Theatre Green Book OPERATIONS Toolkit –

Waste Ideas Toolkit


Carry out an initial waste audit to identify the key items and materials being disposed of. A ‘waste audit’ allows operators to analyse the waste generated in the organisation, indicating the types of waste materials being produced (e.g. paper, cardboard, metals), their quantities, and the levels of contamination of recyclable materials. 

Use this information to:

• Develop procurement strategies to reduce or remove these materials at source

• Investigate alternative products which use reusable materials or/and easier-to-recycle materials

• Develop targeted strategies to ‘capture’ waste

The information from the waste audit can be used to determine which bins are most appropriate. For example, if the theatre is generating large quantities of paper waste, provide paper bins. You may need specialist bins for waste such as crisp packets or coffee cups, if the audit shows these are high volume items.

Designated bin stations should be placed throughout the venue. Each station should include multiple bins which separate waste into individual streams such as residual waste, dry recyclables (paper/cardboard, plastic, metal etc.) and organic waste. Each bin must have clear signage with pictures to show which items can be placed in them. 

Bin signage should be as clear and simple as possible. It should be able to convey the message within a few seconds through good graphic design. Be creative!

Implement a periodic system to monitor recyclable wastes in bins (e.g. via regular audits) to understand recycling and contamination rates. In instances where contamination is high and recycling capture rates are low, adjust the bins by changing their designated material or introducing more bins to accommodate the findings. For example, if the audit shows that beverage cups are contaminated with juices, introduce liquids bins to reduce the contamination of this stream.

Periodically check that the bins are in the correct position and in close proximity to their associated signage. Check that bins are located in the most convenient locations for visitors to use.

Train all staff on waste reduction and recycling in order to assist visitors in waste segregation.

Recycle LEDs lightbulbs at end of life so that all the components can be safely extracted.


Eliminate the use of paper tickets in cloakrooms. Replace these single use tickets with reusable items such as numbered wristbands, pieces of wood, laminated tickets or other small items that can be returned to the cloakroom and reused several times. (Some theatres invite patrons or a local school to help make them.)


Consider placing recycling bins at the back of the auditorium to help customers recycle during the interval and before they exit.

Ensure staff separate waste collected after the show into the appropriate waste streams.

Replace plastic bottled water with canned alternatives and provide a bin for metals. Remove cups from water fountains to encourage customers to bring reusable bottles. Include the option to buy reusable cups/bottles when purchasing tickets and/or sell them at the bar. 

Snack Cart

Allow customers to pre-book snacks and drinks.

Buy snacks in bulk and individually package or dispense into compostable packaging for dry snacks. Ensure that your waste collection service has the resources to collect commercially compostable packaging. Otherwise, arrange specialist collection services from the packaging providers (e.g. vegware). If compostable packaging is used, ensure that separate bins are in place for this stream. Use clear signage to educate visitors and to prevent them from disposing of non-compostable items into the compostable bins.

Use dispensers for confectionary and dry snacks. Customers can either bring their own reusable containers or use containers provided by the theatre.  

Replace commercially packaged ice cream tubs with edible alternatives such as ice cream cones and wafer cups. 

Replace plastic packaging for sweets, nuts and other snacks with reusable alternatives such as glass jars, which can be returned to the theatre once the contents have been eaten. Alternatively, a premium can be added to the cost of snacks which would allow customers to keep the container.


Use refillable hand wash and hand lotion containers. In some cases, the cleaning contractor may be able to supply and refill hand wash and lotions. In this way, no surplus needs to be kept on site and any associated waste containers can be removed by the contractor.

Use toilet paper brands with rolls made from recycled content (such as recycled paper) and preferably wrapped/packaged in paper and not plastic. Alternatively, investigate renewable materials such as bamboo or sugarcane fibres.

Food, catering and restaurants

Food waste can be a particular concern for theatre venues. Generally, two types of food waste are produced: 

• Kitchen waste, which results from food spoiling, preparation and cooking

• Plate waste, which relates to food leftovers

To avoid food waste from spoiling, use automatic ordering systems which monitor the kitchen inventory as food is sold, and trigger just-in-time deliveries before stock runs out. Adopt a FIFO approach (First in, First out) for perishable products. Opt for long life food alternatives which have a lower chance of becoming waste.

Incentivise ordering food in advance by, for instance, by offering price discounts on menu items. This can reduce preparation and cooking wastes.

Plate waste is best controlled through portion and menu control. Conduct a baseline audit of food that is prepared and returned to the kitchen uneaten to understand how the dishes should be adjusted. Food scanners can also be placed on bins to measure what food is thrown and when. Use food waste monitoring systems (e.g. Winnow) to reduce food waste and costs.

Partner with food sharing charities, such as ‘olio’ and ‘tooGoodToGo’, to avoid wastage at the end of each day.

See the Food and Beverages Ideas Action Plan in the Toolkit to further reduce food waste.

Donor events

Eliminate the need for table linens by investing in higher quality tables that are more durable. 

