Every year 35 volunteers dedicated over 80 hours to ensure that all plastic bottles, milk cartons, cardboard and aluminium cans were kept from landfill... and this is how we do it.
It all starts with that burrito, that bottle of water or that cigarette butt. The good folks of Island Vibe deposit all unwanted items in the bins provided, which included all the food stall peeps as well. During the day everyone is pretty good and the floor is clear of debris. Of course as darkness fell things get a little loose...
The next morning full bins are wheeled over to the Sustainability Centre, next to the composting toilets and we discover exactly how many burritos were eaten the night before. The bins are tipped onto a tarpaulin and a group of highly trained volunteers, armed with gloves and tongs are unleashed and a sorting frenzy ensues... Plastic bottles and cartons are thrown in a skip and transported off the island to be made into office chairs, road bollards and office paper.
Aluminium cans are thrown into a different skip and taken off the island and sold to a scrap metal dealer. Unfortunately the cost of transportation meant no money is made back on the 7 cubic metres of cans. But the good news is that aluminium is infinitely recyclable into new cans and uses only 25% of the energy that it takes to produce them from raw materials... so there's a win there.
Cardboard boxes are flattened and added to the plastic bottles and other cartons in the recycling skip. On the mainland the cardboard gets pulped and made into... more cardboard! The wood fibres that make up cardboard and paper products cannot be re-used more than 6 or 7 time as they break down each time they are re- pulped.
Plates, cups, bowls and cutlery - really anything food is served in or on inside the festival area - is all compostable and is prepared for itʼs new purpose as food for plants. Food scraps are mixed in with woodchips and shredded paper and placed inside yet another skip. We avoid adding clear bioplastic as this has a history of not breaking down as quickly as we'd like.
Once the skip is full of organic material - around 8 cubic meters of potential compost was produced in 2015 - it is transported to Dunwich at the other end of the island, where it is piled into a bay made from sugercane mulch bales. Once every couple of weeks when the temperature drops below 40 degrees it is turned by a bobcat or by hand. In the beginning the decomposing material is literally too hot to handle but with access to oxygen the materials brake down without creating methane, a greenhouse gas up to 10 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
By Tuesday lunchtime we have usually re-homed, recycled or reallocated all materials left on site. The final job is to walk in a line picking up the small forgotten pieces such as cigarette butts and cable ties. We call this the emu parade as we are all bobbing up and down. A final check is made of the swamp nearby for plastic bags and the walkways down to the beach for glass or plastic bottles... then we smile and bask in the contented feeling of a job well done.