This guide is for organisers of indoor or outdoor events, fairs, concerts, markets and festivals in Wales which may be operating on a not-for-profit basis or commercially.
This guide should be read in conjunction with the Separate Collection of Waste Materials for Recycling: A Code of Practice for Wales. This guide provides supplementary advice for individual sectors and should not be read as standalone guidance.
It applies to small pop-up or temporary events operating over several hours as well as to larger events over several days, which may or may not include camping provision. The law is relevant whether the event or festival is held on public open spaces such as parks, marketplaces, highways (where road closures have been permitted) or on private land.
Why you need to recycle
From 6 April 2024, the new law will mean all workplaces have to present the following materials separately for collection for recycling and arrange for the waste to be collected separately from other waste.
What to recycle
- Paper and card,
- Metal, plastic, and cartons and other similar packaging (for example coffee cups),
- Food – all premises that produce 5kg or more of food waste in seven consecutive days,
- Unsold small waste electrical and electronic equipment (sWEEE), and
- Unsold textiles.
The 5kg food waste weight limit applies to any seven-day period. If you produce 5kg or more of food waste during any seven days, then it must be presented separately for collection. If you do not produce over 5kg per week this should be monitored to take account of any changes on the premises, for example an increase of staffing levels or visitors.
This law only applies to household like waste produced by workplaces, that is waste that is usually found at home and routinely collected from the kerbside.
A full list of recyclable materials that should be presented separately for recycling is available here: The Separate Collection of Waste Materials for Recycling: Code of Practice).
As a waste producer, you are required to produce a waste transfer note. In most cases, however, your waste collector will produce this for you. You should check this carefully to ensure that the description of the waste being collected is accurate. None of the separated materials can be sent by your waste collector to landfill or incineration. You could consider asking your waste collector for regular evidence of the final processing destinations of your segregated materials.
The new law bans any food waste of any amount from being disposed of down the sink or drain into the sewer. It means you cannot use in-sink maceration units that chop or liquidise food waste and send it down the drain.
While it will not be illegal for you to have a macerator, de-waterer, or other similar food waste disposal technology, it will be illegal to use them to send food waste into sewers.
All occupiers of workplaces must correctly present recyclable materials separately for collection by their chosen waste collector. Whether you own, rent, or lease your premises, it still applies.
Recycling may help you reduce the costs of managing waste at your event, whilst ensuring that you are following the new law and helping the environment.
How to better understand your waste and recycling
If you have never held your event before, think about the types of waste that will be produced. If there will be on-site food or drinks vendors and stall holders, food waste and packaging is likely to be the most prominent waste produced at your event.
You need to decide whether to provide waste and recycling services for your vendors or stallholders, or whether you will require vendors and stallholders to be responsible for disposing of their own waste. Taking on this responsibility as event organiser ensures you know that all waste and recycling has been disposed of responsibly and in accordance with the new law. If you decide that vendors and stallholders are responsible for their own waste, your agreement with them should include a requirement that they comply with the new law.
Doing a waste audit could be a useful way of seeing what type of waste you produce. If you have held your event before, you should be aware of the types and volumes of waste it will produce. Use this to think about how many containers you will need for both recyclables and waste to ensure you comply with the new recycling law.
The areas where you are most likely to generate waste could be:
- From stall holders, exhibitors, mobile caterers, and on-site kitchens producing food (preparation waste), packaging such as metal, glass, cardboard, plastic films and wrapping
- Front of house – food and food packaging, drinks cans, plastic and glass bottles, and drinks cartons and
- Back stage areas, staff room/mess room/office – food and food packaging, drinks cans, plastic and glass bottles, drinks cartons, small electricals, and textiles.
Events may also generate types of hazardous waste, such as paints, oils or chemicals that require a specialised waste collection service.
If your event or festival is being held on land that you do not own, the landowner may prohibit the use of certain waste types. For example, if the event is in a park or on the highway, some landowners will not permit glass to be used. If this is the case, use the terms and conditions in your trader or catering agreements to prevent the use of prohibited items, and require alternatives such as reusable or refillable packaging to be used instead.
