Venues & Theatres > Waste

Waste Audits

A waste audit is an analysis of your facility’s waste stream. It can identify what types of recyclable materials and waste your facility generates and how much of each category is recovered for recycling or discarded. Using the data collected, your organization can identify the feasibility of enhancing its waste reduction, recycling, and composting efforts and the potential for cost savings.

Your theatre’s waste hauler or local government may be willing to conduct a waste audit. Contact your waste hauler to learn more about the services it provides. Also consider joining the EPA’s free WasteWise program, which provides members with several benefits, including a technical assistance team that will help your organization conduct a waste audit and identify waste reduction opportunities.

For listings of recycling service providers near your city, visit Earth 911’s Business Resources directory and the Environmental Yellow Pages. To find a composter near you, visit Biocycle’s Find A Composter.

For a comprehensive discussion of waste and use reduction, see EPA’s Resource Conservation section on reduction and reuse.

Waste audits can save money

Recycling and composting can save money through avoided disposal and hauling costs. Many recyclable items can also be sold on the market as a source of revenue. A waste audit can help your organization identify these potential savings and revenue opportunities. Many companies have found significant savings through their efforts to increase recycling.

In three years the Cleveland Indians cut their annual waste in half by significantly expanding their recycling facilities to sort waste on-site. This reduced the number of trash compactor pickups–that cost the Indians an average of $500 each–by 64 percent from 254 pickups in 2007 to 92 in 2010, saving the Club $50,000 annually.

The Brooklyn Brewery in Brooklyn, NY implemented a variety of recycling and waste reduction measures, including recycling its own cardboard and plastic wastes. These measures reduced its annual waste generation by over 50%, saving the company over $25,000 a year in disposal and hauling costs.

The San Diego Wild Animal Park generates over 23,000 tons of waste annually but discards only 4% of this waste in landfills. It has implemented a comprehensive composting program for organic waste and has distributed recycling containers throughout its 1,800 acres, in addition to many other programs. In total, these efforts save the organization over $1 million dollars in landfilling and hauling fees each year.

For more examples of how smart waste practices can save your organization money, see the following websites:

What is a waste audit?

Before implementing a recycling program, your organization should conduct a waste audit. During a waste audit, the auditor investigates the sources, composition, weight, volume, and destinations of the waste that your venue generates. Organizations exist that will perform this service free of charge, or they can be performed in-house by staff members. By learning more about the trash your venue generates, you can be better informed about the products you buy that contribute to waste and be prepared to efficiently dispose of it, saving your organization money and improving your theatre’s environmental performance.

How to perform a waste audit

Performing a waste audit is an effective way to learn more about the trash your venue generates. In order to create an accurate representation of your organization’s waste stream and how much you’re currently diverting towards recycling (including composting), consider performing multiple waste audits, each during a different season during the year.

  1. Ensure proper safety measures
    Provide thick gloves to sorters and make sure that everyone has had their tetanus shots. Involve the organization’s occupational health and safety director.
  2. Ensure proper confidentially measures
    The waste stream may contain personal and private information that should be kept confidential. Ensure that no documents are being read during the audit, and that nothing leaves the auditing area. Have participants sign confidentiality agreements.
  3. Enlist building managers, custodial staff, and waste haulers
    The help of building managers, custodial staff, and waste haulers is invaluable to a successful waste audit. These sources can assist in gathering your organization’s waste and can also provide valuable insight into the current state of your recycling and waste management system.
  4. Don’t notify staff of the timing of the audit
    By keeping the timing of a waste audit secret, you ensure that the waste you analyze is a truly representative sample of the waste that your organization generates on a regular basis. If people are informed of the date of a waste audit, they may increase their recycling rates or otherwise alter their behavior.
  5. Collect waste
    Work with waste haulers, custodial staff, and concessions managers to collect the waste. Make sure that the waste collected is clearly labeled by date and location.
  6. Sort waste
    Sort the collected waste by type, noting paper, cardboard, recyclable and non-recyclable plastics, glass, and metals, food waste, batteries, etc. Make sure to note recyclable or compostable materials that have not been recycled or composted.
  7. Analyze results and make recommendations
    What is the composition of your organization’s waste stream? How much can your organization increase its recycling and composting? By what methods can your organization increase its recycling and composting? How can waste be collected more efficiently? What are the opportunities to reduce waste generation? How can your organization save money by altering its waste management systems?

Environmental Benefits

By conducting a waste audit, your venue can be better prepared to efficiently and responsibly dispose of the waste that it generates every day. By designing a more efficient waste disposal program, your venue can increase the amount of paper, plastic, and metals that it recycles, and organic waste that it composts, which reduces air and water pollution, helps curb global warming, and conserves our natural resources.

