Return-It Blog

PNE is Zeroing In on Waste Reduction

Congratulations to the Pacific National Exhibition on winning the 2018 RCBC Environmental Award in the Non-Profit category! Since 2012, the PNE has been working hard with its Zero Waste partners to reduce the amount of waste created during the Fair and other PNE events throughout the year, diverting tonnes of garbage from local landfills.

The award-winning initiative started six years ago, when the PNE partnered with Vancity Credit Union to conduct a sustainability audit, looking at the waste-related challenges the PNE experienced. These included congested waste bins, high contamination between waste streams, low refundable container collection, in addition to the sheer amount of garbage collected. The results of the audit suggested the PNE should develop a waste management infrastructure and improve existing waste management processes.

To best achieve these goals, the PNE partnered with several local groups. Waste Control Services (WCS) helped streamline waste hauling and provided reporting on waste diversion. Vancity, in addition to conducting the original sustainability audit, has helped evolve the program over the years, from the first ‘Zero Waste Day’ at the Fair in 2014 and a second day in 2015, to the expansion of Zero Waste stations for the full 15 days of the PNE in 2016.

The Binner’s Project also came onboard in 2016, bringing additional resources, knowledge and expertise. The Binner’s Project is a unique organization of local waste-pickers aided by support staff who are dedicated to improving the economic activities of their low-income and often under-housed project participants. In 2017, the Binners attended 57 event days at the PNE grounds, assisted staff at the diversion centres and helped educate guests on the Zero Waste diversion streams. Return-It also supports other Binner’s Project initiatives, working with the group on various endeavours.

Throughout, Return-It has provided insights into improving the waste management infrastructure, better reporting and best practices. In 2017, Encorp added 100 refundable beverage container collection bins to the PNE’s Zero Waste stations, aligned the refundable collection strategy under a single hauler system, as well as reported on total units and weight collected. Return-It helped to communicate the Zero Waste message through its Return-It 101 Ambassador Team, who provided recycling education to the public during the PNE’s Science of Fun Days. During this time, there was a marked increase in the number of refundable containers collected, from 50,000 units to over 145,000 units during the 15-day Fair.

Through the help of these Zero Waste partners, the PNE increased waste diversion by 9% from 2015 to 2017, meaning 64% of all PNE waste was diverted from landfills in 2017. And that number hopefully will grow in 2018, when the PNE moves to full-year Zero Waste measurement. With the ultimate goal of 75% waste diversion by 2020, the PNE is well on its way to becoming a real environmental leader in the community.