AWRE and ICC Sydney at the forefront of event sustainability

Aug 16, 2018 Event News

AWRE is leading the way in sustainable event management best practice so when it came to selecting a venue for AWRE 2018 the newly rebuilt ICC Sydney, which works to a strong sustainable event philosophy of its own, was the obvious choice.

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Over 2,000 waste management professionals, business leaders and government representatives attend the Australasian Waste & Recycling Expo (AWRE) every year. Now in its ninth year, the highly respected two-day event takes place at a vital time for Australia’s waste and recycling industry.

AWRE is managed by Diversified Communications Australia, a national event company with a portfolio of more than 10 premium industry-specific trade events. AWRE, one of its flagship annual events, is leading the way in sustainable event management best practice. So when it came to selecting a venue for AWRE 2018, the newly rebuilt International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney) in Darling Harbour was the obvious choice.

“It was really a no-brainer to partner with ICC Sydney as the host venue for AWRE 2018. The building itself is extremely advanced in terms of sustainability, and AWRE is very well aligned with ICC Sydney’s overall sustainable event philosophy and vision for best practice,” says Pedro Gallo, Senior Operations Manager, Diversified Communications.

“The event industry is notorious for generating huge amounts of waste and we’re both looking at innovative ways to improve sustainability. ICC Sydney’s willingness to work with us to achieve the same goals is extremely important for an event like AWRE.”

Sustainable event destination

Since ICC Sydney opened in December 2016, Australia’s premier integrated convention, exhibition and entertainment venue has been awarded a string of environmental accolades – including six stars under the Green Building of Australia’s Green Star Communities certification.

Recognising its all-encompassing approach to sustainability, ICC Sydney was also awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold in July 2017. The LEED ratings system, developed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), is the foremost program for buildings designed, constructed, maintained and operated for improved environmental and human health performance.

ICC Sydney’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Executive Laura Goddard says ICC Sydney’s commitment to sustainability extends across the raft of business operations both internally and externally: “Sustainability is a core element of our business operations at ICC Sydney, so much so we’ve embedded it as one of three core pillars of our business management framework.

“ICC Sydney is a prominent gateway for thousands of interstate and international visitors so we recognise not only do we have a really important responsibility, but also a great opportunity to promote the venue as a sustainable event destination.”

ICC Sydney recently joined forces with the City of Sydney and a raft of other venues and institutions across the city to launch the Sustainable Destinations Partnership.

“This partnership is really exciting for us because it highlights Sydney as a sustainable event destination and brings together some of the key players across the travel and tourism industry. We are collaborating to activate initiatives that make Sydney a sustainable destination and will then promote these to interstate and international audiences,” says Goddard.

Event Legacy Program

In November 2017, ICC Sydney launched its Event Legacy Program designed to connect event clients with a cross section of Sydney’s diverse community to generate social, environmental and economic benefits and enable those events to leave a lasting positive legacy, long after they finish.

“By formalising our Event Legacy Program and clearly stating as a venue we’re committed to sustainability, we’re better able to collaborate with clients to find ways to make sure their events are sustainable and be creative about how we do that,” says Goddard..

“When it comes to AWRE, the team at Diversified Communications stands out in its dedication and commitment to sustainability. Although we’re seeing event clients wanting to operate more responsibly in this area, AWRE is really coming to the table and providing opportunities to collectively do just that.

“We’re exploring some really interesting initiatives and looking at how we share best practice and also map the engagement we’re having in a collaborative partnership. AWRE is driving the conversation and is open to exploring different ways we can lead the sustainability agenda. In our experience, this is still quite unique for an event team.”

Towards Zero Landfill

AWRE is Diversified Communications’ lead event for trialling and developing sustainability initiatives, which it then plans to roll out across its portfolio of events. Established five years ago, Towards Zero Landfill is AWRE’s project to reduce its environmental impact and to also lead a behavioural shift within the AWRE community.

“The project started about five years ago when the amount of waste we were sending to landfill was up around 70 – 80%. Since then, our target has always been a maximum of 5% and although we’ve been fine-tuning our recycling initiatives each year, we’ve yet to reach this ambitious target. We’re hoping by partnering with ICC Sydney we will get significantly closer to our 5% goal at AWRE 2018,” says Gallo.

Reducing landfill is also a key management goal for ICC Sydney, Goddard says: “Promoting zero waste is obviously extremely important for a waste and recycling exhibition and it’s something we’re working towards too. We have an internal target to divert 75% of our entire operational waste from landfill so we’re working with AWRE to look at how we maximise use of ICC Sydney’s waste management facilities to help reach their target for this particular event.

