What happened to the event materials used at COP26?

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Image: Armen Sarkissian/WikiCommons Image: Armen Sarkissian/WikiCommons

More than 30 charities have benefited from materials used at last year's COP26 as part of the positive legacy of the event in Glasgow, the UK's largest ever business event.

The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) finally happened in Glasgow last year after being plagued with postponements due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Hosted at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) with associated meetings and events taking place across the city, COP26 drew the largest number of delegates in the conference’s history and used a huge quantity of event materials.

The event industry has a fractious relationship with reducing, reusing and recycling materials, but the theme of the conference dictated that sustainability had to be upheld, therefore the event materials were never going to end their days in landfill.

Identity Group, the event agency responsible for delivering COP26 on behalf of the UK Government and SEC, tasked Event Cycle with ensuring perfectly reusable materials were redistributed.

Event Cycle, an organisation set up to repurpose and redistribute items no longer needed by events to charities and community groups, secured homes for COP26 materials including fabric, stationery, white goods, wood, scenic build, carpet and graphics, ensuring anything that could be reused, was reused.

Organisations that benefited from the conference materials included those focused on early years development, the environment, social housing, men’s mental health, food and fuel poverty, hospice care, maritime history, and gardening.

Ross Galbraith projects development manager at Glasgow the Caring City, said the materials donated to them would help homeless families who are moving into properties and will save the organisation a huge amount of budget to spend on other things.

"We are looking to maximise the community benefit from all the fixtures and fittings from all the COP26 venues. There will be a range of benefactors from families who are homeless and moving into homes, schools, community organisations and art groups. We know that from the COP26 blue zone we have 90 sheets of MDF and 90 sheets of plywood which equates to about £25,000 worth of value. That will save community organisations in the city purchasing that. It allows groups to carry out their projects without having to dig into their own pockets."

Event Cycle co-founder Carina Jandt said: “Having worked in several streams of the event industry we have both seen the amount of good quality items left over at the end of events. Some are put in skips on site and some are transported to storage with good intentions of reuse but they are often forgotten about and put in skips offsite.”

So far, Event Cycle has donated 571 pallets of leftover event materials to more than 30 charitable organisations in Glasgow as part of the positive legacy left after the conference in November.

A number of items were dealt with as they appeared on-site, with the bulk of Event Cycle's work being carried out during the derig period when it arranged delivery and collection logistics with the registered charities and community groups.

Some of the staff members working at the COP26 conference were on-site from August until mid-December, with the site functioning as their home and office. Suitable accommodation had to be arranged, with fridges, microwaves, kettles, ironing boards, plants and lights. Items gathered from the staff offices and back-of-house areas were delivered to their new homes within 10 days of the event’s conclusion.

Beneficiaries of the materials include:

Glasgow Play Resource

An initiative organised by the Glasgow Play Resource Association, Re-Play collects and reuses industrial by-products, surplus materials and waste for the benefit of children. In so doing they support the realisation of social responsibility goals, the establishment of greener working practices, and alignment with a charity that helps children in the UK.

Working with Event Cycle, Re-Play was able to collect an assortment of mugs and glasses, which were transferred to the scrap store for the use of charity members. They will be used across a range of craft projects and activities; allowing for financial savings and the promotion of reuse and recycling.

Transition Stirling

Transition Stirling is an environmental charity that aims to support the people of Stirlingshire in the transition to a more resilient, sustainable way of living. It provides a positive local response to climate change, tying in with the aims of the COP26 conference.

Members have access to an expansive tool library, including sewing machines, mechanical tools, and cooking equipment. Items collected from COP26 will be made accessible for reuse by the local community. The cleaning materials are to be used rather than bought from new, as per the bins, fridge, and shredder. And the plants proved a lovely surprise, making the charity members feel very civilised in their own back of house areas.

Milngavie and Bearsden Men’s Shed

The Milngavie and Bearsden Men’s Shed is a safe and friendly place, where men local to East Dunbartonshire are able to gather for creative, physical, and purposeful activities. Pursuing their personal interests and learning from each other, the men benefit from reduced isolation and greater fulfilment. They can drop in for a cup of tea or coffee, enjoy the banter, and do as much work as they like.

Shelving was collected from COP26 and transported to the attic storage area of the Men’s Shed in readiness for installation.

Wheatley Foundation

Bringing together all of Wheatley Group’s Better Lives Programmes and activities under one roof, the Wheatley Foundation helps thousands of vulnerable and disadvantaged people from across central and southern Scotland each year.

Playing a key role during the Covid-19 pandemic, members of the foundation provided a lifeline for those in need across Scottish communities. They gave thanks for the collection of domestic items including microwaves, fridges, and ironing boards following COP26.

To find out more about Event Cycle’s work, follow them on social media channels through 2022 where donation and community stories will be shared to raise awareness of reusing event materials.

Holly Patrick
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Holly Patrick
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A desire to travel led Holly Patrick to the business meetings and events world and she’s never looked back. Holly takes a particular interest in event sustainability and creating a diverse and inclusive industry. When she’s not working, she can be found rolling skating along Brighton seafront listening to an eclectic playlist, featuring the likes of Patti Smith, Sean Paul, and Arooj Aftab.

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