A convention center can host hundreds of thousands of people at single events.  With the number of events held and the volumes of people in attendance, convention centers offer a great opportunity for recycling.

Recycling Placement for Existing Centers

Making recycling accessible for attendees encourages participation.  Consider providing glass, plastic, aluminum, and paper recycling bins in the following locations:

Lobbies and Exhibit Floors: Lobbies are ideal for recycling because all attendees have to pass through this area. Exhibit floors are also high traffic areas where people often snack and socialize.  Be sure to label all bins clearly and promote their availability on display screens or audio announcements. Make sure the recycling bins are next to trash receptacles.


Dining Areas: Waste from food courts or open dining areas can be recycled or composted by both attendees and center workers.  Many of the food waste or serving ware can be collected and composted.  A baler may be a good investment if large amounts of cardboard could be potentially recycled.

Current Convention Center Waste Recycling Practices

Several convention centers in the United States are already doing their part to minimize waste and promote recycling.

Moscone Center

Located in San Francisco, the Moscone Center hosts over a million visitors for over 100 annual shows.  The center saves over 800 tons of material from the waste stream each year. 


After beginning the recycling program, the Moscone Center gained back its initial start up costs through waste diversion within two years. In addition to providing standard recycling bins, the center also heavily participates in donations to non-profits and residents.

Boston Convention and Exhibition Center

With over 1.6 million square feet of space, the BCEC saves over 200 tons of potential waste each year.  The recycling initiative originally began with a focus on food waste.  The center installed an organic compactor and used wheeled carts for waste movement.  The center and vendors dedicated time to train employees on efficient handling of waste, including avoiding contaminants.  The center has saved approximately $27 per ton with its organics program alone.


Shortly after the organics recycling initiative, the center implemented a plastics recycling program.  In addition to beverage containers, the center saved shrink wrap, coat hangers, waste baskets, chairs, and other plastic items for recycling.  A plastics baler was purchased to prepare the items for shipment to the recycler.  Over 30 tons of plastic have been recycled in one year.


Oregon Convention Center

This center hosts over 700 events annual and can boast several recycling and green practices throughout its operation.  In recent years, the center successfully diverted over 300 tons of waste from landfills annually.


Recycling bins and collection are only part of the center’s recycling practices, which also include procuring 100 percent recycled content office paper, paper towels, and toilet paper. Among the more popular recycled items, the center also recycles wood pallets, metals, concrete, and electronics. Employees also practice waste reduction by using electronic documents, avoiding individually packaged foods, and providing water coolers for refills.


The Oregon Convention Center has received several awards based on their recycling practices and has an institutional recycling rate goal of 75 percent.


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