“We’ll be focusing on how we reduce waste across the event by channeling it through our appropriate processing streams. This will be achieved by recycling, collecting organic waste and sending it to be processed as fertiliser, and by making use of our onsite compactor and bottle crusher.”

Tracking and measuring

Ultimately, tracking and measuring environmental impact is important within the event industry for a number of reasons. Firstly, it provides benchmarks so recurring events can review and improve their performance year-on-year. Secondly, it demonstrates results to not only reward the event organisers, but also to provide a great story to tell the wider community.

“We’re exploring a number of integrated tools and frameworks to maximise our ability to report back to our event clients. Now we’ve been open just over 18 months, it means we’ve got a full year of data to benchmark against. We can then look to improve the way we track and report against this,” Goddard says.

“We also analyse our waste management reports and seek feedback from our partner charities so we can collect data and forward onto our clients in a post-event report.”

With AWRE’s target of no more than 5% of waste heading to landfill, it will be extremely important for Gallo and his team to document all sustainability achievements.

“This year we’re taking our tracking and measurement very seriously and will be documenting every element of our sustainability initiatives. At the end of the event, with the assistance of ICC Sydney, we will compile a post-event report to accurately assess our achievements,” Gallo says.

AWRE 2018: Sustainable initiatives

Compostable packaging
ICC Sydney partners with BioPak to make sure all food packaging at events is compostable and this will also apply at AWRE. “All of the catering packaging at AWRE will be either compostable or recyclable and we have replaced all plastic straws with paper straws. We will also be providing compostable bin liners to all of our exhibitors,” Gallo says.

All of the catering packaging at AWRE will be either compostable or recyclable

Recycling waste streams
All bins at AWRE will be divided into different streams with separate sections for organics, paper and cardboard, co-mingled recycled and general waste. Soft plastics will also be collected separately and an AWRE exhibitor will be collecting and recycling all coffee cups used at the event.

All bins at AWRE will be divided into different waste streams

Food donations
ICC Sydney partners with OzHarvest and Mathew Talbot Foundation to donate any acceptable food left over from events. “We obviously have to be mindful of food safety guidelines but where we can, we engage these two charities to donate leftover food. This will also be the case during AWRE,” Goddard says.

Any acceptable food left over from AWRE will be donated to OzHarvest

Furniture donations
Any furniture left by AWRE exhibitors will also be donated to local charities. “It’s very common for exhibitors to leave tables, chairs and other unwanted pieces of furniture once our events are over. In partnership with ICC Sydney, we will make sure every last piece is donated and repurposed,” says Gallo.

Digital signs
This year, AWRE is focused on reducing the amount of single use plastic signage by increasing the number of LED screens and introducing new digital signs in the entrance, registration, networking lounge and theatre areas. Gallo continues, “We have traditionally used plastic corflute signs which ultimately end up in landfill, so AWRE 2018 will be showcasing new digital signs which is a big step for us.”  Any additional signs required will be printed on cardboard.

Signage at AWRE is mostly digital to replace coreflute signage

Recycled plastic furniture
AWRE will also be providing furniture made of recycled plastics for the exhibition theatres and central bar area. “We also repurpose pallets and timber from other events. This is how we’ve created several delegate areas in the last two years and we’re doing it again this year,” Gallo says.

Recycled lanyards
With over 2,000 visitors expected to attend AWRE 2018, all event lanyards will be collected, re-used or recycled. “We also donate old lanyards to various charities who’ve been very creative in reusing and repurposing them in numerous ways,” Gallo says.

Sydney water
ICC Sydney’s partnership with Sydney Water also means that bottled water will not be required at AWRE. “ICC Sydney is committed to removing all plastic water bottles from meeting rooms and replacing these with co-branded, reusable glass bottles.   As a result of our partnership, we have already saved over one million plastic water bottles and reduced our ecological footprint,” Goddard says.

“So when an AWRE visitor attends a breakout session or meeting, they’ll be offered glass bottles filled with Sydney Water tap water. Water bubblers will also be available at the café and central networking lounge. This initiative is significantly reducing the amount of plastic water bottles consumed across the venue.”

Water bubblers will eliminate plastic bottles

Venue tours
AWRE visitors will also be offered tours of the award-winning ICC Sydney venue to see firsthand the waste management processes and other sustainable features throughout the building.

“This is really to recognise the more we collaborate and share ideas about how to be sustainable, the more we encourage the conversation and hopefully inspire others to jump on board,” Goddard says.

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