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Promotional Items needn't cost the earth! Our guide for how to avoid plastics at your conference or event

We all know by now that plastics are not the most environmentally friendly and even though we still see plastics everywhere we look – many companies have taken steps to create plastic free alternative to your usual conference swag.

Non plastic does not have to mean you miss out on your usual conference and trade show tote bag swag- there are plenty of ecologically friendly alternatives that can help reduce your conference carbon footprint simply by using sustainable materials.


where’s the plastic at conferences?

Plastic at conferences is everywhere. We find it in our badges and badge holders, in our lanyards, in our promotional items such as pens, notebooks, stickers, even the tradeshow stands are made up of a LOT of plastics. If that’s not enough, we we also find it wrapped around the things we use before during and after the conference – that promo notebook did not wrap itself!

Lunch may consist of wrapped sandwiches, serviettes, plastic cutlery and plastic cups for water – most likely out of plastic water bottles… not to mention the coffee creamer and sugar in that all important mid morning coffee break! Phew – that’s a LOT of plastic in one place! 

  • Packaging. Most new items come in their own packaging – so even with the best of intentions we may still be bringing in plastic
  • Synthetic Materials. Backdrops, table cloths, banners, giveaways – if not plastic then probably a plastic derivative
  • Drinks Cans. Often lined with a plastic coating
  • Glue. from sticky tape to stick it notes, glue contains plastic
  • Coffee Cups. Single use cups, lids, straws and more – one of the worst offenders
  • Tech. Cables, chargers, carry cases, plastic plastic plastic
  • Bottles. Water bottles, pop bottles, cartons – likely a high percentage of plastic!
  • ID Cards. That’s right – printed on plastic!
  • Straws. Single use items – however plastic straws are now often outlawed at events
  • Balloons. Event stands + balloons = plastic
  • Pens. Chances are your old faithful swag pen is printable plastic

Recycled vs Recyclable

If plastic free wasn’t confusing enough, there are other things to consider. Biodegradable, compostable, recyclable, recycled, sustainable, partially-bio.. do any products fit the exact specification or are they simply better than the alternative? Let’s take a look!

top 12 plastic free alternatives


Bamboo is a green material. It is an evergreen grass that is becoming recognized as a viable, sustainable and engineered alternative to other materials in many areas worldwide

View Sustainable Swag #1 Bamboo Promotional Products

Recycled PET Plastic

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a highly recyclable plastic resin and a form of polyester. Frequently used in packaging, Lightweight and recyclable PET is even used in t shirt material

View Sustainable Swag #2 PET Plastic Promotional Products

View our Recycled PET Plastic Lanyards

Kraft Paper

Kraft is a paper board produced from Chemical Pulp. 100% eco-friendly, Kraft degrades naturally within a few weeks

View Sustainable Swag #3 Kraft Paper promotional products


Cotton paper, also known as rag paper or rag stock paper, is made using a cotton lint from cotton rags. … Cotton paper is super strong and produced no additional environmental impact

View Sustainable Swag #4 Cotton Promotional Products

View our Cotton Tote Bags


Cork isn’t just for wine – it has a wide range of applications for use in conference items such as bags, accessories, furniture, notepads and more

View Sustainable Swag #5 Cork Promotional Products

Wheat Straw

Just like plastic – wheat straw is lightweight and stands up to heavy treatment. Unlike plastic – this new bioplastic is not made from fossil fuels

View Sustainable Swag #6 Wheat Straw Promotional Products

Corn Starch

Cornstarch products include pens, mugs, and plastic substitutes  – 100% biodegradable and compostable

View Sustainable Swag #7 Cornstarch Promotional Products


Recyclable, compostable and biodegradable that disintegrate in landfills in as few as 5 years without leaving behind any toxic residue are definitely the way forward for the planet!

View Sustainable Swag #8 #8 Bio-D / Biodegradable

Seed Paper

At #9 in our Top 12 Eco friendly materials for conference items is one of the most beautiful and sustainable eco solution yet!

Plantable seed paper or seeded paper badge holders.

View Sustainable Swag #9 Seed Paper Name Badges

Limestone Paper

Limestone paper. stone paper or rock paper is made from stone dust and a bio polythene resin. Waterproof and washable combining the advantage of both paper and plastic

View Sustainable Swag #10 Stone Paper Name Badges

Recycled Cardstock

Recycled Cardstock is the card equivalent of recycled paper.  Available in plenty of colours and used on many printable products.

View Sustainable Swag #11 Recycled Name Badges, Recycled Card

Apple Peel

Invented in Italy and printed in Canada – Apple Peel Journals are the new Vegan Leather in town!.  Available in a range of colours

View Sustainable Swag #12 Apple Peel, Apple Peel Journals, Apple Paper

Check back for more information – every week we will be taking a deep dive into bioplastics and eco friendly products for your conference – including how it’s made and how you can help make your next conference as plastic free as possible!

more guides


Looking for advice on employee or student ID solutions? Download a handy MyBadges guide!

  • Choosing the Right Lanyard
  • Checklist for Conferences & Events
  • Choosing the right promo products
  • Guide to Badge Clips