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Event recycling

Depending on the type of event you're hosting, you may be able to collect materials for recycling or compost rather than have everything go in the garbage.

Get started with event recycling and compost

NOTE: As of March 2020, the City of Portland no longer offers event recycling assistance or equipment rental program. When it is safe to hold events again, please use the tips and tools provided here. 

Determine your needs

Whether you’re throwing a backyard get-together or planning a picnic in the park, follow the steps below to set up effective recycling, compost and garbage collection at your event.

1. What's the event?

The kind of gathering (picnic, wedding or reunion) will determine the activities taking place, and what materials you can collect (and how to dispose of them).

2. 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 to Step 3.

3. 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 to Step 4.

4. 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.
  • Food scraps? While attendees usually don't leave much food waste, vendors or caterers may have food scraps that could be composted.

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.” 

5. 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 uses the buddy system, locating garbage, recycling and compost containers together. 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).

Whatever you use, clear signage is a MUST: use our make and print your own signs tool.

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 and compost aren't filled with trash is to have a volunteer standing by each waste station helping people put the right waste in the right bin. 

More tips:

  • Limit the number of recycling and trash stations makes it easier to monitor.
  • Place bigger containers in high-traffic areas.
  • Make your stations are in convenient locations and are easy to spot with a sign, flag, or balloon. 

6. 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.

Recycling doesn't make sense for every 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 (and the same goes for compost). 

If you don't have the time, space or extra help necessary to collect “clean” recycling or compost, it's okay!

There 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.