Festival season ramps up as the struggle to control waste continues
Festival of the Sun in Port Macquarie this year started a push to go single-use plastic free. (ABC News: Kerrin Thomas)
For many people, summer means one thing: festival season.
But for festival operators, it often means dealing with the tonnes of waste generated.
Single-use plastic is one of the biggest issues, according to Berish Bilander, the co-CEO of Green Music Australia.
The group is undertaking a research project this summer to figure out how best to get the message through to punters, particularly younger people.
“To get a better insight into … how they perceive the behaviour that we’d like them to do … pack up and take out everything that you’ve taken in,” Mr Bilander said.
“The younger generations have grown up with it as a ubiquitous concept, this idea that whatever you have, you can throw out after one use.
“I think that to challenge that culture and turn it around now that it’s firmly embedded in the minds of certain people is going to be a progressive thing, it’s not going to be done overnight.”
Alternatives to plastic
Food vendors at Festival of the Sun did not use single-use plastic. (ABC News: Kerrin Thomas)
At Festival of the Sun in Port Macquarie this year moves were made to ban single-use plastic, with food vendors using cardboard serving trays and cutlery instead.
Mr Bilander said cardboard was a good alternative because it was in demand as a recyclable material, but a better option was to reuse materials.
“A system that reuses products many, many times is always going to outperform something that works towards single-use,” he said.
“Even if we were to transition to products that were more readily recyclable there’s still an enormous amount of transport and energy in that process to get something to a recycling plant and then remanufactured into something new.”
Anthony Naves runs a number of food trucks and said he had never used single-use plastics in the business, but instead used products made of sugarcane or hemp.
He said many young people at festivals were unaware of the problems of single-use plastic.
“The consciousness of the customers is not that great, a lot do still ask for single use plastic and plastic forks, we find it upsetting to hear that but we just take it upon ourselves to educate people,” he said.
Education is key
Some of the 20,000 cans collected at this year’s Festival of the Sun. (ABC News: Kerrin Thomas)
Festival of the Sun (FOTSUN) event director, Simon Luke, said educating young punters about single-use plastic would be a challenge.
“We were doing searches through the campsites, where, if they do have single-use plastic at least we’re making them aware of what that is, and we’re rotating back around the next day to see if they’ve started to learn,” he said.
Part of the lessons included the ‘ECanOmy’ where punters could trade cans for prizes.
“[We’re] getting people to realise the value of not putting those aluminium cans into the bin,” Mr Luke said.
“We’re giving them lots of little vouchers in return for a certain number of cans: they get a bag of cold ice, for example, they get to go into the draw to win tickets for FOTSUN next year.
“It’s educating them on understanding there is value in that item, not to just discard it into the first bin they see.
“So it’s going to be a process, but we’re pretty committed with this to see it through over the next couple of years.”
Last year the festival collected 5,000 cans. This year that number jumped to 20,000.
Libraries, of a different kind
Green Music Australia ran a ‘bottle library’ at a festival in Victoria this year, where people could borrow reusable bottles and return them at the end of the festival. (Supplied: Green Music Australia)
Everyone’s familiar with the concept of a library: you borrow a book (or a CD, DVD, eBook, etc), enjoy it (or not), and then return it.
Green Music Australia encouraged a similar approach at music festivals, and recently ran a stall at the Lost Lands Festival in Victoria supplying reusable water bottles.
“We’ve called it the Refill Not Landfill library,” Mr Bilander said.
Jarrod Goon from Clowns said initiatives in Europe are helping cut down on single-use plastic. (Supplied: Clowns)
“We set up our library there and people were able to borrow from us a bottle on deposit and then get a refund on the bottle when they returned it.”
Jarrod Goon, guitarist for Melbourne-based hardcore punk rock band Clowns had seen something similar in operation in Europe.
“If you go to a festival in Germany you get a plastic cup and you have to pay a one-Euro deposit on the cup, you keep getting refills in that one cup, then you can take it back at the end of the night and get your Euro back — it makes sense,” he said.
The tent situation
Berish Bilander said the tents that littered campgrounds at the end of festivals was the result of a single-use society, but moves were being made to combat that.
“Tent rental services … put out the tents, traditionally this has looked a lot like glamping and so that meant it’s a premium service that people have paid an additional amount for,” Mr Bilander said.
There are also recyclable single-use options, like the cardboard KarTent, used at Port Macquarie at the weekend and at other festivals with varying success.
“We’ve got a small number that we’ve booked for people, what it means is that people can use biodegradable paints to put some art on them, and then the company that supplies those pack those up and they use them in nurseries as a mulch,” Mr Luke said.
But lead singer of Halcyon Drive, Mick Oechsle, said even that was not good enough.
“I get it, the tent thing, but people use recycling as an easy out,” he said.
“Often it’s like ‘Oh, it’s recyclable, it’s cool, it’s fine, it’s good for the environment’.
“I reckon we’re at a crossroads now … [but] you’ve got to be better than that.
“You can’t just use the word recyclable as your green thing — I don’t think that’s good enough.”
Halcyon Drive lead singer Mick Oechsle (centre) said relying on recycling isn’t good enough. (Supplied: Halcyon Drive)