Putting a price on waste by 15Hatfields

15Hatfields’ General Manager, Warren Campbell, recently spoke with Event Industry News about how making a bold move and charging for unwanted items left by event organisers, is helping the venue to further reduce its waste.

As venues we’re responsible for the waste we generate. Thanks to our conscientious commitment to understanding our waste streams, here at 15Hatfields, we’re proud to be consistently achieving high recycling levels. Last year, for example, our average total recycling rate of all the waste we produced, was independently reported by Pulse Environmental as 74%.

Since our Southbank venue was launched in 2008, we have had a comprehensive recycling policy. Our ethos is to follow the waste hierarchy giving top priority to waste prevention, followed by re-use, recycling and recovery. Instead of simply focusing on recycling, which often remains a reactive measure, we proactively tackle waste generation at its source. Taking this approach helps us to rethink our relationship with waste.

When you step inside our venue, which can accommodate 2-530 delegates at any one time, you won’t find any black waste bags. Instead, as you wander around our two floors of flexible and contemporary meeting spaces, you’ll discover compartmentalised bins and clear signage.

As a result, no waste leaves 15Hatfields that doesn’t go into a dedicated stream. This means 0% goes to landfill and a very minimal amount goes into energy production.

And to keep waste to a minimum, we’ve implemented a fee for leaving any non-recyclable items on site. Of course, we’re happy to process any recyclable waste, but if anything goes into our waste stream that’s not recyclable such as a pop-up banner that is constituted as parts, we will charge the exhibitor or event planner £50 per item.

This approach, which we are very transparent about in our booking terms and conditions, automatically makes organisers take ownership for any waste they generate and makes them think twice about one-time use. Sadly, you often need to include a financial implication to make people own what they’ve produced to make change happen.

Less than a year into implementing this new charge, we’re finding clients are more conscious about their environment footprint and it’s very rare any items are left behind. And we’ve had zero complaints because we’re so transparent about our stance and clients understand and respect our ethos.

To make gains, you need to be committed to the waste hierarchy to ensure nothing gets to the bottom and it starts with prevention. We won’t purchase anything unless it’s got a sustainable credential, it can be recycled, or upcycled. And, by doing some research, it’s very rare that we find anything that we can’t upcycle or reuse from the very start.

To give items a second life and get them back into a system, our team of loyal environmentalists have had so many success stories of donating unwanted items to the local community via sites such as Freecycle. Afterall, one person’s waste is always another person’s treasure!

Pots have been previously donated to a cattery to use as water bowls and redundant furniture and stationery has been donated to a local education establishment, while surplus thermos flasks or crockery have been given a new lease of life at a homeless shelter.

I urge others in the business meetings and events sector to focus on the waste hierarchy and learn more about what their own recycle management organisation is doing. Take the time out to visit their site, and then look at the feedback on their reports to really understand what happens to their waste once it leaves their premises. Also, take the plunge and start implementing a charge for leaving waste.

More information about our continued efforts can be found in our Sustainability Hub – which we launched last year to share and encourage the wider industry to take action.  Here, event professionals will find a wealth of information and blogs about our ongoing commitment to waste management as well as our wider sustainability initiatives to help ensure events don’t cost the earth.

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