If your event is on public land or on the public highway, you will likely be responsible for all waste removal and litter picking after the event, meaning you will be responsible for penalties if the area is not left clean and tidy afterwards. Check the terms and conditions of your event permit, agreement, lease, or licence to determine your responsibilities.
Event organisers are responsible for assessing risks associated with storage, handling or use of waste and of implementing effective control measures to avoid and control any identified risks. Hazards associated with poor waste management at events may include:
- Accumulations of waste blocking emergency access or escape routes, presenting trip or fire hazards and attracting vermin – reduce health and safety risks by ensuring waste storage areas are located away from flammable sources, and that flammable materials such as cardboard are stored in sealed or secure containers;
- Inappropriate waste storage area and collection timings – identify suitable waste storage area(s) with restricted public access which prevent waste collection vehicles from encountering visitors. Consider proportionate mitigations associated with the size and scale of your event and
- Injury to workers due to handling waste, for example needle stick injuries, back strains caused by excessive manual handling, and possible infection by pathogens such as tetanus.
Preventing waste in the first place
Reducing or preventing how much waste you produce will help to save money and reduce the size of bins you will need.
Ways you can reduce the amount of waste generated at your event include:
- Providing e-tickets, electronic guides and maps for visitors;
- Stipulate the use of recyclable or recycled products in the conditions of trade for promotional materials or for food service products;
- Encouraging caterers or vendors to provide refillable cups or glasses, set up a deposit and return scheme for reusable drinks containers, or encourage attendees to bring their own cups offering a discount for drinks;
- Providing refill stations for drinking water (refill.org);
- Restricting what products visitors, suppliers, vendors or caterers can bring to the venue. Discourage single use items such as sauce, milk, sugar or coffee sachets and
- Encourage caterers to donate surplus or unsold stock – donate surplus food to charity or have an employee fridge for products that they can eat or take home free of charge during and at the end of the event. Guidance is available on GOV.UK on how food businesses must dispose of food and former foodstuffs.
How to comply with the new recycling law
If you are already separately collecting and recycling all the materials you need to under the new law, then you may not need to do anything else. We recommend that you read The Separate Collection of Waste Materials for Recycling: Code of Practice to double check that you are doing everything you need to. This includes a list of all the specific types of things that have to be recycled.
How to arrange a new recycling service
Arrange waste and recycling collection services well ahead of your event to ensure a collector can provide the services you require; this should form part of your initial event planning. Before speaking to a recycling collector to procure or arrange a recycling service, think about:
- How much waste you will likely produce during the event, including how many containers and locations you will be collecting waste and recyclables from. It’s important to consider whether waste produced on site will be collected and decanted into larger commercial sized containers or whether the collector will need to supply and empty containers from across the venue;
- Whether you need collections at certain times in the event schedule, for example, at the end of each day or when the event has finished to accommodate changes in waste volumes and ensure site safety. Refer to your risk assessment and the identified mitigations to reduce hazards relating to the waste collections your contractor will need to make;
- Speak to your existing waste collector about your new recycling needs. They will need to be aware of the new law and ensure the services they offer will be compliant and
- You could also get quotes from a range of collectors to get the best price and the most suitable service for you.
If you are hiring containers, ensure that your appointed collector is notified of when and where to deliver your waste and recycling containers as well as when to remove them from site. If you anticipate waste volumes to be high, you might need to arrange collections throughout the event or festival.
Space for your bins
It’s important that you consider where and how you will store your waste and recycling.
Ensure that containers and waste storage areas:
- are safe and accessible for people, including users with disabilities, and your waste collector,
- are not in locations that cause an obstruction or a fire hazard, or block escape routes,
- provide sufficient capacity to cope with the types and amounts of waste and recyclables produced between collections,
- are checked regularly throughout the event to avoid overfilling and contamination;
- are not located near food preparation or storage areas for food safety and hygiene reasons,
- are located close to where the waste and recycling is generated,
- are tidy, clean, and free from clutter or loose waste,
- are secure with close fitting lids, and do not allow waste or recycling to escape or rain to get in,
- are robust and strong enough to withstand the weather and being continually used and emptied over the course of your event and
- are far enough away from tents or caravans so as not to cause a health or fire hazard.
