Waste Management & Nutrient Circularity

Waste Management &
Nutrient Circularity


1. Overview and problem statement

Did you know…?

In 2021 in Germany, around 13% of all materials were reused as part of the circular economy. For this portion, no new raw materials had to be extracted. In countries with a more advanced circular economy like the Netherlands, the rate was 33%.32

Properly used, waste serves as a nutrient again and again and can be used as a resource for something new. The problem: most products today are not designed to circulate continuously in our economy. So at some point they become waste, whether in everyday life or at major events.

On average, 1.5 kilograms of waste are produced per person per day at a festival. Extrapolated to 60,000 people in a field that generates huge mountains of trash. However, 1.5 kilograms of trash is only 200 grams more than we generate on average in our everyday lives. At home, however, we are much more conscious about separating waste and also have a more or less functioning waste management system. 33

The bigger the event, the more visible the waste generated onsite and the more complicated the separation of the waste, both for participants before and behind the stage. At the same time, there is a great opportunity to avoid waste and promote awareness that waste can be a reusable resource in a circular economy.

2. Our Benchmark for Tempelhof Lab

At Tempelhof Lab, we attempted whenever possible, to consider waste as a nutritional substance for something new and not as worthless garbage. Unfortunately this is still not 100% achievable today, so a good waste management system is still required to properly separate the resulting waste.

  • Use as many recyclable products as possible throughout the project: In the production of the concerts, in the audience area, but also in the other project components.
  • Where waste is unavoidable: Separate in such a way to make reuse, recycling, and composting possible. Avoid garbage destined for a landfill as much as possible.
  • Recycle food scraps through onsite composting projects and industrial composting. Recycle nutrients from solid and liquid toilet waste to produce phosphorus fertilizer and humus.
  • Ideally, implement reusable dishes and cups everywhere with a fund deposit system to avoid single-use waste.
  • Visibility, education and gamification: well-placed, visible waste stations with simple and understandable signage and, ideally, gamified elements. Proper waste separation should be made as easy as possible.

3. What worked well, what can be improved?

At Tempelhof Lab, various measures were taken to address waste, circular economy and reusing resources:

Waste Disposal in Public Areas:

What worked well?

  • Creation of a comprehensive waste system in cooperation with Remondis. In public areas waste was separated into the following categories: Food waste, residual waste, PET bottle collection, biodegradable disposable tableware.
  • Advance communication with the public via website and ticket about which materials were permissible to bring onsite.
  • Raise awareness onsite through 25 personally supervised waste stations (so-called “nutritional substance islands”). Voluntary ambassadors of C2C NGO supervise the waste stations at peak hours to minimize improper disposal and clarify correct garbage separation and the circularity concept/C2C goals for concerts.
  • Reusable deposit mug for beverages.
  • Educational project: 24-hour direct composting facility in which small amounts of vegan food waste were turned into compost.
  • Use of biodegradable disposable mono-material tableware as an alternative to reusable dishes. Test trial with composting toilet manufacturer Finizio and the ZirkulierBar research project on the compostability of biodegradable disposable tableware.
  • Briefing of the catering contractor about the waste disposal system for further communication to the food vendors.

What can be improved?

  • Too many materials end up in the garbage; the faulty disposal rate in the “nutritional substance island” could have been lower.
  • Allowing only PET bottles on the premises; no tetrapacks, as these are not recyclable.
  • Use of reusable tableware as a recyclable solution.
  • Coordinate waste generation immediately outside the concert venue. The proportion of glass/refundable bottles brought in was underestimated.

Disposal Concept Production, Gastronomy & Merchandise:

What worked well?

  • Creation of an extensive waste disposal system in cooperation with Remondis. The separation categories in the backstage-/ production area were:
    • Food: PPC (paper, paper board, carton), plastic bags, glass, food leftovers and used grease, residual waste
    • Production: PPC, plastic bags, glass, residual waste
    • Merchandize: Residual waste, PPC
    • Immediately in front of the event site: glass, residual waste.
  • On-site commercial yard with staff supervision and multiple trash compactors.
  • Separation in the commercial yard into nine categories:
    • Residual waste, reusable material, organic waste, PPC, glass (white/colorful), food leftovers, used grease, compostable waste, wood.
  • Recording of materials and material flows, subsequent evaluation and oversight by Remondis.

What can be improved?

  • Discussions/ visits with employees in production, food stalls and other service providers about waste disposal system and separation categories instead of offering only a written briefing.
  • Better labeling of bins in the backstage-/ production area.
  • Reusable coffee cups in the backstage area were partially disposed of or only used once (loss of nearly 30%). Strong focus on bringing reusable cups over providing reusable cups onsite.
  • Continuous oversight of recycling bins is necessary, in order to guarantee a purely sorted separation.
  • Avoid additional waste generated by issuing admission wristbands.

