Zero Waste Events

What is Zero Waste?

Zero waste means that all utilized materials are reusable, recyclable, or compostable. Here at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, we use the industry standard of 90% trash-free to define zero waste. If you are planning a zero waste event, 90% or more of the materials used must be reusable, recyclable, or compostable. As a philosophy, zero waste is about more than just recycling and composting, it promotes a circular economy in which materials can be used and reused without harm to humans or the environment.

Planning a Zero Waste Event? We're Here to Help!

The UMN Twin Cities Recycling Program supports zero waste events by providing extra organics and recycling bins, coordinating waste disposal, and advising on waste-related decision making. To utilize the Recycling Program's resources at your zero waste event, fill out the Zero Waste Event Request Form.  If you aren't sure how to get started planning your zero waste event send us an email at

This is a zero waste event
1. Choose a caterer that can accommodate zero waste events

We have put together a list of caterers that have demonstrated an ability to cater zero waste events.  Make sure to request reusable and/or compostable service ware, and no plastic.

M. Food Co. and Sky Lakes Catering Co. complies with zero waste standards. Request bulk condiments and no tablecloth. 

For an easy zero waste event, try one of the options listed below. Be sure to also provide either reusable or BPI certified compostable dining ware

Food Service ware guide
2. Ensure the event will be trash-free.

Are all plates, cups, cutlery 100% reusable/compostable?  If you are purchasing service ware for an event, make sure all items are certified compostable through BPI.  Find recommended options here, or search "compostable" on the U Market website.  BPI certified products can also be purchased from local stores or online. 

Choosing compostable dining ware can be difficult when many non-compostable products are advertised as eco-friendly, plant-based, or biodegradable.  The Recycling Program only accepts BPI certified products.  We encourage you to call or email us at with any questions you might have about acceptable materials.


Is there any disposable plastic packaging associated with swag, gift bags, or other materials provided at the event?  Sometimes trash shows up in unexpected places.  Plastic packaging around swag or prizes is one such example.  To go one step further, provide attendees with only useful and reusable/compostable items.  Ideas include mini jars of honey, reusable straws, reusable tea infusers,  reusable sporks, wildflower seed bombs, customized compostable dishcloths, etc.

3. Ensure attendees have sufficient access to organics and recycling bins

As a rule of thumb, provide one waste station for every 25 people attending.  Recycling should be convenient, so place bins in accessible locations.  If you need extra bins for an event let us know at

Zero Waste team