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Waste Reduction

Reducing the amount of waste produced is a win – win.  Not only does it reduce purchasing costs, but it can reduce waste disposal costs.  See below for tips on reducing waste.

Conduct a Waste Audit:

To reduce waste, you need to know what is being thrown away and the best way to do that is a waste audit.  During a waste audit, the auditor collects trash and recycling to determine the sources, composition, weight, volume and destination.  

Consider Disposal When Purchasing:

Foam products displace in excess of four times the amount of storage and disposal volume than their paper equivalent does. Consider switching to paper packaging to reduce the volume of garbage being generated, if a large part of your garbage consists of foam containers. 

Reusable Products:

Consider replacing frequently disposed items with reusable products.  Reusable and branded products build brand recognition.  One option to encourage customers to bring reusable items is to provide a discount.  Items also serve as great giveaways, awards and gifts.  Plus, branded items can be sold.  

Food Waste:

According to U.S. EPA more than 38 million tons of food was thrown away in 2014.  Food wasted is money and resources wasted.  Some tips for reducing food waste:
  • Use a first-in first-out tracking system
  • Order only what you need
  • Consider using the whole item (e.g., “nose-to-tail” cooking, broccoli stems…)
  • Monitor portions and “right size” them as necessary.  If no one can finish a meal, maybe it’s too much food.
  • Consider providing half-portions on standard menu items
  • Donate excess food from events
  • Compost food waste.  For more information on composting visit EPA's website on composting.
  • 5 Food Waste Myths to Debunk: Explore 5 myths about food waste and the facts you need to debunk them in your kitchen.
  • World Wildlife Fund and Hotel Kitchen have resources for learning more about reducing food waste in hotel kitchens. 

Single-Use Plastic Straws:

Plastic straws were among the top 10 items reported by volunteers during a statewide Virginia Waterways Cleanup.  Reduce straw debris by providing straws only when requested or not at all.  The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has put together a list of 10 Reasons to Skip the Straw.  

Use Integrated Pest Management:

US EPA defines Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.'  Learn more about EPA's IPM.

Virginia Green Travel Star Tip for Pest Management: 

Wild Wolf Brewing Company in Nellysford, Virginia has reduced their use of hazardous chemicals to manage rodents and other pests.  Cats were adopted to replace poison for rodent control.  In their gardens, the brewery introduced predatory insects such as ladybugs and praying mantis’ to control pests.  

Beverage Cup Reuse:

Many distributor representatives claim that cups cannot be refilled due to health concerns. Virginia Department of Health staff confirms that the refilling of beverage containers is allowed as long as measures are taken to ensure that it is a contamination-free process. When refilling cups, simply ask the person pouring to make sure that the cup does not touch the tap while refilling. (Reference: 12VAC5-421-600)

Prevent Cigarette Litter:

  • Provide for signage and cigarette butt collection urns in designated locations.
  • Partnering with Keep Virginia Beautiful to promote litter prevention at the event and/or pass out “pocket-ashtrays” to discourage littering.  

Do not allow Balloons & Other Airborne Releases: 

These are popular at many weddings and other events but cause contamination of local waterways.  See the “Joyful Send-off” campaign which offers alternative ideas to this practice.

Portable Restrooms: 

Specify to local providers that the cleaning solutions used should contain no butyl, glycol, toxic chemicals, or other hazardous pollutants.  


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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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