Recycling at Festivals and Public Events

The international environmental agency for local governments (ICLEI) have a mission to build and serve a worldwide movement of local governments to achieve tangible improvements in global environmental and sustainable development conditions through cumulative local actions. To improve the city of Edmonton's Festival Recycling Program, the ICLEI's waste project #62 was developed. The goal was to educate and inform Edmonton's festival-going population about the available recycling and waste diversion alternatives and simultaneously intercept and redirect festival generated waste material for recycling. Festival events attract thousands of participants annually thus, they provide a great opportunity to inform and educate the public and collect festival garbage for recycling. The Waste Management Branch of the City of Edmonton identified various festival events as cultural opportunities to transmit recycling information, values, and behavior to the festival-going public. The program targeted 1.3 million people and the city developed an implementation plan highlighting equipment needs and advertising strategies. Festival recyclables designated for collection included, plastics, milk cartons, newspapers, low-grade paper, deposit and returnable drink containers, and cardboard. Large bins with plastic lining bags were labeled with large bold lettering and graphic illustrations to attract attention and inform users. They were strategically placed throughout the festival grounds. Larger bins were utilized for the collection and transfer of vendor-generated cardboard. The city leased a van for transporting the bins from location to location throughout the summer festival months. The total program cost was $33,000 US and the project employed one attendant per recycling station, one foreman, one city program coordinator, and many volunteers.

The Waste Management Branch provided staff to train festival volunteers to handle and store recyclable materials. Attendants and volunteers stood in front of the bins to accept material from the public. The program was promoted through festival program magazines, signs, billboard in high traffic areas, and by a press conference held by the Mayor to ensure media coverage of the program. 
After integrating the program, approximately 100 tons of waste was redirected. The program success was largely dependent on the acceptance of and participation by festival organizers and on the provision of volunteers and advertising by festival organizers. The staff assigned to rinse off recyclable materials encountered difficulty accessing clean water at the festival events and in finding appropriate ways to dispose of the resulting dirty water. Maneuvering around large crowds to bring water for this purpose also posed difficulties. Although this program was not a complete success, with more preparation and hard work this program could be modified to accommodate the few problems that it encountered. As a movement, association, and agency, ICLEI continues to work towards its environmental and sustainable development goals. 
Site Courtesy of
McKenzie-Mohr & Associates

Expertise in Community-Based Social Marketing