Waste winners

East Fremantle council’s waste officer Connor Warn and festival organiser Carly Filbey.

EAST FREMANTLE council is hoping its award-winning George Street festival can become a template for other councils after it reduced the amount of waste going to landfill to just 48 kilos.

That’s roughly the weight of an average 13-year-old.

To see just how far the council’s come since adopting its sustainable events policy in 2020, the previous festival produced 500kg of waste that went to the tip.

The change is being driven by the council’s waste and sustainability officer Connor Warn, who worked closely with festival organiser and community engagement officer Carly Filbey.

“Basically the sustainable events policy bans everything from single use water bottles, utensils, plates, bowls; it also bans compostable plastic as well,” Mr Warn said.

“Instead of using compostable items, we’re going to reusable, which then removes the waste altogether.”

The council spent $9000 to hire 22,000 reusable items from family-owned Perth company Go2Cup, introduced FOGO bins to take any food scraps, carted in three water tankers and co-opted the Hurricane Paddling Crew to volunteer as bin monitors to help people work out where to put their scraps.

An audit found just 200 grams of contaminants made it past the monitors and into the FOGO bins out of 68kg overall. Another 41kg of waste was sent off for recycling, including 270 containers which the Hurricanes got to recoup for cash.

Ms Filbey said the council also pushed the sustainability and low-waste message before the event, reminding people of things such as bringing their own re-usable water bottles. They’re usually a blight after festivals, with some commercial operators known to ban patrons from bringing their own water so they can sell the bottled stuff. Just 54 water bottles were found in the bins during East Freo’s post-event audit.

Ms Filbey said it was difficult to say the exact cost of going super-low waste, as there were many variables such as reduced landfill and clean-up costs against the increased outgoings, but there was an intangible value that made it all worthwhile.

“All the patrons walking away with that ‘feel good’, you cannot put an amount on that,” she said.

Baby steps

She’s also hoping East Freo’s example will encourage other event organisers to take “baby steps” and says Mr Warn has been a powerful tool for change within the council and the community.

He says that’s partly driven by his discomfort when studying for a science degree over the methods often promoted for change.

“I think one thing I hate about environmentalism sometimes is the fact that people try and bully people into making change.

“When you start beating people down about things – say someone uses a single-use coffee cup and your berate them over the fact they’re using that, it will just make them completely against any perspective or point that you then have to say to them.

“For me, when I make positive change, it’s when I can bring people on the journey so that you feel part of the program or the change in that they get a sense of enjoyment.”

Mr Warn says after winning the inaugural WasteSorted Award for events, East Freo’s in demand from other organisations and councils keen to find out more – some on the national scale.

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