4. Findings and Recommendations

  • Waste disposal system in public areas and back stage-/ production areas was comprehensive and accompanied by educational exhibits for concertgoers. In total the waste system reduced CO₂ emissions by nearly 4.9 tons. Nevertheless, even the best waste system for one event cannot eliminate the structural problems with waste disposal or completely avoid improper disposal by individuals.
    • Public area: Allow only fully recyclable materials to be brought in (e.g., PET bottles), as these can be collected and recycled. Do not allow non-recyclable products such as tetra packs. These measures must be communicated clearly and broadly to the public in advance. The fewer problematic materials that are brought to the event, the more effective the waste system.
    • Backstage/ production: The crew should be informed in advance exactly which materials/products are recyclable and which materials should be avoided. This can be done through individual discussions, briefings, material checklists, sustainability principles, etc. and is the responsibility of the event organizers and the venue. Inform all employees in multiple ways about the requirements for waste separation. It is advisable to have a point person on waste disposal for each industry involved. It is also a good idea to connect all onsite service providers with one point person for any questions about the waste system.
    • When designing the waste disposal system, always consider the outdoor area in front of the entrance and do not underestimate the volume of waste there in the form of glass bottles, deposit bottles, PET bottles and tetra packs. A residual waste garbage bin with proper labeling, distinguished by color, should also be placed next to each glass recycling bin.
    • The better the waste stations in the audience area and backstage/production area are labeled (by lettering, colors, pictograms at eye level…), the better waste separation works.
    • Staffing the waste stations further reduces the rate of misplaced waste. It can be worthwhile to combine the waste system in the public areas with educational exhibits, if there is sufficient personnel. NGOs can also be approached for support.
    • For the waste system design, strategically place waste bins and make them visible. For example, near the food stalls, and marked with high-flying flags.
    • In the commercial yard: ensure continuous oversight to prevent misdirected waste. If no qualified personnel are onsite, close the commercial yard.
    • Cigarette butts should be collected separately; there are collection systems already available with gamification elements.
    • Waste separation and disposal in Germany are very complex issues. Our experience from the project shows that people are already overwhelmed by numerous bins and waste categories used at home. At the same time, more precise waste separation leads to better disposal and thus to a better climate- and resource-balance.
    • By evaluating the waste quantities after the event, important conclusions can be drawn for improving the waste disposal at future events.
  • The question of how much waste is generated from the food service industry is directly related to the question of how food and beverages are served.
    • Priority should always be for a reusable system.
    • Reusable systems for tableware must be planned in advance with all service providers.
    • Setting up a waste deposit fund system for food vendors can motivate them to separate waste.
  • Additional waste often arises in places that are hardly considered in advance. Not every well-intentioned solution is really good from a resource and climate perspective.
    • In the case of paper admission wristbands with adhesive strips, the covering film of the adhesive strip generates waste. This must be taken into account and collected at the issuing points, otherwise this waste ends up in the environment.
    • RFID chips in festival wristbands are electronic waste and therefore hazardous waste – which is why separate collection and processing is necessary.

5. Service Provider Contacts

6. Further inspiration from the industry

The Futur2 Festival in Hamburg (capacity 5,000) has strict sustainability standards and produces – after sorting out recyclable material such as glass bottles – only 36g of waste per day per visitor. The festival’s goal is to become 100% waste-free. However, it must be mentioned that the Futur2 Festival does not have a camping area and thus the amount of waste is generally lower than at multi-day festivals with camping. 34

Since 2022, the Roskilde festival (capacity 130,000) has been using partially pre-installed tents, in order to avoid the waste of left behind camping equipment. In addition, the festival uses a large-scale communications campaign to ensure simple and correct waste disposal, with slogans like ”Leave No Trace” or “Clean and Loud Campsite.” 35

German Protestant Church Day (capacity around 300,000) has consistently used reusable materials since the 1980s, avoiding 280,000 single-use plastic cups, plates and cutlery each year. All items used are provided with a deposit system and are either washed onsite by the reusable tableware service provider or transported back to the manufacturer if it is located close enough to the washing center. 36

H.I.T. fertilizer

Humus fertilizer from the contents of dry toilets.


Liquid fertilizer containing the nutrients nitrogen (N), phosphate (P) and potassium (K).

900 tons of CO₂ emissions

This is equivalent to either 900 flights from Frankfurt to New York or 297,000 kilometers of driving in a petrol car.


Device in which CO₂ is ejected into the air, creating a white mist.