Reduce food choices to a predetermined set menu for meals and canapés. Attendees can select their meal choices before the event to reduce waste. Guests can provide an upfront donation to reduce no-shows and consequent food waste.


As part of your procurement strategy, choose suppliers who offer take-back schemes, as well as a commitment to reducing packaging waste.  Reduce plastic packaging and use reusable or recyclable packaging where packaging cannot be avoided.

Use reusable crates to deliver food/drink and return them to the suppliers after unpacking deliveries.

Instead of single-use plastics, store wholesale food products in the back of house in metal / glass containers.

Procure pre-packed items with packaging that can be easily recycled. 

Ensure products that are recyclable are easily recognisable as recyclable or non-recyclable, to reduce contamination of waste streams.

Use certified compostable packaging (e.g. vegware) for all disposable containers. This can be enhanced further by composting both food wastes and compostable packaging waste. However, confirm with your waste contractor whether they send organic waste to composting facilities. Otherwise collect this packaging as a separate waste stream and arrange for specialist collection.

To simplify the recycling process for staff and visitors:

• Use the same packaging/containers for all snacks with clear signage for their disposal

• If using different types of packaging, use coloured packaging or markers which correspond to their disposal bins

• Label the packaging with recycling instructions which indicate the correct bin for their disposal. Again, these should align with the images or colours used for the bins within the theatre

• Have specific packaging bins which will reduce contamination and allow for specialist collections

• Use sustainable packaging providers who used plant based or recycled content in their products


Procure equipment that can be refurbished (off-site if necessary) by the producer to maximise its lifespan.

Lease café and kitchen equipment such as coffee machines, or enter agreements with suppliers to accept the machines back at end of life.

Recycle kitchen equipment (e.g. ovens, dishwashers) through specialist or local authority collection if they cannot be returned to the supplier.

Waste Contractors

Ensure that your selected waste contractor collects waste in waste streams that match your waste separation. Discuss and agree the level of commitment expected of the contractor. Agree waste targets, including rate of recycling and disposal conditions. Include break clauses in the contract if these commitments are not being met or collection practices are found to be poor.


It can be hard to ensure that school visitors comply with waste practices, especially at different ages and reading abilities.

Group visits are often scheduled in advance. If you have regular schools visits, the bins in the theatre can be replaced with ‘fun bins’ that are more accessible to children. These bins are lightweight and easy to move but can have names, specific colours for different waste, or (if you regularly work with young children) be shaped as animals or monsters. These bins can also signal to staff a likely higher level of contamination because the bins have been used by children. 

Consider including a waste section in the guidance sent to schools before they visit, so as to introduce the theatre’s recycling programme, explain the fun bins and set expectations for children in terms of waste. By sending this beforehand, teachers can prepare children, increase recycling rates and reduce contamination.

BOH and Visitors

Site inductions should include information regarding waste and how waste is separated within the theatre. 

Emphasise waste awareness and education for visitors (e.g. by clear and consistent signage).

External visitors and visiting cast members may bring in their own food, which can introduce additional waste. Offer visitors and guests discounts for eating at theatre catering facilities. Ask cast for preferences and dietary requirements ahead of arrival to ensure they are catered for.

Discourage or ban commercially prepared outside food from being brought into the theatre. This does not include food prepared at home.

Refuse cast requests that will generate unnecessary waste for the theatre, and offer alternatives which would result in less waste. Do not offer free fruit bowls as they often generate waste when the fruit is left uneaten.

Staff Facilities

Use tea towels instead of paper towels in BOH kitchenettes.

Provide staff with ceramic plates and mugs, as well as reusable glasses and cutlery in staff kitchenettes to avoid their reliance on single use alternatives.

Provide food heating facilities for staff to encourage them to bring food from home, rather than buying packaged take-away food. There can be a loss of control when people bring in food from outside, so consider capturing this material separately from the theatre waste.

Offer staff discounted rates in the theatre café/restaurant to reduce food waste and discourage buying food externally.

Back of House : General Waste

Discourage printer usage except where necessary. Buy refillable ink cartridges.

Bin controls and dedicated stations with clear signage should extend to BOH and offices, with disposal instructions that are easy for all staff and visitors to follow. 

Use pens with refillable ink instead of single use pens. Align with a pen recycling services (e.g. Rymans pen disposal). Either collect used pens and return to the local stationary shop, or agree their disposal with the waste contractor.

Where possible use pens made from recycled plastic.

Dressing Rooms and Workshops

See Toolkit Guidance for Dressing Rooms, Rehearsals and Workshops.

Use refillable containers for cleaning products. These can be bought in bulk or provided and refilled by the cleaning contractor.

Ensure all spaces stream waste appropriately for collection and recycling.

Specialist hazardous waste generated from chemicals and crafting modelling equipment must be kept separate from all other waste (designated bins and storage areas) and handled with care. Do not mix hazardous waste with any other waste as it will contaminate the entire waste stream. Hire specialist contractors to collect and remove this waste for disposal or destruction.


See Theatre Green Book Sustainable Productions for reuse and recycling of production materials.