Reflecting the Association’s drive to encourage sustainable practices in the promotional products industry, PPAI has sought to make its operations and that of its trade shows and conferences as environmentally friendly as possible. This year, The PPAI Expo 2023 reached a huge milestone, qualifying as a zero-waste event.

The Accomplishment

In 2015, PPAI set the goal to transition The PPAI Expo to a zero-waste event. Working in collaboration with exhibitors, vendors and the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, the Association’s show management team put policies and practices in place to minimize waste and to divert as much of what remains as possible away from landfills to be recycled or reused.

“The PPAI Expo’s designation as a zero-waste event is a huge accomplishment following years of due diligence,” says Maurice Norris, PPAI’s public affairs manager. “Part of PPAI’s learn/do/teach process for sustainability initiatives involves practicing what the Association preaches, including delivering zero-waste and carbon-neutral events. This dovetails with PPAI’s intent to prioritize waste diversion as part of the broader goal to be a zero-waste industry.”

In Numbers

In 2023, 107,862.02 pounds of material from The PPAI Expo was recycled. This number represents plastics, paper, cardboard, wood, metal and other substances.

  • Plastics, at 26,995.5 pounds, and cardboard, at 23,756.04 pounds, represent the largest shares of waste generated by The PPAI Expo.
  • Additional 2023 donations from The PPAI Expo to Mandalay Bay charitable partners in the Las Vegas area included: 720 pounds of furniture, 60 pounds of plants, 300 pounds of foam boards and three boxes of pens, weighing 45 pounds.

“Diversion rate of 90% or better is considered a zero-waste event, definitely an achievement to be proud of,” says Jim Jensen, recycling manager at Mandalay Bay. “Donations tallied up to approximately 1,200 pounds, and we thank PPAI for the help in supporting our community. It was a pleasure having PPAI here this year and always look forward to having them back.”

The 54 tons of recycled material from The PPAI Expo represents 90% of the show’s waste, qualifying it as a zero-waste event, as defined by the Zero Waste International Alliance and the National Recycling Coalition.

  • Why not 100%? The ZWIA and NRC consider 90% a reasonable and ambitious target for recycling in industry and has been accepted by environmental, recycling and Zero Waste leaders all around the world.

Making It Happen

To reach the zero-waste milestone, PPAI, working with Mandalay Bay management and show exhibitors, scrutinized every detail, adopted numerous new policies and communicated extensively with its partners. These measures included:

  • Working directly with show vendors regarding waste and recycling practices, the implementation of new policies, and the development of their own plans for sustainability.
  • Year-by-year questioned reported weights of the various waste streams and recycled commodities.
  • Analyzed the handling of all waste and recycled items, including dumpsters their transportation as they were moved from on-site to recycling or waste facilities.
  • Established various accountability measures and tracked progress on the ground.
  • Addressed sustainability before, during and post-show.
  • Redirected exhibitor and show management materials to either recycling or donation for reuse.
  • Posted signage on individual choices regarding using sustainable drinkware, flatware and reusable dishes rather than single-use items.
  • Expanding PPAI’s own understanding of sustainability and putting it into practice.
  • Offering education and suggestions on sustainable practices for exhibitors, attendees and guests.

Up Next

To learn more about The PPAI Expo’s zero waste achievement and further efforts to ensure the sustainability of the promotional products industry’s largest and longest-running trade show, look for the April issue of PPAI Magazine. Norris’ article, “Tour De Force,” looks behind the scenes of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center’s sustainability practices and how industry businesses can apply them to their own operations.