By Sharon Potocnik, Coordinator, Sustainable Activity Centre, Gateway Island
As waste awareness grows, seeing the ground littered with plastic bottles and food wrappers when the crowds go home is becoming less acceptable to festival and event goers. As an example, a local event provided red and yellow lidded bins which attendees dutifully used to separate their recyclables, but then watched in horror as a single garbage truck collected both bins! At another local NSW event the bins were overflowing at the end of day with what could have been a fortune’s worth of cans under the “Return and Earn” scheme.
Some festivals are leading the charge on becoming waste free, including our own Yackandandah Folk Festival (see https://yackfolkfestival.com/about/environment/) that sets strict criteria for stall holders) and has volunteers manning the bins to ensure waste is sorted properly while educating festival goers about waste.
It will take time for waste-free events to become a reality as a strong commitment from event organisers is required. In the meantime participants can play their part. Here are some tips for Living Lightly at events such as the upcoming Albury Show.
Take a collapsible fabric bag to carry purchases so you can refuse the plastic bags. If you don’t have one already, pick up a Boomerang Bag from the Show’s Sustainability Zone.
Refuse the straw. Admittedly slushies are really hard to drink without a straw, so bring a reusable straw or save the straw from your first slushie to have in the second.
Bring your own water bottle or save your first bottle and then refill it with filtered water at the refill station at the Sustainability Zone.
Ask drink vendors to leave off the plastic tops on take-away drinks. Of course the seasoned waste-warriors will have their keep-cups with them.
Choose food stalls that serve food in napkins or paper bags or other eco-friendly packaging instead of polystyrene boxes or plastic plates. They will begin to notice when consumers are voting with their feet.
Charities and fund-raisers can approach organisers to get permission to collect “Return and Earn” containers at the event.
It may all seem too little in the face of the overwhelming waste at major events, but as the saying goes, “it is only one straw…said 8 million people”.