Much of the issue concerning responsible waste processing at large festivals stems not from attendees’ reluctance to recycle or compost but rather from the challenge of designing systems that take into consideration the mental state of those in attendance.
As the organisers at Sunrise Festival (Somerset, UK) found, best intentions can be subverted when audience members are, for instance, in a rush to get somewhere within the event site, or under the influence of alcohol or other substances, or even just agog at the surrounding spectacle!
Despite strong credentials – being completely powered by renewables, having an ethical trading policy, promoting public and shared transport, having composting toilets, issuing reusable water bottles – and through this attracting attendees sensitive to their cause, organisers were disheartened to find that only 30% of waste was being removed for recycling through successful segregation by attendees.
In light of this, organisers teamed up with Greensweep to develop a highly segmented and visible system of waste separation and collection. The system segregrated recyclable and compostable material into more than a dozen categories (eg. glass, milk bottles, nappies, cornstarch cutlery, cardboard, hazardous, etc.) each with their own bin. To prevent the waylaid punter from depositing into the wrong bin volunteers were used at each bin point to guide them to the correct repository.
Additionally, when volunteers clocked on at the beginning of every day they would check the bins for contamination and re-sort appropriately. This was done in plain view of waking campers, imparting upon them the effort exerted in corrective sorting. Contamination decreased from one day to the next as a result. Upcycle workshops were also run by a specialist team in which gifts were crafted (and given away free) from interesting waste items.