C2C quality

C2C textiles are fully recyclable and material healthy. The fabric itself is recyclable and the fibers washed out during the laundering process are harmless to the environment. In addition to the fabric, dyes, ink and process chemicals used in production are also optimized for material health. Social standards are met during production and renewable energy is used.

Textiles in Cradle to Cradle quality

C2C textiles are fully recyclable and material healthy. The fabric itself is recyclable and the fibers washed out during the laundering process are harmless to the environment. In addition to the fabric, dyes, ink and process chemicals used in production are also optimized for material health. Social standards are met during production and renewable energy is used.

Textile materials

A large proportion of all clothing manufactured and sold today is made of synthetic fibers. Polyester alone has a market share of around 50%. Textiles made from natural fibers, i.e. fibers from renewable raw materials, are usually dyed or printed with environmentally harmful dyes. In addition, chemical substances are used in the production process, for example to fix the dyes. These chemicals do not only endanger the environment but also the health of the people who work in the production process and who wear the garments. Thus, whether a garment is truly sustainable depends not only on the fabric, but also on all the other materials used. Because with every laundry cycle, the garment automatically loses thousands of microfibers, which then end up in the waterways. And that’s exactly what these fibers have to be designed for. In other words, regardless of whether the fabric is made synthetically or from natural fibers, only materials that are appropriate for us humans to come into contact with during production and wear and that are biodegradable when they end up in the environment as washed-out fibers should be used in textile production. C2C textiles are designed according to this principle.

recover phosphorus

Starting in 2029, wastewater treatment plants in Germany – depending on the size of the community served – will be required to recover phosphorus from wastewater, sewage sludge, or sewage sludge ash.

C2C certification

Certification according to the Cradle to Cradle criteria is carried out by the Products Innovation Institute (PII), which is based in San Francisco and Amsterdam. The organization certifies products based on five criteria, in each of which four different levels can be achieved. The PII and Cradle to Cradle NGO are independent organizations.

Osmosis filter

In the osmosis filter system, gray water is first purified on a biological basis, then pressed through a bio-membrane filter, which almost completely eliminates solids, viruses and bacteria from the water. The final step is ultrafiltration, which ensures almost 100% sterility.

>> Further information on the osmosis filter

Black water and gray water

Black water and gray water are different categories of wastewater. Black water is water contaminated with fecal matter. Gray water is water that is slightly polluted and free of fecal matter, such as rainwater or wastewater from hand-washing sinks.

Euro standard

As the European exhaust emission standard, the Euro standard sets limits for the emission of air pollutants. They are defined in Europe by the EU. Compliance is measured and checked in the laboratory when new vehicles are type-approved and, in the case of trucks and buses, also in real-world operation. Euro 6d has been the strictest standard for passenger cars since January 2021, and Euro VI for trucks (over 3.5 tons). While the emissions standard sets limits for carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate mass and number, it says nothing about a vehicle’s CO2 emissions. These are defined for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles in a separate EU regulation.

Easy langage

Leichte Sprache (easy language) is a simpler and less complex form of everyday German. It is aimed at people who find it difficult to read or understand a text in everyday language. In texts in easy language, for example, there are no foreign words or abbreviations. The set of rules is published by the Netzwerk Leichte Sprache. It is comparable to Easy Read in English.


Plasticizers are added to plastics, coatings, adhesives and textiles to make brittle materials soft and supple. Many of the substances used as plasticizers are considered to be harmful to the environment and human health. In addition to plasticizers, packaging can also contain other harmful substances that may be used up to certain permitted limits but still reduce the recyclability of the material.


PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is a plastic polymer and is produced as rigid PVC (drain pipes, window profiles, etc.) as well as soft PVC. Soft PVC is used for floor coverings, films, children’s toys, hoses, cable sheathing, seals, etc. and consists of up to 40% plasticizers, some of which are harmful, especially as they are released to humans and the environment during production and use of the products. Due to the many additives, PVC is hardly recyclable and is usually incinerated (thermal recycling), which produces toxic dioxins.


Canceling (cancel culture) refers to the exclusion of individuals or organizations that are accused of offensive, discriminatory or racist statements or actions, among other things. The term is also used by people who are accused of this behavior. The term and the actions behind it are the subject of much public debate, see here and here.

Sir David Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough is a British naturalist, writer and wildlife filmmaker best known for his award-winning nature documentaries.

Social ticketing

Offering different price categories for an event, adapted to the respective financial circumstances.


FLINTA* stands for Female, Lesbian, Intersex, Trans and Agender. It stands for anyone who is not a cis man. Cis or cisgender is the opposite of transgender. The asterisk includes all non-binary gender identities as a placeholder.

