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People clinking glasses before having dinner

Contact Zero Waste

Here are nine ways to make your event more zero waste.

Choose reusable or compostable serviceware.

Try to replace all disposable utensils, plates and cups with reusable alternatives. Although compostable products are better than single-use plastics, they still require energy and natural resources for their production and disposal.

Choose certified compostable products if you are unable to provide reusables. Be on the lookout for non-compostable look-alikes labeled with potentially misleading words like “eco-friendly,” “biodegradable” and “plant-based.” These products may contain harmful chemicals and petroleum-based plastics that contaminate finished compost.

There is only one reliable way to make sure a product is truly compostable and safe for our soils: look for the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) certification. These products should be put in your curbside compost bin.

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BPI Compostable Logo

Look for the BPI Certified Compostable logo.

Many local grocery, restaurant supply and home-goods stores offer a range of compostable products. Check out Eco-Cycle's Guide to Buying (real) Compostable Products for helpful information about which serving materials can and cannot be composted.

Make sure certified compostable serviceware ends up in the compost instead of the trash. When compostable serviceware sits in the landfill, it creates methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Provide zero waste sorting stations.

Set up zero waste stations, with instructional signs, to collect single-stream recycling, compost and trash. Three-part stations encourage recycling and composting, and reduce contamination. Foldable zero waste stations can be rented from Eco-Cycle.

Avoid bottled water. 

Instead of reaching for a pack of single-use bottled water, choose reusable or compostable cups and water pitchers, or ask guests to bring their own water bottles.

If drinking water is not available at your event location, consider buying gallon jugs of water instead of individual bottles.

The life cycle of bottled water, from creation to disposal, supports the oil industry, releases greenhouse gases and pollutes our planet. Bottled water is also much more costly than tap – often 3,000% more expensive per gallon.

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Pitcher of water with lemon

Serve beverages in durable pitchers instead of single-use plastic bottles.

Trade plastic wrap for wax paper or foil.

If sandwiches, burritos or desserts must be wrapped, ask caterers to use aluminum foil, paper wrap or certified compostable wax paper instead of plastic wrap. Better yet, ask for multiple items to be served together on reusable, covered platters.

Clean aluminum foil can be recycled if formed into a large ball at least two inches in diameter. Paper wrap and wax paper can be composted if they are not coated with plastic film.

Not sure if your waxy paper is compostable? Scrape the waxy surface with a butter knife or fingernail. Compostable wax paper will show a line, while plastic-coated paper will not.

Say no to polystyrene foam.

Cups and food containers made from polystyrene foam, commonly called Styrofoam™, cannot be recycled in Boulder’s single-stream recycling. Polystyrene often enters waterways because it falls apart easily, which leads to the creation of tiny plastic fragments that poison people and wildlife.

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Polystyrene foam food container

Avoid polystyrene foam food containers and cups whenever possible.

Will your food be delivered in polystyrene foam boxes? If so, ask for substitutes, like compostable containers or foil wrap.

Swap single-use packets for reusable containers.

Ask caterers for ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise in bowls or jars instead of single-use squeeze packets, or purchase your own condiments. Likewise, supply your own sugar, salt and pepper in shakers.

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Reusable condiment containers

Use reusable condiment containers.

Skip single-use creamers by serving milk in pitchers or recyclable cartons. Make sure to dump out any remaining liquids, rinse the inside of the carton, and replace the cap before putting milk or juice cartons in the recycling bin.

Dress the table with reusable or compostable covers, or skip table covers altogether.

Cloth table covers can be washed and reused, while paper covers without a plastic film should be composted. Plastic covers must be trashed.

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Table set with tablecloth

Choose reusable tablecloths.

Give away long-lasting party favors.

If you choose to have party favors, avoid cheap items that could be trashed by the end of the month. Try one of these ideas instead:

  • Hold a prize drawing for fewer but better-quality items.

  • Offer experiences like movie tickets, recreation passes or gift cards.

  • Give out poker chips or marbles representing a sum of money, and ask guests to drop them into jars representing local non-profits. This supports good work, promotes discussion and builds community.

The Sorting After Party

Compost

Food scraps and other compostable materials collected at your event should be added to your curbside compost bin, or brought to Eco-Cycle's Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials (CHaRM) for a $3 facility fee.

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Compost bin full of food

Food scraps in a compost bin.

Recycling

All single-stream recycling should be added to your curbside recycling bin, or brought to the Boulder County Recycling Center.

If you collect recycling in a paper or plastic bag, make sure to separate the contents from the bag before adding them to your single-stream recycling bin. Paper bags can be recycled or composted separately, while plastic bags cannot go into single stream recycling. Paper bags covered with grease or food should be composted.

Bring plastic bags to Eco-Cycle's Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials (CHaRM) or a grocery store for recycling, or put them in the trash.

Questions about how to sort waste? 

Explore Eco-Cycle's A to Z Guide to learn what goes in your trash, recycling and compost bins, and where to bring hard-to-recycle items and donations for reuse.

Just getting started? Check out the city’s Zero Waste Sorting Quiz for an interactive game on what items go in each bin.

Already a sorting expert? Test your knowledge with Eco-Cycle's sorting game for hard-to-recycle and hazardous materials.