Additional Resources

 

Reduce and Reuse

The best way to cut down your waste stream is to reduce the amount of materials you need to discard.  Cutting down on unnecessary packaging and paper use, reducing the amount of disposable products your theatre uses, and reusing materials can all reduce your waste generation.

For example, by reusing signs and banners, your venue can avoid unnecessary printing costs and the environmental impacts of printing. Consider designing banners so that they can be easily reused, by avoiding listing dates or years, or ensure that the portions listing dates can be readily and cheaply altered. Also consider producing signs from more durable materials, and ensure that these materials are ultimately recyclable. While they may cost more initially, they can save money in the long run.  Try to avoid purchasing banners made from PVC (vinyl), which is associated with toxic emissions in production, use, and disposal.

Many single-use products used at your venue might also be switched to reusable products.   For example, consider switching to reusable pallets and packaging, washable cleaning cloths/mops and dilution centers, dispensers for condiments instead of individual packages, and reusable water bottles and serviceware for theatre staff and organization offices, to name a few examples.  Reusable products not only reduce waste, but can also save money.

Reducing paper use in theatre offices and during events can also considerably cut down on waste and purchasing costs.  See the Paper Use Reduction section for more information.

Also consider reusable items when making purchases for concessions and merchandise.  See the Apparel & Souvenirs and Reusable Bags and Cups sections for more information.

Reusing Materials Saves Money

The Portland Trail Blazers cleaning staff shifted from disposable paper products to reusable cleaning cloths, cutting a half-ton of cleaning waste out of the waste stream, and saving approximately $10,000 a year in reduced paper purchases.

Ghirardelli Chocolate, with the assistance of StopWaste, switched from shipping products in disposable cardboard boxes to reusable totes.  This switch eliminates 350 tons of waste associated with internal shipping annually, resulting in $520,000 in savings every year.

Calculate environmental benefits of paper use reduction.

Environmental Benefits

Source reduction of waste is the most effective way to reduce your waste stream. By choosing products made with fewer materials or products that are reusable, your organization can help protect habitat, and save energy, water, and resources such as forests, fossil fuels, and metals.

By reducing one-time-use products made from paper, cardboard, metals, and plastics, you can help reduce the harmful impacts associated with the extraction and processing of these resources, including oil spills, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water pollution.

For a comprehensive discussion of waste and use reduction, see EPA’s Business Guide for Reducing Solid Waste and NRDC’s “Too Good to Throw Away.”

Additional Resources

BGA resources:

  • King Displays specializes in working closely with design and print professionals to produce unique visual and environmental displays.

Recycling

Recycling is the most widely practiced of all environmentally preferable activities, but care needs to be taken in order to design an effective and efficient program, especially in large venues.

Talk to your waste hauler about what materials they are able to collect and how to best collect and sort them to maximize recycling yields. Set up recycling programs in front of house, at concessions stands, and backstage, with ample signage and other reminders for cast, crew, audience members, concessions personnel, and other theatre staff. Make sure recycling bins are placed in office areas as well, where paper is often the dominant part of the waste stream.  See the Green Office section for more information.

Also consider joining the EPA’s free WasteWise program, which provides members with several benefits, including a technical assistance team that will help you conduct a waste audit, reduce waste, and implement a recycling program. In addition, it is helpful to engage concession operators when implementing your theatre’s recycling program.

For listings of recycling service providers, visit Earth 911 and the Environmental Yellow Pages.

Calculate the environmental benefits of recycling.

For a comprehensive discussion on waste recycling, reuse, and reduction, see EPA’s Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle pages.

Recycling Can Save Money

Recycling and composting can save money through avoided disposal and hauling costs, although market conditions vary by material and by region. Many recyclable items can also be sold on the market as a source of revenue. A waste audit can help your organization identify these potential savings and revenue opportunities. Many companies have found significant savings through their own efforts to increase recycling. For example:

By introducing a comprehensive recycling program aimed at zero waste, the Seattle Mariners increased the recycling rate at Safeco Field from 12% in 2005 to over 70% in 2010.  Through increased recycling, the development of an aggressive composting program, and avoided landfilling, the Mariners saved $70,000 on waste disposal between 2007 and 2010.   The Mariners have continued to improve these efforts, averaging an 82% recycling rate between 2010-2011.

Since 2007, the Cleveland Indians have cut their annual waste in half by installing balers and separating recyclables onsite at Progressive Field. In 2007 the ballpark generated 1261.6 tons of trash; by 2010 this was down to 613.4 tons, a 49% reduction. The reduced number of trash compactor pickups combined with money from selling recycled materials paid for the stadium’s recycling equipment upgrades within six months, and now save the Club $50,000 annually.

