactor.
  • Parking Lots and Tailgating
  • Remember that tailgaters generate large amounts of waste and even larger amounts of bottles and cans. Target these areas to collect tailgaters’ and fans’ recyclables.
  • Pass out collection bags to stadium attendees as cars enter the parking lot. Ask attendees to collect their own recyclables in the bags and then leave the bags in the parking lot. Collect the bags after the game and transfer the materials to a mixed recycling bin.
  • Place recycling bins next to each trash can in the parking lot and at stadium entrances and exits.
Post-event stadium bleachers

A majority of food and beverages are consumed by patrons in the seating area, and most of the packaging and containers are left behind once the game or event is over. Although a post-event pickup of recyclables from the seating area can be labor intensive, it is one of the most efficient ways to recover recyclable materials.


  • Instruct janitorial staff to conduct two separate “picks” after the game or event—one for recyclables and one for trash.
  • Ask janitorial staff to conduct a simultaneous trash and recyclable pick after the game with two separate collection bags for trash and recyclables.
  • Enlist volunteers to collect the recyclable materials after a game or event.
  • Hallways, Restrooms, and Other Public Areas
  • Because it may not be feasible or desirable to place recycling bins in seating areas, stadiums should position bins in the concourse areas, in hallways, and near restrooms to make it convenient for fans to drop their recyclables off as they are moving about within the stadium.
  • Place recycling bins for plastic bottles and aluminum cans in all public areas.
  • Place recycling bins beside trash receptacles to make it ease for fans to recycle.

Education and promotion are crucial to encourage public participation in recycling.


  • Educate fans and visitors about what materials are recyclable and where the bins are located.
  • Advertise the location of recycling bins and the importance of using them through printed programs, over the loudspeaker, and on the big screen.
Recycle at shopping centers

Shopping centers are an ideal place to share the recycling message. American consumers visit at least one of the 46,000 retail centers across the country an average of 2.5 times per month. By establishing a recycling program, shopping centers can encourage both the public and retail suppliers to throw away less trash. They are another venue - not only to accomplish recycling but also to promote the message.

Targets of opportunity include:

  • Corrugated cardboard packaging
  • Wood pallets
  • Plastic packaging
  • Paper
  • Mixed paper
  • Office paper
  • Food court waste
  • Glass, metal and plastic beverage containers
  • Food waste
  • Yard waste

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MNN Public Information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Recycling bins and recycling on the Go
Planning is particularly important to ensure the success of a recycling program at a special event.