From worm farms to shrink-wrap recycling, the venues that comprise the Global Alliance — an international consortium of five convention centers — are committed to reducing their landfill waste. And their efforts are impressive: In 2013, the venues — Durban International Convention Centre (DICC), in South Africa; Adelaide Convention Centre (ACC), in Australia; Centro Banamex, in Mexico; ACC Liverpool; and the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA), which operates the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC) and the Hynes Convention Center — collectively recycled more than 1,300 tons of event waste.
The venues benefit from shared best practices, but there are no alliance-wide mandates, according to Julie-May Ellingson, DICC’s CEO and chair of the Global Alliance. “As the Global Alliance is represented by members on four different continents, the organization does not dictate which environmental standards its members should adhere to,” Ellingson said. “However, the alliance has developed a culture which encourages each member venue to minimize its harmful effects on the environment and improve its environmental performance on a continual basis.”
Some of the venues’ more innovative recycling initiatives include:
Since ACC’s on-site worm farm began operating in 2008, 450,000 red earthworms have consumed more than 19 tons of kitchen scraps. The farm cost about AUD$10,000 to set up, but has received more than AUD$30,000 in global media coverage, ACC estimates. Organic material that is not appropriate for the worm farm is recycled using Bio Bins, composting vessels that help break down food scraps into compost. Since 2006, the composting system has resulted in more than 234 tons of organic waste being recycled, and annually saves more than 80 tons of food scraps from going to the landfill, according to Alec Gilbert, ACC’s chief executive.
PLASTICS AND SWAG
MCCA diverts about 42 percent of its waste from landfills. One waste product that it has removed completely is film plastics — the shrink wrap and stretch wrap that is ubiquitous in show set-up. Working with Boston-based Save That Stuff, MCCA started a program to gather up all the film plastic that show organizers and exhibitors left behind at both BCEC and the Hynes and compact it into 2,000-pound bales. Save That Stuff collects and sells the bales, and MCCA gets a share of the sale.
But the recycling initiative that MCCA is most proud of, according to John Donahue, MCCA’s superintendent of building services, is C.A.R.E. (Community Assistance by Responsible Events), which donates leftover exhibitor items to local nonprofit organizations. Since C.A.R.E.’s inception, MCCA has collected and donated more than a million pounds of goods — everything from toothbrushes to office products. “It’s just one component of our sustainability program,” he said, “but one that really connects us to our community.”