Sustainability worth spreading

Donna Hudson

TEDxSydney 2017 · 16 June 2017

Our flagship TEDxSydney event is one of the largest TEDx events in the world with this year’s event attracting a record crowd. But with huge crowds comes a huge amount of waste, so just how did we tackle this?

From coffee cups to napkins, more than 35,000 items and a whole lot of food and resources are needed for an event such as TEDxSydney. This year, we were focussed and committed to diverting waste created from reaching landfill to the best of our ability. We did this through a number of different initiatives and had a nifty waste management plan in place!

Prior to the event, we strongly recommended attendees bring their own water bottle and placed Meet Pat’s refill stations within the HUB. Likewise, we encouraged people to bring along their own coffee cup, and through our partnership with BioPak, 100% compostable cups were made available for those that didn’t have one.

Attendees of TEDxSydney were asked to separate discarded items into different waste streams dotted around the HUB and our army of volunteers (also known as our “waste warriors”) were trained to assist and encourage guests where needed.

Food for thought

We created a strong and yummy menu for the day around our theme of Unconventional, incorporating sustainable and locally sourced food options and great local sustainable stories such as Harris Farm’s Imperfect Picks range. We also drew attention to important environmental topics such as Recycling, Composting and Food Waste. These are all huge environmental issues that can be tackled through educating ourselves and changing behaviours and attitudes towards waste.

At TEDxSydney we dislike waste, especially food waste, so with the help of our friends at OzHarvest, the majority of leftover food from suppliers was collected and distributed to those that need it. For all other waste, TEDxSydney enlisted the help of Solico which resulted in the successful composting 1.8 tonnes of food waste and BioPak packaging post-event.
The International Convention Centre (ICC), Darling Harbour handled all of our co-mingling recycling & our landfill. We had 3 types of signage on all bins called:BioPak / Food Waste; Landfill; Co-Mingling (glass & plastic). The goal being to make people conscious of what they put into the Landfill bin. This reduced the amount of general waste significantly. There is also a longer term plan with the ICC to grow on this result for TEDxSydney 2018.

Food Waste Fact: In Australia, we throw out $8-10 billion of food every year. As a nation, we waste four million tonnes per annum of food which ends up in landfill (Source:

Did you also know?

  • The badge pouches were specially designed for TEDxSydney by JomaBlue out of cardboard to reduce plastic usage and the lanyards had metal clips and fabric cords – imminently reusable and no plastic.
  • All event site signage was either reused or generated on 100% recyclable material.
  • Everything produced was generically branded so it can be reused again next year.
  • The registration process was a paperless process from beginning to end.
  • A power management plan was created and implemented to ensure minimal power was used through the entire event.
  • The stickers placed onto the coffee cups were 100% biodegradable sugarcane stickers.

What were the outcomes?

  • 1.8 tonnes of waste successfully composted and diverted from landfill.
  • Guests refilled their water bottles 2296 times.
  • We saved 1913 plastic bottles (600ml) from ending up in landfill.
  • OzHarvest collected 2 van loads of leftover edible food which was distributed to those that need it.

A step in the right direction!

All in all, the TEDxSydney team implemented an effective waste management plan at this year’s event through partnerships with a range of eco-friendly suppliers. Guests were immersed in this sustainable journey and everyone had a part to play. We thank you all.

Although we are delighted with the outcome, we know there’s a lot more we can do and we’re always looking at ways to improve and lead the way with regards to sustainable initiatives.

Shout out to the Sustainability & Environment Tribe! Were you one of them?

What are your thoughts on how TEDxSydney can improve its sustainability efforts going forward? We’d love to hear from you so we can continue to improve and lead the way in waste management for events. 

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