Parties, backyard cookouts, road trips, park excursions, outdoor events, company picnics, and family reunions. Our summers are packed with fun, food, beverages, and celebrations. 

Unfortunately, large gatherings can create more trash and waste in our homes and communities. Your pre-party planning should include a waste reduction and recycling strategy. Do some planning, get creative and you'll be a top-notch host. Bonus: It will be a good example for the hosts of the next gathering, too.


These event recycling tips will help you keep it cleaner and greener by helping you reduce waste at the source.

Party and Event Planning Tips

Before the Event

  • Know what can and can't be included in your community's recycling collection. Plastic clamshells, plastic utensils, and napkins all belong in the trash.
  • Only purchase single-serving beverages in recyclable containers: aluminum cans, plastic bottles, or glass.
  • Make recycling easy for everyone in attendance by placing recycling bins next to the trash. Clearly label recycling bins with visible signs using words and pictures as a best practice.
  • Choose reusable plates, utensils, cups, and serveware instead of buying single-use disposable items that can't be recycled. Find and purchase needed items at thrift, discount, and second-hand shops. If you must use single-use items, opt for paper products. Go in-depth with our tips on reducing plastic waste.
  • Using a professional caterer? Choose one with environmentally sustainable practices that can provide washable, reusable guest dishes and serveware in addition to recycling receptacles.

During the Event

  • Welcome your guests with an announcement that toasts the event and reminds them to recycle while they celebrate. At larger and workplace events, post cheerful signs with sustainability goals.
  • Consider a decorative or event-themed reusable cup as a fun party favor. Mementos like these are used for years instead of hours. Have a permanent marker available so guests can write their name on a cup. Or, before the party, invite your guests to bring their reusable cups or travel mugs to the event.
  • Go can-free. Serve beverages from large pitchers or dispensers instead of purchasing single bottles or cans of water and soda.
  • If you have untouched leftover food, send individual portions home with guests in reusable containers. Leftover food can also be donated to local hunger centers if it meets certain requirements. See details on our Food Donation page.
  • Compost food waste including leftover fruits, vegetables, and grains. Use a backyard compost pile or hire Rust Belt Riders to transport food waste for a fee.
  • If your guests bring side dishes or desserts to your party, send them home with their containers. If you take a dish to a party, take your container home with you (but offer to leave any yummy leftovers with your hosts).

After the Event

  • Collect clean aluminum foil lids and pans and take them to a local scrap metal yard for recycling. You may receive a rebate. 
  • Put your reusable plates, utensils, and cups in the dishwasher instead of sending them to the landfill. Store them in a box until your next event.

Other Resources

  • Weddings can be environmentally responsible events, too, and a list of tips and resources can be found online at sites like
  • For larger get-togethers and company events, get more great tips from Zero Waste Northeast Ohio's Event Guide. See the PDF.

Have additional questions about reduced-waste event planning? Contact our staff.