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Waste Management

Love festivals / Hate waste – How festivals in New Zealand minimise waste

Love festivals Hate waste - Featured Image - Local Government Nov 2017

The waste minimisation landscape in New Zealand is complex and topical, with efforts being made to reduce waste to landfill across the country. Wellington Institute of Technology’s Joany Grima and Leanne Nicholas have just completed a study providing a detailed account of waste minimisation measures implemented at festivals.

This recent study builds on earlier pilot work which investigated local authority guidelines informing waste minimisation practices at festivals, and waste minimisation practices implemented at festivals by festival organisers.
Festivals included in the recent study were selected due to their commitment to redirecting waste from landfill in some form. This report focuses on data collected at 22 festivals between August 2016 and April 2017, where waste minimisation practices were observed and documented from an audience perspective.
Festival locations & types
Capturing data from a broad geographical spread of festivals was important to the study, as the available waste minimisation resources vary from region to region. The festivals took place within the boundaries of 16 local authorities, and were staged at a range of venues.
Waste Management Image 1
The types of festivals included in the study fell into five categories: music, community, performing arts, food and beverage, and street festival. Music and performing arts festivals generally featured multiple stages. Community festivals were usually single stage events and street festivals took control of up to a kilometre of road with multiple stages and hundreds of stalls.
Food and beverage festivals focused on food and beverage producers, supplemented with live entertainment. All but two festivals featured on-site food and beverage vendors, and all but three included market-style stalls.
Waste minimisation measures observed being implemented at festivals fell into 16 different categories, coded A–P. On average, festivals implemented five waste minimisation measures. The most measures implemented were 11, and the least, two. 
Table 1 presents the waste minimisation measures; while Table 2 illustrates the festivals at which waste minimisation measures were observed, and measures implemented.
The most common waste minimisation measures implemented at festivals were recycling stations, free water refills, waste minimisation promotion, waste minimisation themed programming, reusable cups and public transport. The following briefly outlines how these measures were implemented.
Recycling stations
Recycling stations were set up on-site at 19 of the 22 festivals. Recycling stations were either unstaffed, monitored by a dedicated team, or staffed at all times. Recycling stations featured between two and four bins, and varied in colour, size and styles.
Offering free water refills was a simple way of reducing waste from plastic water bottles at 18 of the festivals. Two festivals banned plastic water bottles sales – the first time such a measure had been implemented in New Zealand. One festival banned vendors from using single use packaging.
Promotion & themed programming
Waste minimisation measures being implemented were promoted by over three quarters of the festivals. Pre-festival promotion was mainly done via festival websites and social media, and advised patrons of waste minimisation measures to expect on site. Signage encouraging waste minimisation behaviour was also widely used, reminding patrons to utilise the systems being implemented. Half of the festivals in this study included waste minimisation themed programming in the form of talks, workshops, activities and information stands.
Reusable cups & bottles
Almost half of the festivals made reusable cups and / or bottles for sale to the audience at a modest cost. At some festivals, patrons could return their cups at the end of the festival and be refunded a portion of the original cost of the cup.
Other measures
Less commonly implemented waste minimisation measures included placing covers on permanent bins, wash stations, encouraging or hiring reusable crockery and cutlery, composting (including composting toilets) and generating renewable energy.
Conclusion & limitations
This study concludes that regardless of the size and location of a festival, waste minimisation measures can be implemented across the country where festivals choose to do so, and where budgets and other resources allow. The study commends the efforts of festival organisers in both considering, and aiming to reduce their environmental impact. This study was limited by the number of festivals included, and also by the capacity of the data collectors to accurately observe all waste minimisation measures implemented from an audience perspective. Measures implemented “behind the scenes” were not captured in this study.

This article was first published in the November 2017 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.

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