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ITM: Working towards a no waste conference

In April, we worked with organisers at the ITM Conference in Birmingham to help redistribute items used at their event. ITM (or the Institute of Travel Management) support and develop the world of corporate travel, helping its members to smoothly manage their business travel plans. There was a whole range of different products to reuse from their conference, including some living decorations…



A new life for wristbands and lanyards


The conference used both silicone wristbands and recycled PET lanyards, which were sent to TerraCycle after the event for recycling. Although silicone has to be processed with specialist equipment to be recycled, it can actually be repurposed several times in its lifespan. It’s really hard-wearing, and, aside from wristbands, can be used to make everything from kitchen products to playgrounds. Silicone’s durability means it will stay in the environment for years to come, so it’s reassuring to know it’ll be serving a useful purpose thanks to TerraCycle.


The lanyards, made of PET, can be recycled in different ways, for example into polyester fibres. These can then be used in things like clothes, insulation and even carpet! Again, it’s great to be able to give an otherwise single-use item a longer lifespan as another product.



Rehoming event decor


Our work involves living products, too! The ITM Conference used some beautiful table centrepieces made from herbs, edible flowers and moss. While these natural products could be composted, we managed to extend their lifespans with the help of Cofton Road Allotments. The plants will be looked after by gardeners there and used to make their summer barbeques extra special. The allotments have also partnered with FoodCycle, who use surplus produce from around the country to cook meals for those in need. This means that not only will nothing go to waste, it will also make its way to people who can really benefit from it. Cared for properly, plant life makes wonderful decor that can be enjoyed, and used, long after events take place.


Cofton Road Allotments will also benefit from some other items used at the conference: 200 reusable water bottles were left over, and these will be shared out between gardeners as well as homeless individuals who benefit from the food grown at the allotments. There are some pretty scary statistics about plastic bottle use in the UK: 93 percent of the 38.5 million single-use plastic bottles we use here every day end up in landfill, incinerated or in our oceans (ZipWater), which is obviously something we want to avoid. Reusable bottles are certainly a step towards reducing this amount, as the average Briton uses 150 single-use plastic bottles every year. If everyone who receives one of the spare bottles from the ITM Conference uses it instead of buying single-use options, that’s a huge 30,000 plastic bottles that won’t be needed over the next year!


An opportunity for upcycling


We collaborated with Calluna Upcycling again to find a new use for a huge backdrop used at the conference. If an event needs some kind of backdrop, cloth can be a good alternative to materials like plastic, as repurposing it uses much less energy than would be required to recycle a sheet of plastic the same size. Natural fibres that haven’t been treated with harsh chemicals in the printing and dyeing process are a great option. In terms of the ITM Conference’s backdrop, Calluna Upcycling will make it into new products like tote bags, pencil cases and storage boxes so that it can be used over and over again. Even better, they donate 10% of the proceeds from each sale to Severn Hospice, so the repurposed fabric will be doing good in more ways than one!


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ZipWater, 2019. Why you should switch to a reusable water bottle. Available at: https://specify.zipwater.co.uk/news-and-views/sustainability/why-you-should-switch-to-a-reusable-water-bottle. (Accessed 18 May 2022)