Through an aggressive waste diversion program at the Moda Center, the Portland Trail Blazers divert 80 percent of their waste from landfills. They accomplish this by maintaining extensive recycling stations for visitors and a food-waste composting program that includes vendor participation. These projects together have helped divert more than 800 tons from landfills each year.  The Trail Blazers achieve an annual savings of over $200,000 in operating expenses by keeping recyclables out of the landfill.

For more examples of how smart waste practices can save your organization money, see the following websites:

Environmental Benefits

Recycling is one of the easiest and most widely accepted activities used to advance sustainability. Setting up a recycling program is relatively simple and a great way to involve staff at all levels in your theatre’s environmental priorities. Recycling protects habitat, saves energy, water, and resources such as forests, fossil fuels, and metals.

By recycling paper, cardboard, metals, and plastics, you can help reduce the harmful impacts associated with the extraction and processing of these resources, including oil spills, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water pollution. Manufacturing products from recycled content is less polluting than producing the same products from newly harvested or extracted materials. Making paper from recycled fibers, for example, uses less energy, less water, and produces less air and water pollution.

Additional Resources

 

Food Donation

Instead of throwing away unused food, consider donating it to a nearby food bank or homeless shelter. Contact your local food banks, or visit Feeding America for information about food banks near you.  Also visit Rock and Wrap it Up for information about their food donation program, which works with sports and entertainment facilities to help feed the hungry in their community with venue food recovery.

Rock And Wrap It Up: Case Study

Since Rock and Wrap It Up’s launch in 2003, 60 professional sports organizations from MLB, the NBA, the NHL, and the NFL have participated in their food donation program. For example, all 30 teams in the National Hockey League work with Rock and Wrap it Up to pack up all prepared but unsold concession food on game nights for redistribution to local places of need. Over the course of the initiative’s first full season, NHL Clubs provided 163,000 meals to people in need and diverted 105 tons of food from landfills and incinerators across North America. For this food diversion program, the EPA honored the Boston Bruins with the Environmental Merit Award, and four NHL clubs in New York area (Region 2) and four NHL clubs in the MidWest (Region 5) with the Environmental Quality Award.

Benefits Of Donating Leftover Food

Food wasting is a particularly unpleasant feature of American society. Every year we throw out about 27% of all the food available for consumption, about 100 billion pounds annually and all but about 2% winds up in landfills. When food is delivered to a landfill, it decomposes and contributes to the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. By donating food you reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfills, thus helping to reduce these emissions.

Donating leftover food also reduces the need for additional food production, thereby reducing the environmental impacts associated with agriculture, including water pollution and habitat destruction. According to the Department of Agriculture, recovering just 5% of that food waste could feed four million people each day. Recovering 25% of it could feed 20 million people each day.

Additional Resources

 

Composting

Composting reduces the environmental impacts associated with waste disposal, and if done properly, it can even save your organization money through reduced waste, hauling, disposal, and fertilizer costs.  There are many opportunities to reduce waste by initiating composting programs at a theatre ranging from collection of grass clippings and other landscaping wastes, to collecting kitchen scraps, audience food waste, and compostable serviceware.

Composting infrastructure varies widely by market. Consult with your waste hauler to learn more about the services it provides and the composting facilities available in your market. Also consider joining the EPA’s free WasteWise program, which provides members with several benefits, including a technical assistance team that will help your organization investigate composting.

For more information about composting in New York City, visit NYC Wasteless: Composting in NYC.

For listings of compost service providers near your city, visit Biocycle’s Find A Composter and Earth 911’s Business Resources directory.  Also visit the EPA’s Compost website for more information on composting.

What Is Composting?

Composting is the controlled breakdown of organic waste (generally landscaping waste and certain types of food) into a useful product that can be used as a mulch and fertilizer. It is easy and cost-effective, and since it can reduce the volume of your theatre’s waste stream and reduce your need to buy mulch and fertilizer, composting can even save money. You can consider whether it’s possible to set up a composting program on-site, or work with your waste hauler or other local haulers to collect organic waste for offsite composting.

Composting Case Studies

By introducing a comprehensive waste diversion program aimed at zero waste, the Seattle Mariners have increased the diversion rate at Safeco Field from 12% in 2005, to over 70% in 2010.  By switching to compostable serviceware and packaging, the Mariners were able to drastically improve their waste diversion through an aggressive composting program. As a result, the Mariners saved $72,000 on waste disposal between 2007 and 2010. The Mariners have continued to improve these efforts, averaging an 82% diversion rate between 2010-2011.

