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Event Recycling: DIY Guide

Two young people working recycling at event

Whether you’re throwing a backyard get-together or planning a picnic in the park, follow the steps below to set up effective recycling, compost and garbage collection at your event.

1. What's the event?

The kind of gathering (picnic, wedding or reunion) will determine the activities taking place, and what materials you can collect (and how to dispose of them).

2. How many people will attend?

Event with people and food in part

More than 100? You’ll need help. Call Portland Events Recycling (PER) at (503) 725-5147 or email for planning support and technical assistance, and to borrow equipment.

99 or fewer? You can do this! Continue to Step 3.

3. Where is this happening?

A public park? First, you’ll need to obtain a Special Use Permit H from Portland Parks and Recreation. To complete that permit, you’ll need approval and sign off from Portland Events Recycling (see Step 2).

A private site? Continue to Step 4.

4. What kind of waste will be created at your event?Composting sorting sign

What will vendors or attendees be disposing of:

  • Recyclables: plastic or glass bottles, cans, paper (that isn't food-soiled)?
  • Compost: food scraps?
  • Garbage: plates, utensils, cups, napkins?

Keep waste to a minimum by using durable plates and service-ware whenever possible. Remember that ALL disposable dishware, cutlery and napkins go in the garbage, regardless of what they’re made of, or whether they have a label that says “recyclable, “biodegradable” or “compostable.”

5. How will you collect these materials?garbage, recycling and composting bins

The number of attendees determines how many collection stations you’ll need:

  • Under 50: 1-2 stations
  • 50-100: 2-4 stations

A collection station uses the buddy system, locating recycling, composting and trash containers together. Containers can be boxes you provide from home, 5-gallon buckets, or Clearstreams (pictured here) borrowed from Portland Events Recycling. Whatever you use, clear signage is a MUST – contact Portland Events Recycling (503-725-5147 or by email). Or make your own and print them out. More tips:

  • Limit the number of recycling and trash stations makes it easier to monitor.
  • Place bigger containers in high traffic areas.
  • Make your stations easy to spot with a sign, flag, or balloon, and in convenient locations. 

6. Where will you take what you've collected?

Consider one of these options:

  • You can hire a garbage and recycling company that will provide containers and hauling.
  • For small amounts of materials, you can choose to ‘self-haul’ back to your home garbage, recycling and compost carts.
  • Or, if you have the right kind of vehicle, you can haul the event’s recycling, food scraps and/or garbage to be disposed of for a fee. Call Metro at (503) 234-3000 for drop off locations and costs.

Remember: Recycling may not make sense for every event: There may not be that much waste to recycle or compost, or you may not have the time, space or extra help necessary to collect “clean” recycling or compost. And that’s ok! There are other ways to make your event sustainable: Use reusable dishware, encourage sustainable transit to and from the event (bike, public transit, carpool), buy organic food, avoid wasted food by not over-purchasing, etc.

Need more help?

Feeling uncertain or overwhelmed? Check in with Portland Event Recycling for assistance. These guidelines aren’t suitable for larger (100+ attendees) events. Bigger events frequently require more resources, more equipment and more help.