The SWRC is partnering with Affinity Credit Union this summer to help Saskatoon events get to zero waste. In 2018, we piloted our approach at the Food Truck Wars. This year, we will be helping event patrons to properly sort their waste into compost, recycling and garbage at four events:
The Saskatchewan Marathon
The Nutrien Children’s Festival of Saskatchewan
Saskatoon Food Truck Wars
and the Nutrien Fireworks Festival
Events have two distinct waste streams – front end: waste produced by the public and back end: waste produced by vendors and organizers.
Front end: the key to zero waste is sorting stations staffed with helpful volunteers. Volunteers provide advice on which bin to put things in and their presence makes patrons pay more attention. Without them, people are too distracted, confused or apathetic to separate waste correctly. Both Affinity staff and SWRC volunteers are working at these stations.
Back end: For the vendors, good communication is a challenge. The plans for 2019 include monitoring and educating vendors on how to use the bins, and providing them with access to their own set of bins.
While each event creates compost, recycling and (hopefully very little) garbage, there have also been some surprises:
- At the Marathon, we discovered that many runners bring old gear for warm ups and discard it at the start line with no intention of coming back for it. Not something we anticipated.
- The Marathon generated a lot of food waste, as children attending the kids' races are all given an identical food snack. Because children have different dietary restrictions and preferences, the kids wound up composting a lot of perfectly good food.
- At the Children’s Festival, site organizers brought aerosol paint cans to spray marking lines in the grass. Even when empty, these are technically Household Hazardous Waste items – not the type of waste we had planned for.
Since these events are annual, we can take this information and help event planners to prepare for or even avoid making these kinds of waste in future years.
Overall, it's an idea whose time has come. Nearly everyone (organizers, vendors and the public) understands and supports trying to get to zero waste. It's now a matter of getting everyone used to how to get there.