The 2011 U.S. Open launched a composting program at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center that diverted all food waste, kitchen wastes, and compostable serviceware and napkins from the food court to a compost farm in Connecticut.  52 tons of organic waste were kept out of the landfill, resulting in a 30% reduction in carting costs for the USTA.

Environmental Benefits

Generating compost and using it in facility landscaping can save money by reducing the need for water, fertilizers, and pesticides. Food, landscaping debris and wood waste make up a third of our everyday trash. When organic compounds decompose in a landfill, they generate methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Composting reduces the amount of waste directed to landfills by transforming organic waste into useful fertilizer, and it prevents the emissions of harmful greenhouse gasses.

Additional Resources

 

Electronic Waste

When batteries, thermostats, computers, electronics, and other potentially hazardous electronic wastes are improperly disposed, they can pose significant risks to public health and the environment.

Choose an e-Stewards® certified electronic waste recycler to ensure that your electronic waste is being properly recycled. By choosing an e-Stewards Recycler, individuals and businesses are choosing the most trustworthy recyclers, ones that have been independently verified to handle e-waste in the most globally responsible way — using safe technologies and careful protections for workers.

Check with the e-Stewards Recyclers in your area about recycling your e-waste. For a list of e-Stewards Recyclers and more about e-Stewards Certification, see www.e-stewards.org.

e-Stewards Certification is the only marketplace solution supported by the environmental community and the most responsible electronics recycling companies. It was created to be both principled and practical, and it joins other best-practice certification programs such as those by the Marine Stewardship Council and Forest Stewardship Council, as the most protective standard and the most rigorous program for verifying recyclers are doing things right.

Collecting Electronic Waste at Your Theatre

Set up collection spaces at your theatre for frequently disposed of items like light bulbs and batteries, and work with Green Captains from shows to ensure these items are recycled. Consider partnering with a local e-Stewards electronic waste recycler to recycle larger electronic items. The BGA also hosts biannual e-waste collection events in Times Square where an e-Stewards recycler collects items and recycles them responsibly. If your venue is unable to hire an e-Stewards recycler to take your e-waste, consider storing larger items at your venue and recycling them at the BGA’s e-waste drives.

Giving away or selling used electronics are great ways to extend their use and keep them out of landfills. Some services provide second-hand computers to schools or nonprofits, so your functional old computer could become a valuable tool for someone in need. Please assure that an e-Stewards certified recycler is used by whomever you donate your used electronics to.

No matter where you take your e-waste—to collection events, recyclers, or take-back programs—you should be sure that 100% of the electronic equipment will go only to e-Stewards Recyclers. It’s the best way to protect the global ecosystem and human health when it comes to electronics recycling.

Environmental Benefits

Batteries and electronic waste (e-waste) constitute one of the most polluting portions of an office waste stream. Batteries and e-waste – such as computer monitors, printers, and cell phones – contain toxic heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium. When thrown into the trash, they end up in landfills or incinerators, and these toxic heavy metals can be emitted as air pollutants or drain into soils and waters, polluting lakes and streams and making them unfit for drinking, swimming, fishing, and wildlife.

The key to responsible e-waste recycling is knowing where your stuff will end up. Watch out for any recycler who ships discarded electronics to developing countries for processing. Avoiding sending our garbage overseas saves on greenhouse gas emissions and helps protect workers and the environment in developing countries.

According to the Basel Action Network, upwards of 80 percent of the world’s e-waste is transported to Asia, and most of it winds up in China. Workers who disassemble consumer electronics by hand are exposed to toxic substances, which also contaminate groundwater.

Additional Resources

 

Hazardous Waste

When hazardous wastes such as paints, solvents, used oil, cleaners, pesticides, and other chemicals are improperly disposed, they can pose significant risks to public health and the environment.  When they are thrown away in the trash, they end up in landfills, and these toxic compounds can leach into soil and water, polluting lakes and streams and making them unfit for drinking, swimming, fishing, and supporting wildlife.

Your waste hauler may be a valuable source of information on how to properly dispose of hazardous wastes in your area. Many states have also organized online “materials exchanges” that identify options for selling and donating products.

For listings of recycling service providers and firms that can safely manage potentially hazardous wastes, visit Earth 911’s Business Resources Directory.

Also consider joining the EPA’s free WasteWise program, which provides members with several benefits, including a technical assistance team that can help you conduct a waste audit and reduce waste.

In addition to making sure these wastes are disposed of correctly, where possible, you should purchase less toxic and reusable products to reduce the amount of potentially hazardous wastes needing disposal. See the Purchasing section for more product purchasing tips.

Additional Resources