Last 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 did it.
It all started with that burrito, that bottle of water or that cigarette butt. The good folks of Island Vibe deposited all unwanted items in the bins provided, which included all the food stall peeps as well. During the day everyone was pretty good and the floor is clear of debris. Of course as darkness fell things got a little loose...
The next morning full bins were wheeled over to the Sustainability Centre, next to the Big Top tent and we discovered exactly how many burritos were eaten the night before. The bins were tipped onto a tarpaulin and a group of highly trained volunteers, armed with gloves and tongs were unleashed and a sorting frenzy ensues... Plastic bottles and cartons were thrown in a skip and transported off the island to be made into office chairs, road bollards and office paper.
Aluminium cans were 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 was a win there.
Cardboard boxes were flattened and then baled together with string. These bales filled the back of a ute and were taken to the Resource Recovery Facility aka Transfer Station on the island where it met lots of other cardboard. When there is enough 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 biodegradable and was prepared for itʼs new purpose as food for plants. Food scraps were mixed in with mulch and shredded paper and placed inside yet another skip by Mark and Terry from the Stradbroke Community Gardens.
Once the skip was full of organic material - around 7 cubic meters of potential compost were produced in 2010 - it was transported to Dunwich at the other end of the island, where it was piled into bays and turned once every couple of weeks by a forklift. The decomposing material is literally too hot to handle for the first 6 weeks but with access to oxygen the materials broke down without creating methane, a greenhouse gas up to 10 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
The Whale installation, which hosted a variety of musical performances during the weekend found a new home as a shade house in the Stradbroke Community Gardens. Itʼs integral to think about every item we construct or bring onto the festival site because there is no throwing it away...because there is no ʻawayʼ on Stradbroke Island
By Tuesday lunchtime we have usually re-homed, recycled or reallocated all materials left on site. The final job was 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 was made of the swamp nearby for plastic bags and the walkways down to the beach for glass or plastic bottles... then we smiled and basked in the contented feeling of a job well done