St. Louis Earth Day: Recycling On The Go Turning Trash Into Resources

By Cassie Phillips

St. Louis Earth Day Executive Director


St. Louis is an active city, laden with events. On any given weekend from April through October, St. Louisans can select from an eclectic mix of street festivals, ethnic celebrations, outdoor concerts, fundraising runs and walks, art fairs, or food and beverage showcases. Events range from one day and a couple hundred participants to 3-day blowouts with hundreds of thousands of people. The diversity is tremendous but all of these events hold one thing in common: trash – lots and lots of trash.

Events are inherently wasteful. People come to eat, drink and have a good time. Everything is disposable and single serving. What if we could take that trash and turn it into a resource? Well, we can. St. Louis Earth Day has been implementing Recycling on the Go for several years now, taking its green event model for the Earth Day Festival in Forest Park and adapting it to other events in the area. We work with event organizers to identify ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle event waste as well as encouraging other aspects of event greening. Over the course of an event season, we will partner with about 30 events with the intent to divert 30-60% of the waste from area landfills.

As winter rolls in, we are winding down from our most intense season yet. Diversion data is still rolling in, but we are posed to increase total diversion by 30-50% this year.

A big part of the jump is due to our participation in Taste of St. Louis, one of the area’s largest events, drawing 300,000 people from all walks of life. St. Louis Earth Day staff collaborated with event organizers, local business owners from Replenishing the Earth (compostable serviceware provider) and Regency Contracting (event clean-up company), and Earth Day sponsor St. Louis Composting to develop a comprehensive and aggressive strategy for tackling this challenging event. Event organizers committed to requiring food and beverage vendors to serve only compostable service ware. All products (plates, forks, cups, etc) were certified as compostable so everything entering attendees’ hands was compostable. There were a couple of hiccups, of course, but at the end of three days, 16 tons of waste were diverted through composting, oil collection, and recycling, reaching our first-year goal of 50% diversion.

This sets an exciting example for the many events in the area. If Taste of St. Louis can do it, so can the others. All that is required is time, consideration, and a new approach.

St. Louis Earth Day is available as a resource to help events go green. In addition to providing consultation and service, we have a self-service option especially designed to meet the needs of small community events, like fundraisers, family picnics, and neighborhood street fests. For the first time, we are planning a workshop for people who plan events, either as part of their job or through a volunteer position.

For more information, visit our website, www.stlouisearthday.org and join our mailing list to receive a notice of the workshop date.