Promoting Sustainable Events and Exhibitions

We are living in an age of waste. The world produces two billion tonnes of rubbish each year, which is seven times the weight of the world’s adult population – only 15% of this waste is recycled. 

Reports such as The Green Venue Report 2018 and Waste Management in the Exhibitions Industry – UFO Greenview Report 2020 identify key waste management challenges faced within the exhibitions industry. Now it’s our job to make a difference. 

From education and awareness to the development of environmental certifications, it has never been more important for businesses in the exhibition industry to enforce more sustainable solutions – and that’s exactly what we’re doing at Leach.

Waste Management in The Exhibition Industry

With the growing rate of global waste, exhibition coordinators have a responsibility to educate event staff towards sustainable event management. Here are some of the key challenges in event waste management as reported in recent years:

The Green Venue Report, 2018

The Green Venue Report was investigated in 2018 to identify the key challenges in waste management within the exhibitions industry. The report highlighted improper sorting by both the public and event staff, creating additional operational challenges to separate waste. 

With a limited number of hauliers and organisations willing to accept materials for diversion (including composting facilities and donation organisations), certain materials common to events are not easily recycled. 

The 2018 report also found that there were limited methods to accurately calculate the total waste generated for one event, creating a profound lack of awareness and concern for the ecological impact of each event.


UFI Greenview Report, September 2020

From materials used to awareness and costing, the 2020 Greenview Report identified several challenges faced when managing waste in the exhibitions industry. 

Heavy, bulky materials such as wood are often used to populate exhibition spaces, generating recycling issues when exhibitions finish or travel. A huge lack of understanding of sustainability from those commissioning exhibition stands also contributes to the problem as sustainable options often go unexplored and ignored. 

With great difficulty in identifying contractors and an unclear route for proper disposal, waste management in the exhibitions industry continues to be a global problem. 

In the Americas, the group concluded that “the events industry faces the challenge of developing a new culture among event organisers, attendees and suppliers on how events should be held within a sustainable perspective. The effort of implementing a waste management programme should not be exclusively the responsibility of the convention centre.” 

In Asia, the sentiment was similar as “all members suggested that more awareness on waste management is required amongst all the stakeholders such as event organisers, venues, exhibitors, contractors and suppliers.” 

In Europe, the significance of the event organiser was highlighted, particularly their role in communicating with the exhibitors around sustainability. In addition, the need to better engage with the suppliers who produce stands, carpets, etc., was identified.

Approaches and Actions

It is clear that actions and approaches towards a more sustainable future for exhibitions is imperative – but how can we achieve this? Suggested approaches include: 

  1. An increased education and awareness surrounding sustainable options raised through general exhibitor communications. 
  2. Development of certifications to identify sustainable stands. 
  3. Rewards and incentives for embracing sustainability e.g., reduced rebooking fee for the following year’s event. 

In the years following these reports, companies such as IMTMA in India have incentivised exhibitors to proactively embrace ‘Ecodesign’, honouring sustainable stands with awards. Alternatively, UK company Olympia now offers a comprehensive post-event sustainability report to each exhibition, free of charge. 

Encouraging delegates to participate in sustainability initiatives is critical. Considering this, ADNEC in UAE distributed 8 Reverse Vending Machines throughout their venues that accept plastic bottles and cans for recycling. 

At ICC in Sydney, complimentary mints were removed from their exhibitions, resulting in 520,000 individual plastic wrappers avoiding landfill each year – proving that even the smallest of actions can make a huge ecological impact. 

What Are We Doing? 

Leach x isla 

In collaboration with isla, we’re working to educate and facilitate change in the exhibition industry, consistently creating more sustainable solutions for our events clients. 

isla is a non-profit organisation founded as the event industry’s response to the climate crisis. Founded by 12 agencies, isla is an action-driven network, bringing together expertise from across the entire events sector and developing tools to support and deliver industry-wide standardisation on sustainable practices. 

Our focus is on three core areas: zero waste, 100% renewable, and carbon emission reductions. isla aims to set both short and long-term targets in these areas, tracking measures and reports to support constant improvement of its members and the wider industry.

Eco Materials

Introducing our new, 100% recyclable, cardboard freestanding plinth perfect for ever-changing exhibitions and events. We also craft eco screens and tension frame systems, designed to be reused over and over again. 

With a dedicated initiative towards a more sustainable future, contact the team at Leach to transform your exhibition space.