Three years ago I hosted my first waste-free kids party. It was birthday number one for our kiddo. Due to his inability to comprehend what was happening meant I had full control over everything and to be honest there were more adults than kids. You can read about it here.
In the blog post about my sons first zero-waste birthday I wrote about my decision to keep most of the second-hand partyware I spent time collecting. My aim was to share it with anyone in my community wanting to host a zero-waste or low-waste party. Sharing my kit would help reduce single-use party supplies like plates, cups, platters, decorations AND save another person money and time sourcing reusable partyware.
The thing is people only found out about my reusable party kit if they chanced upon that particular blog article, an instagram post or info on Reusable Nation (thanks Vicky and David!). Luckily people have found out about the kit and it has been used by the community saving over 300 single use plates and cups for going to landfill in the past three years.
I began to wonder if there was a website that could help connect reusable party kit holders with members of the community and if not, could I build one. I believe sharing what we already have to be one of the first steps to reducing waste. I knew there were others in Australia with reusable party kits, the problem is finding and connecting with each other easily. A directory would help change that.
After a search of the internets I found nothing in Australia. However I discovered a brilliant set up based in the UK called the Party Kit Network. It was exactly what I envisioned for Australia and so much more.
The Party Kit Network are a “non-profit community project working to make parties more sustainable. By providing reusable party kits we offer an accessible and easy way to avoid waste from disposables.”- The Party Kit Network
On a whim I decided to reach out to the Party Kit Network asking if they would consider expanding into Australia. After seeing the popularity of community sharing through sites like Responsible Cafes, Trashless Takeaway, ShareWaste and OlioEx I knew the Party Kit Network would do well here too.
My message to the Party Kit Network was met with enthusiasm and I started chatting with the founder Isabel Mack. This led to a zoom chat and a month later a website for Australia - www.PartyKitNetwork.org!
Screenshot of the Australian Party Kit Network website
So what is a reusable party kit?A party kit has reusable tableware like plates, cups, cutlery, decorations and whatever else you think to be helpful. These help reduce the need to rely on single-use items, saves money and makes planning parties for young and old easier. Everything is picked up or dropped off in one box depending on arrangements made with the kit owner.Party Kits are either hired out for free or for a fee. For example, my kit is available for free. If the kit needs to be delivered I'm happy to do this within a certain distance.
A party kits can also be used by schools, community groups, not for profits as a way to raise money. Information on what each kit contains is on the website along with information on how to book.
I love the huge amount of support there is to get a kit started. To learn how to put a kit together simply become a member. There is no charge for this. You'll receive a guide that will provide a lot of information plus access to a members section. Here you can downloading a logo for your kit, editable posters to advertise in your community (think schools, daycare, community notice boards), a price list template, inventory list, booking guide, discounts to help start up a kit, images for social media...really, everything! There is a supportive and active facebook group too should you need it. Isabel has made it very simple and straightforward.
Once you have your kit organised and set up, you can then register your new listing via the registration form on the website. Here is a link in case you are ready to go >https://www.
Should you need to make any adjustments to your information on the Party Kit Network website you can contact them directly using their email.
What's in Erin's party kit? My reusable party kit in on the map. Here is a peek at my kit:
- 30 plastic kids plates
- 30 plastic kids bowls
- 30 plastic cups
- 30 sets of plastic cutlery (knife, spoon, fork)
- 1 plastic jug
- cloth bunting with the words Happy Birthday
- reusable cloth pass the parcel bags
My original kit was a mix of kids and adult partyware. I decided to seperate the kits making it easier for sharing and storing. I'm just trying to find secondhand adult cutlery before I list the big people kit which will call proper crockery and adult size cups.
90% of my kids reusable party kit been sourced second-hand including the plastic tub. Originally everything was organised in multiple boxes making the process a little cumbersome. The only thing new are the reusable pass the parcel bags from Partyora.
I chose plastic plates for the kids tableware for two reasons.
1. kids can be a little more clumsy especially if they are running about with their friends. I'm not so worried about crockery or glass breaking at my house. If someone was to break crockery or glass at a park then it could be hazard for others visiting. I don't know if it's because I'm a parent now but I'm hyper aware of risks. Kids wear open sandals in summer. One small shard of glass or crockery that wasn't picked up can easily slip under and get stuck. Or a child could fall on it. There is also the fear something would break and nothing would be picked up. So plastic was picked for public safety and durability.
2. These plastic plates, cups, bowls, cutlery, jug were second hand and already existed, so I'm putting them to use rather than risk going to landfill. It wasn't hard for me to find plastic party plates. One look through a Op Shop or Facebook Marketplace and I had a matching set. If enough reusable party kits are set up then demand to manufacture new plastic plates especially from virgin plastic will decrease.
If you are unable to source items for your party kit secondhand don't fret. There are options for buying plastic plates made of recycled material through the Party Kit Network. Do what works for your budget, time and accessibility. The goal of the Party Kit Network is to encourage reusing. Certain Councils in Australia do recycle this type of plastic tableware but not through kerbside recycling. Contact your local Transfer or Waste Recovery centre for the correct disposal should anything break beyond use. Compostable options are a good option but still require a lot of energy to grow, make, transport to use once and put into a compost. My home compost would struggle with over 60 compostable products and my council doesn't accept compostable partyware in their organics collection.
What about the washing up?Most kits owners ask that the items are returned cleaned. I don't mind washing up. There is always someone at the party willing to help so I say get them to assist you. Use the time to catch up and have a chat.
Erin, my town/city/state is in lockdown...So is mine! While the State of Victoria can't host parties let alone visit with anyone, other areas of Australia are allowed to celebrate.
If you are unable to host a party because of the current conditions consider using the time to put a kit together if you are keen to join the network. As I mentioned before the Party Kit Network has a compressive guide to setting up a party kit. You might have a lot of the items already.
Help me get the word outKnow a community group, council, library, toy library, neighbour, friend...anyone that has a party kit? Share the website with them. I'm hoping we can get 100 onto the map.
A party with 30 kids can equal up to 30 throwaway plates, bowls, cups, spoons, serviettes. Then there are the tablecloths, decorations. That could equal around 160 disposable items.Creating a reusable party kit in your community will help reduce waste and normalise reusing in a big way. With 30 kids in attendance that's 30 people than can then share this information with their parents or caregivers. Something so simple as sharing and reusing partyware can have a far reaching impact on behaviour habits now and into the future. The Party Kit Network features everything I think is needed for a circular regenerative system; sharing, reusing, connecting what we already have with our neighbours makes the Party Kit Network a truly eco friendly alternative.
See you on the Party Kit Network map, Australia!
Written by Erin Rhoads
Erin Rhoads is the person behind The Rogue Ginger, one of Australia's popular zero-waste blogs. Erin has been writing about her plastic free and zero waste journey since 2013. Through her pursuit to live plastic free and zero waste, Erin learnt to eat real food, discovered new skills, cut down her exposure to harmful chemicals, found joy in moments over things and simplified her life, while saving money. Visit her website here.
Images from Erin Rhoads