Event recycling

Guide
Bottle and can recycling container with blue bin and clear trash bag next to black trash container at event.
Information and resources to help you set up recycling at your event.

NOTE: As of March 2020, the City of Portland no longer offers event recycling assistance or equipment rental. The tips and tools provided here are intended to help you decide if recycling makes sense at your event, and if so, how to set it up. If you would like to purchase the type of foldable recycling collection containers the program used to offer, you can buy them here.

What will you recycle at your event?

Most event waste, including disposable cups, plates, cutlery, and napkins, belongs in the trash. Putting dirty recyclables, or recyclables mixed with trash, into the recycling system can make a whole batch of recycling unusable. 

Commonly, the only items at events that can be recycled are:

  • plastic or glass bottles
  • metal cans
  • paper fliers

It may be easiest for you and your event attendees to have just two types of bins: One for garbage and one for bottle and can recycling. Plus, most beverage containers are redeemable.

How to set up event recycling

1. How many people will attend?

More than 100? You’ll need help. Contact a professional event planner. Look for event planners that focus on sustainability and reducing waste.

99 or fewer? Continue reading...

2. Where is this happening?

A public park? First, you’ll need to obtain a Special Use Permit H from Portland Parks and Recreation

A private site? Continue reading...

3. What kind of waste will be at your event?

What will vendors or attendees be disposing of:

  • Cups, plates, utensils, or napkins? These are garbage.
  • Plastic or glass bottles, metal cans, or paper fliers? These could be recycled.

Remember that ALL disposable dishware, cutlery, and napkins go in the garbage, regardless of what they’re made of, or whether they have a label that says “recyclable, “biodegradable,” or “compostable.” 

4. How will you collect these materials?

The number of attendees determines how many collection stations you’ll need:

  • Under 50: 1-2 stations
  • 50-100: 2-4 stations

A collection station should have garbage and recycling containers together. Set up stations in convenient locations and make them easy to spot with a sign, flag, or balloon. Place bigger containers in high-traffic areas. Limit the number of stations so they're easier to monitor.

Containers can be boxes you provide from home, 5-gallon buckets, or other containers (just remember, the bigger the container, the heavier it will be to empty). Many events use ClearStream containers for collecting bottles and cans: They work well because of the labeled lids with bottle-sized holes and because attendees can see the bottles and cans already in the bag.

Whatever you use, clear signage is very important. Download our printable signs.

However, people at events are often distracted (by enjoying the event!) and won't be paying close attention. The only way to make sure your recycling isn't filled with trash is to have a volunteer standing by each waste station helping people put the right waste in the right bin. 

5. Where will you take what you've collected?

There are a few options for what to do with your waste. See Drop-off locations for your event waste.

Other ways to make your event sustainable

If you don't have the time, space, or extra help necessary to collect “clean” recycling it's okay! Here are other ways to make your event sustainable:

  • Use reusable dishware.
  • Encourage sustainable transit to and from the event (bike, public transit, carpool).
  • Avoid wasted food by not over-purchasing.