Three Fresh Ideas for Reducing Exhibit Hall Waste

December 11, 2017

Eric Wallinger

As Sustainability Manager at MeetGreen, Eric Wallinger focuses on resources and the environment, a role complemented by more than 15 years of experience in event and conference planning and delivery. His areas of expertise include sustainability initiatives, process improvement strategies, stakeholder communications and data management. In 2010, Eric earned a LEED Accredited Professional credential with the U.S. Green Building Council.

Reducing landfill waste is a major challenge for any trade show, and very often event organizers and venues face the difficult question of where to even start. In our experience, one of the most impactful strategies to address is directing a greater focus towards donation and reuse within the exhibit hall itself.

For some real-world inspiration on this front, the IMEX America exhibition for incentive travel, meetings and events, held annually each October at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas, features several innovative approaches towards exhibit hall donation and reuse which have dramatically helped reduce the event’s landfill waste.

Below are three fresh ideas from IMEX America 2017 that can easily be shared or adopted with your own team.

Start Early

One of the most successful strategies IMEX has developed over the years to refine its donation program is capturing items front of house while the show is in progress through the use of donation bins throughout the exhibit hall and food court. With over 12,000 attendees in a bustling exhibit hall, high volumes of swag and other giveaways are always present and immediately disseminated from the moment the show floor opens. Frequently, these items are often accepted and then later discarded when leaving for the day, or determined by exhibitors in the final hours that it is more cost-effective to leave their printed and branded materials behind instead of shipping home. By having large, visible donation bins clearly located throughout the exhibit hall and food court, both attendees and exhibitors have a ready resource available to donate materials to over the course of the entire show.

Think Big

IMEX follows a modified approach for capturing exhibit booth furniture and large booth materials that may be left behind post-show. As you might imagine, these items are often quite heavy, responsible for driving up landfill ticket weights and even worse, are frequently in the form of easily reusable materials, with value in the marketplace, that simply need to find a new home such as a local thrift store or rebuilding center.

Through emailed communications with exhibitors prior to the show, IMEX looks to pre-identify any large booth and furniture items that may be left behind. Working in tandem onsite, Sands Expo provides donation stickers for exhibitors to affix to any large items they would like to have captured for donation after the event. This step is vital in that by clearly identifying these items, it makes it easy for GSC staff members to set these items aside during a busy load-out for a post-show donation pickup. The key here is both a combination of exhibitor communication and coordination with your GSC and venue. In 2017 alone, the IMEX America exhibition collected and donated over 1,400 lbs. of furniture and booth materials to local organizations.

Save The Signs

Lastly, another major waste reduction strategy is through the creative reuse of exhibitor and show signage. The Sands Expo team has done an outstanding job reaching out its local community for organizations that might have a use for the large amount of exhibitor and event signage that cannot be reused the following year. Like booth furniture, these signs are both bulky and heavy, and are surprising easy to divert from your waste stream. The Las Vegas Teachers Exchange gladly takes pallets of signage collected from IMEX America for use in student craft and art projects, as well as Veterans Village, which graces the walls of its local veterans facility with beautiful reclaimed show graphics.

As you can see, your team does not have to tackle every area of waste reduction for your event at once. Simple things like enhancing communications with your GSC and venue team, tapping your destination resources, and offering donation collection receptacles and stickers, can make a dramatic difference in your event’s environmental footprint and to the world. Good luck getting started!


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