It is important to:
- label your recycling bins to avoid contamination. You can use labels from the Business of Recycling Wales website, and
- prevent water from becoming contaminated by stored waste.
Following this advice and guide will also help avoid any pest control problems.
Waste storage areas need to be accessible by collection vehicles and ideally located on solid ground to ensure vehicles and employees can access and move the bins easily and safely, even if ground conditions are wet. Wherever possible, waste collection vehicles should not operate in areas accessible to the public. However, if a waste collection vehicle must cross areas accessible to the public, ensure your collector is notified that travel speeds should be minimal i.e. 5mph and that they have employees walking at the front and rear of any moving vehicle to reduce collision and accident risk.
Contamination caused by incorrect items being placed into bins, may prevent your recyclables from being collected for recycling and may lead to penalty costs. Ensure recycling bins are correctly labelled to prevent mistakes from happening.
Food waste and hygiene
The Food Standards Agency also provides guidance which means you need to:
- store food waste in sealable containers which are:
- solid, and strong enough to hold food waste,
- in sound condition – i.e., without breakages or splits that could enable pests to access waste or cause leaks; and
- easy to clean and disinfect;
- remove food waste and other rubbish from areas as soon as possible and
- have enough waste storage facilities to store and dispose of food waste and other rubbish to keep them clean.
Ensure any changes you make are incorporated into your Food Safety Management Systems.
If your food waste collector allows you to use compostable liners, ensure that your liners are BS EN 13432 compliant. This means that all the food waste is sent for commercial processing to meet the right standards.
Refer to our hospitality sector guide for more ideas on recycling food waste.
Staff training ideas
- Equip staff and volunteers with appropriate protective equipment for undertaking litter picking and bin emptying duties during the event;
- Ensure they know what can and can’t be recycled to minimise contamination;
- Provide clear instructions on what they should do with different waste streams or recyclables to help you meet your new recycling obligations. This includes identifying risks and how to mitigate them;
- Provide training to permanent, seasonal and temporary workers. Use orientation training to ensure new starters can recycle from day one, with regular training and reminders for all employees;
- Consider the size of containers, especially those for food waste, to reduce manual handling risks for anyone emptying containers into larger bins;
- Encourage staff to tell you how it’s working throughout the event and make changes as necessary and
- Get feedback from the staff after the event to identify and implement any improvements for future events.
Engaging with visitors, traders or vendors and employees
If you are taking on responsibility for waste management for vendors and stall holders, ensure that they understand their responsibilities and arrangements for recycling and waste management and provide them with sufficient bin capacity to ensure they can recycle as is required by the new workplace recycling law.
It is a good idea to promote the events recycling services to visitors in the promotional and pre-event information. This can also be included in any social media messaging and information available during the event online or on digital display boards at the event.
After your event, ask your waste and recycling collector for information on how much waste was produced and recycled. Use this information to review how you can increase recycling at future events and consider setting targets to reduce waste or recycle more. Any successes can then be shared with your events stakeholders, e.g. local communities, and to traders and vendors on the importance of their involvement in the success.
You can use our resources on Wrap Cymru when engaging with your employees, clients, visitors, suppliers, and third-party vendors.
Further advice for the events sector
There is a ban on Single Use Plastics including plastic cutlery, drink stirrers, polystyrene products and drinking straws.
A Greener Future is a certification scheme helping events and festivals become eco-friendly and sustainable.
Future Festival tools - offers resources, tools and training for the festival industry to help reduce the industry’s environmental impact.
Keep Wales Tidy Litter at events guide provides advice and tips on tackling litter at events.
Plastic packaging in the hospitality and food service industry provides many challenges and opportunities, the UK Plastic Pact (WRAP) has four targets working towards a world where plastic is valued. There are actions you can take to achieve these targets.
The Food waste reduction roadmap toolkit (WRAP) provides actions to help you reduce food waste. To see what others have done, go to Hospitality and food service case studies on the WRAP website.
If you are looking for ideas of what to do with leftover food, the Surplus food hub (WRAP) can help.