How to establish a reusable catering supplies system at your events?


Lessons learnt and best practices


Legislation regarding the use of reusable supplies in the events sector is changing, presenting challenges for organisers. OVAM therefore joined forces with Fost Plus to organise a conference on this topic. The aim was to provide event organisers with information and tips on approaches, systems, and what their colleagues, who are also event organisers, city councils or suppliers, can offer.

The event, led by Lore Claes, Sustainable Event Coordinator at OVAM, focused on why reusable supplies are used, and what policies should be taken into account when using them. Afterwards, the participants were invited to take part in various information sessions of their choice. It was the perfect opportunity to gain a more detailed and personalised understanding of the reusable sector.

There were three key conclusions to be drawn from the event. Here, we explain the rationale, and how to implement this system effectively.


1. The transition towards reusable supplies is now inevitable.

New guidelines are emerging to regulate the use of single-use catering supplies at both public and private events. Event organisers are now required to prepare in advance, and rethink their way of working to ensure a smooth transition within their business activities.


2. The success of reusable catering supplies relies on a good return system.

Different return systems, both monetary and non-monetary, are possible. For example Eco Coins, receipts, cash, or mainly digital returns. In any case, it is advisable that a cup, for example, is equivalent to a ‘monetary’ unit specific to the organisation (for example, the token). This plays a key part in incentivising visitors to return their cup or other reusable containers before leaving the venue.
Ease of use and accessibility are essential in this respect, especially if you are using reusable supplies for the first time. This requires a different mindset, not just on the part of the organiser but also the users.

Communication is key. It is important to focus on visibility of the mechanisms, and to communicate this clearly. It is also essential to inform all parties about the type of return system to ensure it is well understood beforehand.


3. This system requires good logistics.

Using reusable supplies raises different logistics issues than disposable supplies. You need to think about the organisation of the bar, food truck or stall, the storage and cleaning of supplies, and how clean supplies are distributed and dirty supplies collected.

Broadly speaking, there are three contexts in which reuse can be applied: a completely open system, like a city with several participating cafés; a closed environment where the customer does not leave the premises, like a festival; or a closed environment with a fixed location such as an office or a school. Each context calls for different reusable solutions. Finally, there are two main recommendations for managing stock in the bar. Firstly, it is crucial to appoint one individual to manage the supplies throughout the entire event. It is also essential to have an empty space where the stock of supplies can be managed in a simple and well-organised way. This underlines the importance of correct and timely communication internally as well.

For more information, see the OVAM website.