Zero Waste Events Recognition & Certification

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Businesses and Communities are leading the way to Zero Waste all over the world. There are thousands of businesses and communities who are working hard to minimize their impacts to the environment with the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health. In order to formally recognize these initiatives ZWIA has been working with ZWIA National Affiliates to develop, implement, and manage various Zero Waste Recognition and Certification programs around the world.  All businesses and communities recognized or certified under one of ZWIA’s National Affiliates may be listed on the ZWIA website in recognition of their accomplishment.

The first business was officially recognized in the United States by the GrassRoots Recycling Network now doing business as Zero Waste USA,  the United States National Affiliate.  To inquire about Zero Waste Recognition and Certification programs in your region or country, please connect below with the National Affiliate in your country. If there is no national affiliate in your country, please use the link below and the ZWIA Zero Waste Certifications committee will assign a National Affiliate to assist you.

Zero Waste Events Recognition & Certification


The Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) has a Recognition Program for Zero Waste Events (referred to as “materials” below).  This provides a framework for ZWIA approved national organizations to recognize zero waste events that are operating in their country in keeping with the international  Definition of Zero Waste, ZWIA Zero Waste Hierarchy of Highest and Best Use, ZWIA Zero Waste Business Principles and ZWIA Zero Waste Community Principles. This Recognition Program is designed to recognize events with a Zero Waste goal that focuses on redesigning and reducing overall discards,  encouraging reuse of products, packaging and materials while reducing discarded materials to landfill, incineration, and the environment by 90% or more. Documentation must be provided to National Affiliates to demonstrate adherence to these guidelines. This Program is to guide ZWIA approved National Affiliates to offer ZWIA approved recognition and certification programs for Zero Waste Events. 

Targeted Events 

Any gathering of people with start and stop times conducted over a set period of time.  These guidelines do not apply to the venue or facility that regularly holds events to recognize or certify their performance. Those could be recognized or certified based on Zero Waste Business or Facility Recognition or Certification Guidelines.

  • Zero waste runs (marathons, triathlons)
  • Concerts
  • Earth Day celebrations
  • Fairs
  • Farmers markets
  • Picnics
  • Conferences
  • Meetings
  • Religious gatherings
  • Theatre events
  • Movie screenings
  • Sporting events
  • Weddings
  • Similar

Benefits of Zero Waste Events Recognition or Certification

  • National Affiliate is authorized to publicly say “The Zero Waste International Alliance National Affiliate [insert name] has reviewed data provided and determined that they are meeting the standards of ZWIA Zero Waste Events Recognition or Certification Guidelines.”
  • May be listed as a Zero Waste Event on ZWIA website and website of ZWIA National Affiliate.

Working Towards Zero Waste Events 

To be recognized as an event working towards Zero Waste requires meeting the following Minimum Requirements, which should include National Affiliates detailing what documentation is needed for each criteria:

Prior to the Event

The following actions shall be included in either a formal Zero Waste resolution and/or a Zero Waste Plan or Strategy signed by the person in charge of the event:

  • Adopt the goal for Zero Waste to landfill, incineration, and the environment
  • Adopt or publicly recognize the international definition of Zero Waste on their website and on-site
  • Adopt or publicly recognize the ZWIA Zero Waste Hierarchy of Highest and Best Use
  • Meet all national, state/provincial, and local solid waste and recycling laws and regulations.
  • Refuse, Rethink, and Redesign the event to only use materials, products, and packaging that are reusable, recyclable, or compostable or take them back, and eliminate wasteful practices.
  • Redesign and reduce overall discards
  • Prioritize the reuse of products, packaging, and materials including food service items. 
  • Reduce discarded materials to landfill, incineration or the environment by 90% or more. 
  • Implement collection programs for separate collection of recyclables and organics.
  • Assert control over suppliers, vendors, and contractors to meet the Zero Waste goals and provide financial incentives to do so (if allowed by state/provincial or national regulations) to encourage them to waste less, reuse, and recycle more. 
  • Observe and report residuals in terms of types and quantities.
  • Report progress after the first event annually toward Zero Waste Plan milestones.
    • Establish a Zero Waste Advisory Board or multi-stakeholder process (involving suppliers, vendors, contractors, attendees, communities, staff, elected officials, Zero Waste experts, and non-governmental organizations) to participate in the development and implementation of a Zero Waste Plan or Strategy, assess critical steps, define workarounds or re-tabling of deadlines and development of similar key policy, program, and facility implementation decisions.
    • Add locations along the path of races or parades.  Implement collection programs for materials discarded by attendees during the event (e.g., paying people to pick up after attendees).

After the Event

Documentation must be provided to National Affiliates to demonstrate adherence to these guidelines. 

Zero Waste Events

  • The event needs to have met the Working Towards Zero Waste guidelines as a precondition of determining if the event was Zero Waste.
  • There are 2 levels of recognition for event leaders. Both levels require diversion from landfills and incinerators, and that materials are reduced, reused, recycled, composted, or recovered for productive use in nature or the economy at biological temperatures and pressures:
    • Achieved 90% diversion from landfills, incinerators and the environment
    • No Burn & Diverted 90% from landfills and the environment
  • Commit in writing to continuous improvement to reduce the remaining residue that goes to landfills or incinerators by at least 1% of baseline disposal each year and/or to address other Zero Waste Events Principles over time. Commit in writing to phase out all burning in the next contract with service providers or when alternative facilities are available. Until all materials are diverted, the use of upgraded landfills that meet the European Union Landfill Directive or equivalent is preferable to any form of incineration.
  • Submit a summary of the event Zero Waste initiatives that can be published on ZWIA and National Affiliate websites and indicate which sector they would like to be listed in by UNSPC.
  • Submit data annually to National Affiliate to be able to continue use of “ZWIA approved” Recognition Program that ZWIA is authorized to post.  A full year of data will be provided for such annual renewals.  Data submitted will be public and published on the National Affiliate’s website.
    • Once a venue has achieved Zero Waste at one or more events, they can promote upcoming events to be planned as Zero Waste events provided they follow the same approach as the prior events.


