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. This means that 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 much 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!

Sign with words "this is a zero waste event"  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

University Dining Services (UDS) and 1851 Heritage Catering complies with zero waste standards. Request bulk condiments and no tablecloth. 

Here is a list of other caterers that accommodate Zero Waste Events. We encourage you to be explicit in detailing your event needs. Ask the caterer if they collect and remove organics or if you will need waste serviced by the Recycling Program.

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 wareZero Waste Ideas

Getting Started:

Four important questions to ask as you plan your zero waste event are:

1. Does my caterer use reusable and/or compostable food service ware? 

Consider ordering catering from 1851 Heritage here on campus, using a caterer from this list, or using one of the four food ideas pictured above. 

2. Are all plates, cups, cutlery etc. 100% reusable and/or 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. 

3. 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 compostable/reusable items. Ideas include mini jars of honey, reusable straws, reusable tea infusers, reusable sporks, wildflower seed bombs, customized compostable dishcloths, etc.  

4. Do attendees have sufficient access to organics and recycling bins?

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

Compostable Dining Materials

Student wearing zero waste shirts hold mugs from ReUseChoosing compostable dining ware can be difficult when many noncompostable products are boasted as eco-friendly, plant-based, or biodegradable. The Recycling Program only accepts BPI certified products. U Market stocks acceptable compostable products.  To view accepted service ware, refer to this list or type the word 'compostable' into U Market's search box. BPI certified products can also be purchased from local stores or online. 

Image result for bpi certified

We encourage you to call or email with any questions you might have about acceptable materials.