Which way to Panama?

The concept with the code question “Which way to Panama” was introduced in 2017 by the concert organizer FKP Scorpio. The aim is to be able to offer visitors simple and uncomplicated help in any emergency situation by naming this code sentence.

Initiative Barrierefrei Feiern

Nationwide collective (in German) of people with disabilities and their allies advocating for accessible cultural opportunities


Awareness means being aware of problems and conflicts. Awareness concepts create safe spaces in which all people can feel comfortable because no assault or discriminatory behavior is tolerated. The definition of what is assaultive or discriminatory for a person or a group is not questioned.


Social inclusion means the accentuation, inclusion and equal participation of all people in a society.

Waste separation

Proper waste separation is not that simple. Even in Germany, where there is a comparatively extensive separation system. For example, a pizza box is made of cardboard, and therefore paper. But soiled by grease and pizza remnants, it still doesn’t belong in the waste paper bin, but in the residual waste bin.

At the Tempelhof laboratory, we have set up two residual waste garbage cans at each of the nutrient islands, a bio garbage can for leftovers/food waste and another bio garbage can for the biodegradable tabelware. In addition, a garbage bag was hung up for the collection of PET bottles, which the public was allowed to bring onto the grounds.
The background of this composition, which is quite different from the system known from everyday life in Germany: The disposable tableware was to be composted in a separate field trial, because industrial composting facilities are set in specific temperatures and composting cycles to ensure that food and food residues can be composted without residue. However, these cycles do usually not composte biodegradable tableware items. This does not mean that this tableware is not compostable – the ZirkulierBar research project has already demonstrated this by adding shredded biodegradable disposable tableware to the humus composting process. But composting takes place at a different temperature and for a different composting time than, for example, vegetable peelings, for which the cycles of industrial composting plants are designed.

Planetary Boundaries

Planetary boundaries define the safe operating framework for humanity. If these ecological limits are overstepped, our natural ecosystems collapse and the existence of humankind is endangered. The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research has defined nine such boundaries, six of which have been considered exceeded since 2022.


This means that the cultivation of a plant has an overall positive impact. A plant from regenerative agriculture has been grown in such a way that the cultivation increases the nutrient content in the soil, the biodiversity in the cultivation area or the quality of the water in the region. The cultivation of the plant therefore has a positive impact on all the resources that are needed in the cultivation process.

Real costs

Real costs can be shown when the so-called external effects arising from the production or consumption of a product are included in the price. These are usually negative externalities, for example environmental damages or health damages caused by the production or consumption of a certain product. Usually, these costs are not covered by the pollutur, but by society. As a result, there are differences between private returns of economic activities and the returns or costs to society as a whole. In this specific example of food at events, the real costs of a dish can be calculated by measuring the resource consumption and CO₂ footprint incurred in the production of a certain dish, quantifying it and adding it to the price. Calculating real prices would make many products that are harmful to health and the environment significantly more expensive than before, and generally more expensive than sustainable or C2C products.

Cradle Village

The Cradle Village was an area equipped with pavilions between the entrance and the stage. It was part of the educational concept around circularity and C2C onsite. Various NGOs were represented there as well as some C2C cases exhibited as educational projects.

Regenerative agriculture

Regenerative agriculture is an agricultural approach that focuses on soil and plant health. The goal is to build healthy, fertile soil through agricultural cultivation, thereby increasing yields while creating positive impacts on carbon and water cycles as well as biodiversity. The approach contrasts with conventional agriculture, in which the use of pesticides, heavy agricultural machinery and monocultures, among other things, reduces biodiversity and causes lasting damage to soils. Regenerative agriculture can complement organic agriculture, which avoids the use of hazardous substances but is often associated with lower yields than conventional agriculture.


Biofuels are fuels obtained from biomass. The environmental friendliness of these also depends on whether their raw materials are in competition with the food production industry (for example, corn) or whether the fuels are obtained from residual materials.

Smart grids

In smart grids, power load management improves the utilization of the existing infrastructure and thus makes more efficient use of energy.

Peak Shaving

Peak shaving can be used to stabilize the power generated by energy networks. Periods in which a particularly large amount of power is available (power peaks) are capped.

Green hydrogen

Green hydrogen fuel uses renewable energy instead of conventional energy for the electrolysis to produce hydrogen. Its production makes sense in regions where sufficient renewable energy sources in the form of sun or wind are available to power water electrolysis.

Battery Regulation

Among other things, this regulation is intended to make a battery pass mandatory in order to provide incentives for recyclable battery design and the recycling of battery components.

