Events like trade fairs are a complex service activity with a considerable economic, social and environmental impact due, among other factors, to their high level of waste generation. There are few studies of the environmental impact associated with waste generation and typology. An environmental analysis methodology has been developed to characterise the waste associated with the temporary structures used at trade fair events: stands and communal spaces. This methodology has been checked in a pilot test at 6 closed trade fairs in Barcelona, with a range of between 60 and 4400 exhibitors. The methodology developed has made possible to obtain a waste generation profile according to the size of the fair and the types of stands. The stages with the largest amount of temporary structure wastes generated are the assembly and the dismantling of the trade fair. The results indicate that the most common wastes generated are the protective plastic from carpets at the assembly stage and the carpet itself at the dismantling stage. The stand carpet is collected in bulk, while the carpet from the communal spaces is recycled. As the size of the fair increases, and with it the proportion of stands with customised design (or non-reusable stands), the quantity of wood and hazardous waste increases. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.