Festivals and events in New South Wales are finding new ways to cut down on rubbish.
Andrew Macarthur, Managing Director of Clean Vibes, said he was inspired to create a waste management company focusing on environmental sustainability after identifying a gap in the market.
“Festivals are trending towards less waste, and I created Clean Vibes to reduce the environmental impact of festivals,” he said.
Launched in July 2017, the NSW-based company has already worked with the Sydney Running Festival, the October Festival in the Gardens, and the Parramatta Lanes Festival.
One of the key ways they reduce waste is by collecting all the bottles and cans eligible for the Return and Earn container deposit scheme and returning them for the 10c refund per container.
“Onsite at the music festivals, we implement bottle and can recycling bins and have a team to sort through waste on site,” Andrew said.
“This minimises the waste that goes to landfill and increases the volume of bottles and cans we identify for recycling.”
Festivals and events can nominate where the funds raised from the container refunds are directed.
Andrew, however, has partnered with the Kari Foundation and encourages donations to this organisation to help provide Aboriginal youth with support and training to find employment.
Since February 2022, Andrew has also operated a Return and Earn deposit point in Mascot, which raises funds for the Kari Foundation.
Between the depot and Clean Vibes, more than 5 million empty drink containers have been returned for recycling.
As part of the partnership, Aboriginal youths are also provided with real-life opportunities for work experience at the depot.
Meanwhile, one festival leading the way in waste reduction is the Blue Mountains Music Festival, held annually at the Katoomba Public School.
Marina Brown, who has coordinated sustainable management for the festival since 2013, said that having a waste room staffed by volunteers to explain how items can be recycled has been crucial to the success of the festival’s waste reduction strategy.
“Having volunteers to help people also creates an information centre,” Marina said.
“People get really onboard because they see what they’re doing – they know they’re helping create a more sustainable world.”
When Return and Earn launched five years ago, she realised they could incorporate that into the festival’s waste reduction strategy.
With carefully labelled milk crates and volunteers ready to load the containers into a trailer, they could return the festival’s empty drink bottles and cans to raise money for the school.
In 2022, the funds raised went towards buying new chickens and chook supplies.
Andrew said his advice to festivals and event organisers keen to join the growing trend towards zero waste is first to consider how to reduce the waste produced onsite.
“If you can control what comes on site, you can control what leaves the site,” he said.
“Compostable service wear and aluminium cans are great for reducing waste to landfill.”