  • Data provided to ZWIA has been published formally (e.g., on the corporate website, in the Annual Report, in the Environmental Health & Safety Report, in the Sustainability Report, in the Climate Change Plan, in Securities Exchange Commission filings, or in similar reports submitted to regulatory authorities that have jurisdiction over the zero waste events).  National Affiliates are encouraged to develop standardized forms to obtain info needed for recognition.
  • Data documents a base year and measurements since the base year that adjusts for changes in size, type, and nature of zero waste events.  The base year could be the last reporting year (calendar or otherwise), if data is provided on the latest annual basis.
  • A combination of indices may be used to demonstrate continuous improvement that gives preference for elimination of wastes and establishment of reuse systems.  This Program is intended to focus first on reducing and reusing materials (as defined above, including products, materials, and packaging), then recycling and composting the rest.
  • An event may be recognized as a Zero Waste Event once it demonstrates that it has achieved the 90% waste diversion threshold.  This recognition is not designed to ensure that the business adheres to all the Zero Waste Events Guidelines nor any other regulatory or compliance matters.
  • If any data is determined by the National Affiliate to be falsified in applying for this Recognition Program, even if the business has already paid for the Recognition Program, the business shall be deleted from the National Affiliate’s website and ZWIA shall be notified to delete them from the ZWIA list of Zero Waste Events.

National Affiliates

  • Nongovernmental organizations with a national focus that have officially adopted the ZWIA Definition of Zero Waste, ZWIA Zero Waste Business Principles, and ZWIA Global Principles for Zero Waste Communities to guide their policies and programs. Groups should submit to ZWIA a statement of qualifications for playing that role, the background of the organization, who will be the lead for the organization, and key staff or consultant experience with doing zero waste event assessments.
  • Only one organization can be officially accredited by ZWIA to implement this Recognition or Certification Program in each country.  That organization may authorize other organizations to operate under their oversight and guidelines.  A ZWIA National Affiliate could operate in more than one country until there is another approved National Affiliate for another country.  ZWIA National Affiliates must be accredited annually by ZWIA.  ZWIA National Affiliates shall provide ZWIA an Annual Report on their activities, including a summary of the recognitions they have done and any challenges or complaints encountered throughout the year regarding any zero waste events recognized or their program.
  • ZWIA National Affiliates must be approved by a quorum plus one vote of all ZWIA Planning Group members voting within a week of circulation. This approval must be renewed annually with a submittal by December 1st each year to ZWIA requesting such a renewal..
  • ZWIA National Affiliates are authorized to charge fees for this service. In setting their fees, National Affiliates will include payment to ZWIA of 10% of the fees charged per zero waste event for ZWIA management and oversight of the program. National Affiliate fees should be set at a level that reflects the intent for this program to sunset once there is a national certification system that includes third-party verification. If additional reviews are requested during the course of a year, additional fees will be paid.
  • Once a National Affiliate develops a Certification Program, this Recognition Program may continue as an entry step in a Certification Program by recognizing those who are working toward Zero Waste for events that adopt the goal of Zero Waste and a plan to achieve it.ZERO WASTE EVENTS CHECKLIST:

Make a Zero Waste Plan

  • At least 30 days prior to the event, order recycling, composting, and trash collection services.
  • Request or create event signage for your bins.
  • Order dumpsters or metal bins that have locks to avoid contamination or dumping. Map out where zero waste stations and debris stations will be located.
  • Plan to purchase your event inventory around waste prevention (tip: this will lower disposal fees).
  • Determine how materials will be monitored and sorted after the event. Schedule pickups for leftover food and other donations.
  • Plan Educational component 
  • Determine how materials will be transported from zero waste stations to debris boxes.

Setting up zero waste (bin) stations

  • Stations should be clearly marked and visible above a crowd.
  • Recycling, composting, and trash bins should always be grouped together with proper labeling.
  • If you do use liners (compostable or plastic), at the end of the event, all material must be loose in the appropriate container. Liners should be removed and placed in the landfill if needed.



  • Plastic stirrers, toothpicks, and beverage plugs are banned. Acceptable alternatives include paper, wood, and other natural fiber.
  • All food and beverage accessories like lids, cutlery, and napkins are to be provided upon request. Distribution of single-use plastic straws including compostable plastic ones is restricted. Acceptable alternatives include paper and other natural fiber upon request.
  • All straws may only be made available upon request i.e. behind the counter. Foodware provided must be reusable, recyclable, or, as a last resort, compostable.
  • Compostable foodware must be made of fiber only, GreenScreen Certified for safer chemicals, and BPI Certified Compostable.

Hydration Stations

  • Hydration stations serve as an alternative for bottled and packaged water. Contact your permitting agency to find out how to access water for your event.
  • PRIORITY: Working with Food Vendors
    • Include zero waste requirements in vendor contracts.
    • Provide assistance and options for alternatives for vendors.
    • Educate vendors/janitorial staff/volunteers on the zero waste requirements and procedures.


  • Provide, lend, or sell reusable beverage cups to event attendees. Better: deposit return system 
  • Promote or incentivize attendees to bring their own reusable beverage cup.

Additional Resources

The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code® (UNSPSC®) provides an open, global multi-sector standard for efficient, accurate classification of products and services.

Photo Credit Featured Image: Race To Zero Waste