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The final straw – say no to single-use plastic

Published 25th June 2018

Plastic waste

“As of 2015, more than 6.9 billion tons of plastic waste had been generated. Around 9 percent of that was recycled, 12 percent was incinerated, and 79 percent accumulated in landfills or environment”, National Geographic.

Sustainability is an important topic for us at IMEX, both during our shows and in our everyday lives. The events industry is a large producer of waste, and facts like the one above show how imperative it is that we step up our sustainability efforts. Although it’s difficult to implement change, each year we take new measures to reduce our environmental impact. This year, we – like anyone else who watched BBC’s Blue Planet 2 episode on plastics – want to encourage people to re-consider their use of single-use plastics. Here’s why…

  • It is predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
  • More than 5 trillion pieces of plastic are already floating in our oceans.
  • Around the world, nearly a million plastic beverage bottles are sold every minute.
  • More than 40 percent of plastic is used just once, then tossed.
  • Estimates for how long plastic endures range from 450 years to forever.

Meetings and events are an obvious source of plastic waste due to the large amounts of people attending. Plastic cutlery is cheap and accessible, plastic bottles are easily sold or handed out to thirsty attendees and giveaways are often plastic-based and have a short shelf life. But the tide is changing and event organisers are using innovative ways to reduce their plastic waste. The organisers of many independent festivals across the UK are leading the way by committing to a three-year plan to eliminate all single-use plastic onsite by 2021, starting now with a ban on straws. If you’re wondering how you can apply this to your events, check out our recent case study with Event Manager Blog. AfricaBurn is an event which leaves behind no trace in the spirit of zero-waste.

IMEX America’s Sustainability Consultants, MeetGreen®, produce an APEX report each year to help us stay on track with our sustainability goals and in 2017, we increased our compliance by 2%. This year we’ve carried over some of our initiatives from previous shows such as Badge Back and Green Caffeine, but we’ve also introduced a new one in the form of the Refill Movement. Here’s what we’ve done so far at IMEX to help reduce plastic waste:

  • Our carpets in IMEX in Frankfurt and IMEX America are fully recyclable, and our carpet in IMEX America is also made of recycled carpet.
  • We encourage attendees to bring reusable coffee cups to the show to save them from buying single-use cups each time.
  • Our badges don’t use plastic holders meaning they produce over 65% less waste than standard badges, and when placed in our Badge Back bins the lanyards are donated to be used again.
  • Our newest initiative is the IMEX Refill Movement. We ask that you bring a reusable water bottle to the show, where there will be refill stations at exhibitors’ stands across the show floor.

But there are plenty of other small changes you can make to reduce plastic waste in your daily life. Consider the impact if everyone did the same!

  • Educate yourself of what can be recycled and make sure you do it correctly.
  • Stop using straws! If you really can’t go without, look into using paper or metal alternatives.
  • Reuse bags for your weekly shop instead of buying new plastic ones.
  • Look into plastic-free alternatives to everyday items. Ellie Scott, Senior Marketing Executive at IMEX, has gathered a list of alternatives to plastic wrap, water filters, toiletries and food packaging.

It’s vital that we keep the sustainability conversation going, especially at events. For more information about the damaging effect plastic is having on the world, click here.

If you want to see our sustainability efforts in action, you can register for IMEX America now!