”It’s mind-boggling how much waste 30 000 people can produce in ten hours,” says Justin van Wyk, director of business affairs at BIG Concerts, organiser of the My Coke Fest 2008, the rock music festival that took place in Johannesburg and Cape Town in March. ”We realised that if we just took all the waste and dropped it into a landfill then we would be contributing to the enormous waste problem that already exists.”
So, the organisers of the event took the decision to make the festival environmentally friendly, resulting in largest greening event in South Africa’s history.
By diverting reusable, recyclable and biodegradable waste away from landfills, the event created an average reduction in landfill waste of 81,5%.
Those who visited this year’s My Coke Fest would have experienced the great scale of recycling taking place at the event: 300 people, dressed in green T-shirts, cleaned the festival grounds and helped direct concert-goers to recycle their waste at one of ten recycle kiosks. At these kiosks, concert-goers were able dump their waste in the different bins provided for glass, cans, paper, bottles, organic material and landfill waste.
Gina Shoemaker of Go Green Organic, which together with BIG Concerts was responsible for the ”greening” of the event, emphasised the importance of recycling: ”People should be aware of climate change. It’s hard to change someone’s mind, but everyone needs to start somewhere.
”I enjoy visiting festivals, but there is always a lot of waste … The festival takes place from 10am to midnight, it’s a 14-hour event visited by [thousands of] people and the majority of people are drinking.”
The enormity of the My Coke Fest left Van Wyk with his doubts at to the potential success of the recycling project.
”In the beginning I was sceptical. I had never seen such a thing in South Africa … We had some experience with recycling at the Live Earth Concert, but that was a relatively small festival with 10 000 visitors. My Coke Festival, with 50 000 visitors [in Johannesburg and Cape Town combined], that’s something else.”
According to Van Wyk, recycling is more expensive and more labour-intensive than traditional cleaning.
”It takes a lot of human labour, people who stand at the different kiosks, moving the recycling bins. We were faced with a lot of rain, it was muddy and difficult to move the bins.
”Before this [My Coke Fest 2008], we hired normal cleaning companies, threw everything into skips and just took it away. We never really cared what happened to it,” he says
Now BIG Concerts does care, and their eco-drive was successful. In Johannesburg, 669kg cardboard, 2 125kg of plastic, 11, 580kg of glass, 443kg of cans and 302kg of organic material of waste was collected, resulting in a reduction in landfill waste of 72%. In Cape Town the recycling drive was even more successful, with a reduction in landfill waste of 91%.
Says Shoemaker: ”We had a better reaction [from the public] in Cape town than in Jo’burg. I think this is because in Cape Town the local government pays more attention to recycling waste.”
Van Wyk also thinks a better job was done in promoting the recycling drive in Cape Town: ”In Cape Town we used public broadcast messages to inform the concert-goers. We didn’t do this in Jo’burg. We also made announcements at the gates: Please make sure you recycle your waste, you’re part of a green festival etc.”
According to Van Wyk, the intention of BIG Concerts is to continue the green policy. ”At festivals where we control the food and the beverages there will be something of greening and cleaning.”
His focus is now on an international festival taking place in December, of which he doesn’t want to give the name: ”We want that festival to be 100% green. It will be the greenest festival in South Africa.”