Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) were the first major venue in Scotland to achieve ISO 20121 certification. This international standard for sustainable event management was designed specifically for the event industry to improve the sustainability of business related activities, products and services.
Given the nature of the event industry, waste is something which fluctuates along with the quantity and type of events held at the venue. As such, a key focus for AECC was targeting the environmental impact of the business in order to address this.
In the first six months of 2014, only 60.5% of waste was diverted from landfill, with around 11.5 tonnes going to landfill every month. This did not fit with the evolving company ethos, nor the journey to sustainability and it became clear that things had to change.
The first step was to investigate how waste can be managed by external waste contractors and worked back towards how it is managed within the building. This resulted in making a commitment to changing behaviours within the company itself; clearly signposting waste disposal points, engaging with staff and developing how waste is managed within the venue.
With the work of AECC’s dedicated staff and the appointed specialist waste management contractor, AECC has successfully managed to divert 100% of all waste from landfill, since July 2014.
Exhibition carpets are recycled into plastic pellets, as the events held in the venue each year can use up to 120, 000m2 (30, 000 tonnes) of carpet, which in the past would have went as general waste products. Dry Mixed Recycling (cardboard, paper, plastic, cans/tins/foil) is recycled into materials such as plastic “Bags for Life”, toilet paper, and direct recycling into aluminium cans, steel cans, etc. All food waste is composted, including Vegware (compostable) products which are used in the venue in place of paper plates, paper/plastic cups, plastic cutlery, napkins, food packaging in the venue’s food outlets. In addition, event organisers are encouraged to offset their carbon footprint through Trees4Scotland, a company dedicated to planting native permanent woodlands in Scotland.
General waste is “picked” to salvage any materials suitable for recycling, the residual general wastes are then put to a Waste-to-Energy disposal route to convert/recover them into electricity to be utilised by the national grid. This is a greener solution than landfill and as such, is the preferred solution.
This work culminated in AECC achieving an overall recycling rate of 74% in 2015 with the remaining 26% going to Waste-to-Energy rather than landfill.
The learning process involved in the journey to ISO20121 and sustainability is continual, and even being one of the first venues of its kind in Scotland to achieve the standard in May 2015, AECC are continually evaluating and improving business practises and processes in order to maintain the momentum of the sustainability journey.