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The Town of East Fremantle: taking the weight off waste

Tackling waste can be challenging for large-scale events, but organisers of the Town of East Fremantle’s George Street Festival fed and entertained over 10,000 people over 7 hours, while cutting the need for single-use plastics and keeping general waste to less than the weight of just one attendee.

The Town of East Fremantle’s Waste and Sustainability Officer Connor Warn said that organisers embraced the festival’s ‘Sustainability’ theme by making changes following insights from their festival in 2019. Key to the success was their Sustainable Events Policy, restricting the use of all single-use plastics including single use water bottles, straws, plates, cups, and cable ties, and guiding a festival-wide uptake of reusable items provided by Go2Cup.

Reusables the Go-2 Solution

“For the 2019 festival, the Sustainable Events Policy didn’t exist, so it was difficult to restrict the use of single-use plastic items. Most of the waste was from packaging, such as coffee cups, cold drinks and food trays, and the waste wasn’t being sorted. Only 20 businesses used Go2Cup in 2019 and that saw high quantities of contamination across all streams of waste,” Connor said.

Learning from this, the Town streamlined provisions with more than 22,000 reusable items provided at the 2021 festival at no cost to the 35 food and beverage vendors. Contamination was all but eliminated through the addition of volunteer bin monitors at each of the five waste stations.

“We had bin monitors standing at each bin station. We only ended up having about 200 grams of contamination in the FOGO (Food Organics and Garden Organics) bins, which was amazing.”

Previous proper planning pays off

Single-use water bottles were replaced with three 1,000 litre water tanks and reusable water cups, with pre-festival social media advice key to the success of this single-use alternative.

“Before the event we did a lot of social media,” Connor said. “It was really refreshing walking through the festival and seeing the number of people with their reusable bottles. It’s crucial when you are doing an event like this to make sure there’s information going out beforehand so people are aware that it will be a low waste event.”

All that glitters is not gold when it comes to sustainability. The George Street Festival also banned the use of single-use plastics such as balloons and glitter instead supporting stalls promoting circular and sustainable products and services including pre-loved and recyclable items.

A new norm

Already a “conscious community” the festival demonstrated “a new norm” for visitors to the area.

“We are trying to educate people who are coming from outside East Fremantle by showcasing what can be done,” Connor said.

“By incorporating reusables that can replicate and mimic the functions of standard single-use plastic items, we can go the next step; creating functional circular systems without waste.

“We used to be quite archaic, whereas now we are seen as being a powerhouse of environmentalism. If you can simplify options and make them something that people can easily swap out, there’s less opposition and it works so much better so there’s more uptake.”

Taking others on the journey

The Town of East Fremantle embodies Plastic Free July’s vision to ‘help end plastic waste’ with Mayor Jim O’Neill, along with many of the Town’s councillors, participating in the Plastic Free July challenge. Winners of the 2022 WasteSorted Waste Avoidance (Events) Award for the 2021 George Street Festival, the Town’s festival organisers hope this large-scale event will show what’s achievable for other event organisers, highlighting the possibilities of low waste and circular opportunities. 

“It has taken us a few years to get to where we are now, and while there’s still room for improvement, we encourage organisations who may not have a Sustainable Events Policy in place to set some goals.  It could be the amount of waste you want to reduce, or certain items you don’t want to see at your event. All efforts, as minimal as they may seem, contribute to the overall big picture.  

“You also have to have people working with you on the journey and you need to educate in a positive, proactive way,” Connor said.

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