Authentic green electricity

Authentic green electricity means that the supplier invests part of the revenue from the sale of green electricity in the development of new plants for the generation of electricity from renewable sources. In this way, the provider helps to ensure that the electricity mix improves in the long term and the share of renewable energy grows steadily. Im Germany, such providers can be identified by labels such as “ok-power” or “Grüner Strom“.

Cradle to Cradle

Cradle to Cradle (C2C) is an approach to a circular economy that goes a little further. Instead of producing less waste, using fewer resources, causing less environmental damage, or merely aiming for climate neutrality, products and processes are to be designed in such a way that added value is created as a result. In other words, a positive impact on the climate through a new way of handling resources. Because if we only cause less damage through our actions, we only delay the problems we cause, but do not solve them.

We can only solve climate and resource problems permanently by setting positive goals. By consistently integrating our actions into biological cycles and creating technical cycles, we achieve real added value: ecologically, economically and socially. C2C products consist of materials that are healthy for people and the environment and can circulate in biological and technical cycles. If a material in a product is automatically consumed (for example, the abrasion from a tire while driving or fibers from a T-shirt that are washed out in the washing machine), then this material must also be suitable for ending up in the environment. It must therefore be completely biodegradable.

All other products must be designed in such a way that all their components and materials can be separated and reused again and again. Either directly, after remanufacturing or repairing, or through a recycling, which preserves the quality of the material. In the production of such C2C products, we use only renewable energy, preserve or improve the quality of water and soil, and have fair and humane working conditions.
Business models such as product service models, beneficial use or leasing help to keep materials and products in the cycle.

>> more information

Circular economy

Derived from the EU Commission’s Circular Economy Action Plan, the term “circular economy” encompasses “all stages of value creation – from product design and production to consumption, repair, waste management and secondary raw materials fed back into the economy.”
The transformation of our current linear economy, (resources are taken from the earth, used and then mostly become worthless waste) to a circular economy is an overarching policy goal in the EU and in all member states – including Germany. The German government is currently (as of June 2023) developing the so-called National Circular Economy Strategy, which aims to reduce the need for newly extracted raw materials. A circular economy and resource conservation are thus intended to contribute to climate neutrality and decarbonization.

In the case of the Tempelhof Lab, we attempted to design as many aspects of the concerts as possible in such a way that resources are kept in circulation or incentives are provided for this. Ideally, this meant using a C2C product or C2C process with a positive impact on people and the environment. Where this was not possible, an alternative was sought that was sustainable in the classic sense, i.e. at least caused less harm than a conventional solution.

CO2 compensation

Organizations that offer compensation for CO2 emissions can be certified according to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) standard. Gold Standard is a standard developed by an alliance of non-governmental organizations such as WWF, which is considered the most demanding standard for voluntary emissions trading.

These contacts are merely a selection, without any claim to completeness. The selection is based on the companies with which the Tempelhof Lab project worked or had contact.

Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO)

Hydrotreated or hydrogenated vegetable oils (HVO) are oils that have been chemically converted into hydrocarbons and can thus be used as fuel. They are used as an addition to or substitute for diesel fuel and emit up to 90% less CO2 compared to diesel. Oil plants, residues from the agricultural industry, but also used cooking oils can be used as raw materials for HVO. If residual or waste materials are used, production does not compete with food production and causes lower CO2 emissions in production. If HVO is produced from palm oil, the greenhouse gas balance deteriorates considerably because rainforests are cleared for the cultivation of oil palms. Therefore, a supplier should be chosen that guarantees the exclusion of primary palm oil as a raw material.


Offsetting CO2 emissions is not a sufficient strategy for achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, and certainly not for taking climate-positive action. The provider atmosfair points out exactly this on its website and thus encourages active action. The climate protection projects supported by atmosfair are for the most part twice certified: Under the standard of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and under Gold Standard (standard developed by an alliance of NGOs such as the WWF, which is considered the most demanding standard for voluntary emissions trading). atmosfair is transparent in its use of funds and, according to its own statements, only supports projects that take into account other important aspects of environmental protection in addition to the CO2 aspect.

Tempelhof Lab

The Tempelhof Lab concerts took place under very specific conditions: Tempelhof Airport as an open air location in the middle of Berlin, 60,000 visitors per concert and full support of the bands involved. Solutions that were feasible and sensible in this scenario may not be sensible or possible under other framework conditions. Conversely, some great C2C ideas were not scalable for this size of an event, but work perfectly fine under other framework conditions. Therefore, the goals described in this Guidebook and the measures derived from them are not a universally applicable checklist, but rather highlight opportunities and the right questions to ask for the most climate- and resource-positive event possible.