Earlier this year, building on the increased public awareness of waste and recycling problems, Geelong Sustainability set up a War on Waste action group. After a successful pilot offering a wash against waste service at a concert at Farmer’s Place, we decided to scale up our capacity so we could engage the public and offer waste reduction services at larger events.
The organisers of the National Celtic Festival (NCF) approached us to help them transition towards zero waste - and so we accepted the challenge of supporting this festival, which is held in Portarlington over the June long weekend. We set about assembling a wash against waste kit from community-donated mugs and items purchased with support from Barwon South West Waste and Resource Recovery Group and City of Greater Geelong.
The NCF organising committee worked with us in the months before the festival to develop these initiatives. We all understood that there would be lots to learn from this first big waste-wise event. NCF even made sustainability the theme for its festival limerick contest and informed all their vendors.
Our Green Team of 26 volunteers worked over 300 hours over the 4-day event, many signing on for extra shifts. The wash against waste process resulted in 2520 plates and 1350 mugs being washed and sanitised in a commercial dishwasher. Food waste was captured for later treatment by Closed Loop. We collected 840 non-recyclable cups for reprocessing using an innovative technique, which separates the cardboard outer from polyethylene liner. Our amazing volunteers re-sorted the highly decontaminated contents of the recycling bins so that the recyclables could be successfully reprocessed.
Most food vendors cooperated and worked with us to offer people washable plates, cutlery and cups. Virtually all food vendors came with cardboard rather than single-use plastic packaging. A few had plastic cutlery while others had bamboo.
In a nutshell, it was an extremely successful community engagement exercise. The public response was overwhelmingly positive - people were genuinely impressed and grateful for the free service we provided.
The breadth of engagement was wide and very encouraging: from council officers from other regions who lamented not having a similar group to GS in their region to other event organisers who wanted us to help them to vendors who wanted us to go on the circuit with them to the general public. Far and wide, people are keen to manage their waste better if they know how.
The festival gave us valuable insights into people’s understanding (and lack thereof) about recycling. It highlighted the considerable knowledge gaps and confusion about what can and cannot be recycled. Sadly there is a section of the community who are either too lazy or just irresponsible who think they can put a half drunk milkshake container or coffee cup into a recycle bin - contaminating everything inside.
GS will continue to advocate for land managers to adopt waste wise strategies so that organisers and vendors have a set of clear requirements. The Surf Coast Shire introduced a waste wise events policy for markets and events held on their land two years ago. It has since been picked up by several other municipalities around Victoria. It has also been adopted by GORCC (Great Ocean Road Coastal Committee). So we will continue to push for the introduction of a similar policy by Bellarine Bayside and Barwon Coast committees as well as by the City of Greater Geelong.
Festivals and community events provide an excellent opportunity to engage and re-educate people about vital matters like waste minimisation. Many of our volunteers have expressed a willingness to do it again sometime. GS now has an extensive Wash Against Waste resource kit, which could be hired out with or without volunteers.
Wash Against Waste Kit
Find out more about hiring our Wash Against Waste Resource Kit for your next event.Contact Us