Cleaning up

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Organisers talk rubbish as Stand Out looks at their plans for both waste management and toilets

An interesting piece of news landed on Stand Out’s desk: Event organisers are being asked to reconsider how portable toilets are located at events, following a number of reports of toilet tipping. UK Event Safety’s Glenn Ramsden is urging promoters to position portable toilets back to back to lessen the risk of them being tipped over.

This plea comes after a recent incident where a teenager was said to have ingested some of the contents whilst being freed from a toilet that had been tipped deliberately, says the company. Not only is this a mindless act, which someone must clean up after, but also there are significant medical implications as one of the chemicals used in the portable units can not only cause burns but is very toxic if inhaled and ingested.

But the lid will never be closed on the issue of festival toilets.

Nicky Warner, general manager of Loos For Do’s, says the simple truth is that events will probably never have ample toilet facilities. A problem primarily due to budgetary and logistical constraints.

She says: “Steps can be taken to make festival loos as pleasant as possible. Prior to the event the organisers and suppliers need to work collaboratively to optimise the number and type of facilities available and to draw up an efficient site plan to keep queues manageable. As an example, a urinal trailer is around the same price as 10 single loos, but is 80 per cent more efficient.”

Liverpool City Council’s events team admits that it has to regularly assess toilet provision across all the events, as it is one of the elements that receives the most complaints.

“Where possible, despite the additional cost and time to facilitate them, we will always look at plumbed in toilets as they are the most efficient and environmentally friendly method,” says XXXX XXXX. “However due to a lack of available drainage points or the limited set up time, we often have to use plastic units. Where these are used we try and ensure that they are serviced at regular intervals and only appoint contractors with approved policies for waste management.”

Likewise, Chris Murray, director operations to the RAF Charitable Trust Enterprises, organisers of the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT), explains that the event currently works with Wessington Cabins, Andyloo’s and Portaloo, and believes in supplying more toilets than the numbers advised in the Purple Guide.

Our main issue is to make sure that our visitors feel that they are never too far away from a toilet and that the facilities are properly serviced,” Murray says. “Our showground is two miles long and so we have to ensure that the toilets are evenly spaced, well signposted and a reasonable distance from all of the major attractions.

“Servicing is a constraining factor: we have a showground packed with aeroplanes, activities, stalls and around 80,000 visitors at any one time so the service trucks wouldn’t be able to access the toilets if they were in the middle of the showground. We have to strike a balance of making sure toilets are accessible to our visitors and the service trucks. Having said all that, we take note of any comments we receive from customers and each year we take a fresh look at the site and review the layout and design of the show to ensure we continue to improve the toilet locations and the signage.”

Penny Rooke, director of D&P Luxury Toilets, believes that the single most important factor when hiring toilets for a large event is to make sure that there is a good water supply available to the hirer and that they are adequately staffed during the event, yet suggests that event organisers are nearly always budget driven when it comes to the toilet facilities provided for guests at large public gatherings.

People’s expectations of toilet facilities have increased rapidly over the last few years, the paper trail required to provide the facilities has increased and cost of providing a good service has risen. But according to Robert Limbrick, sales and marketing manager of Andyloos, organisers that do not consider a visitor’s toilet experience show complete disregard for those attending the events. Increased ticket prices should therefore reflect an increase in the level of facilities, and as a result the company is now working with music festivals to provide en-suite vacuum toilets within luxury tents.

Waste away

Toilets and how you choose to dispose of waste are a mindfield. But despite the headaches they must be dealt with all the same, forming part of a comprehensive waste management plan.

In 2009, RIAT recycled 14 per cent of its total waste. This year it recycled 37 per cent and achieved an 18.6 per cent reduction in the total waste generated by the show.

For 2011, its target is to again reduce the total waste created and then to recycle 50 per cent of that waste.

Murray continues: “Our success is dependent upon two distinct areas; the co-operation of the 160,000 visitors; and hard work by all the suppliers, contractors, caterers, volunteers and staff who work behind the scenes. Our waste management strategy has focused on education. We have been working with our traders to encourage them to think about how they use their product packaging in the first place to see if it can be reduced. We also communicate this thought process to our own ‘back of house’ staff, contractors, suppliers, caterers and volunteers to encourage them to do the same.

“We then focus on recycling as much waste as possible. For 2010 we launched a recycling awareness programme.  We work in partnership with Grundon Waste Management, which supplied over 500 general waste and mixed recycling bins both in the show ground and the back of house areas, as well as skips for construction materials and glass banks. We decided that it would be easier for everyone if we introduced Grundon’s two bin system – one for mixed recyclables and one for general waste. Grundon then sent the mixed recyclable waste to its Material Recovery Facility (MRF) for sorting.”

Liverpool City Council also makes additional provisions for in excess of 200 identifiable event bins to be placed throughout the course of an event. In addition, LCC utilises skips at key locations and a number of on street recycling facilities – both banks and nodes – that are utilised during the event. All recyclable waste then is sent to a MRF. In addition, all waste from mechanical street cleansing is sent for recycling and discussions are currently underway to expand this to all bins used at future events.

Impactful solutions

According to Jess Church of M J Church, there are many ways in which to reduce landfill waste with caterers and traders being who the main producers of all waste streams. A big solution would be to replace polystyrene cups, which are non recyclable to biodegrade or at least a recyclable material. This will make an impact on the volumes taken to landfill from the events.

“Each event is completely individual,” she comments. “At Mitsubishi Badminton horse trials we had a large team working throughout the event removing waste from the waste stations and the trade stands on an hourly basis. On a smaller scale at Chippenham Folk Festival the organisers had a hire only basis of the waste stations and sorted the waste solutions themselves.

“Event organisers are constantly looking for ways to improve on their facilities and make sure the public have the best experience possible. Using our large and colourful waste stations to ‘precycle’ on-site is one way which makes an impact with everyone. The public acknowledges them before they even need to use them. We like to make an impact so the public know when they need to dispose of their waste they will spot a station from a distance.

“At Mitsubishi Badminton horse trials this year we recycled over 40 per cent of the waste. This was a lot of volume that we diverted from landfill.”