Massachusetts Convention Center Authority helps nonprofits put leftover materials to good use
Anyone who has ever been around a convention center after an event wraps up has seen the boxes of promotional materials, chairs and other items that get left behind. The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority collected 83 tons of materials in 2011, but rather than going to the landfill, it all ended up in the hands of nonprofits that were able to put it to good use. Backpacks and toothbrushes go to charities that serve local children. Three hundred floral centerpieces from a show last month were delivered to senior centers in the neighborhood. “We like to say, ‘Whatever you leave behind, we’re going to find a place for it,’” authority spokeswoman Katie Hauser says.
The authority—which operates the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center in Boston, Boston Common Garage and MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass.—officially launched the Conventions C.A.R.E. (Community Assistance by Responsible Events) program in 2010. Before that, the authority would sometimes take boxes of T-shirts to a local shelter, but the initiative actively encourages groups to donate their used materials. The authority distributes flyers asking exhibitors and meeting planners to consider leaving behind office supplies, building materials, medical products, bags, furniture, clothing, food and toiletries. Once the event wraps up, blue donation bins are wheeled out onto the trade-show floor. Workers sort through the material, trying to recycle what can’t be used, and arrange pickup or delivery with the charities.
Such donation programs aren’t unheard of in the convention industry. The San Diego Convention Center, for example, has a similar initiative that encourages exhibitors to leave unwanted materials behind. Several other convention centers have programs that distribute leftover catering to food banks, and some specific conventions organize arrangements with a particular nonprofit themselves.
Hauser says the amount of materials left behind can range from 250 pounds for smaller events to tens of thousands of pounds. After one of hardware distributor Orgill Inc.’s dealer markets, 96,000 pounds of building materials and other goods went to Habitat for Humanity. “We’ve had shows just leave an incredible amount of stuff,” she says.
Exhibitors love Conventions C.A.R.E. “because it gives them something they can tout,” Hauser says. “They’re doing something good, and they don’t have to pay to ship back the unused items. It’s definitely one of my favorite things we do here.”