Milwaukee is known as the City of Festivals – from Harbor Fest to Summerfest to PrideFest to Kite Fest, there is no shortage of celebrations for people to take part in. But did you ever stop to think about how much waste is created by those festivals? One Milwaukee festival staple is addressing that problem.
For the past 15 years, the Bay View Bash has packed music, vendors, food, entertainers, drinks and activities into about four blocks. With over 35,000 annual attendees, about 4,000 pounds of waste is produced each year. That is a lot of garbage. Luckily, the Bash’s Planning Team has enlisted the help of local non-profit composters, Kompost Kids, to help divert some of that weight from the landfill and to continue to make strides toward being a near-zero waste festival.
Since 2010, Kompost Kids has been working with the Bash Planning Team, various beer distributors, and food vendors to integrate compostable cups, utensils, food containers, straws and plates throughout the festival. They also reclaim materials, such as stage dressing and discarded bar towels, for use in garden beds and as rags at their Bay View demo site (1980 S. Marina Drive). Over the past several years, the Bash has decreased the amount of garbage dumpsters needed from five to only one, largely due to the increased presence of Kompost Kids.
During last year’s Bay View Bash, Kompost Kids conducted a live audit of all of the waste accumulated, which means that volunteers physically sorted through all of the landfill, recycling, and composting bins to ensure materials ended up where they were supposed it be. From there, they were able to determine that only 28% of the total waste accumulated during the festival should have actually been destined for the landfill. The other 72% was either compostable or recyclable – with about 15,000 compostable beer cups! Without physically sorting all 4,000 pounds of waste, most of that material would have ended up in the landfill. During their audit, Kompost Kids noted that 74% of all items tossed into landfill containers were actually compostable materials, which makes hand sorting a necessary step.
Over 2,000 pounds of Bay View Bash waste was diverted from landfills in 2018. But where does it all go? Kompost Kids works with Blue Ribbon Organics to add the materials from the Bash to resting compost piles where heat and microorganisms break down the materials to create finished compost that can be used for gardening and farming.
Kompost Kids’ Renee Scampini says that every year they learn more about best practices and what tactics to use to increase the amount of materials diverted from landfills. This year, Kompost Kids will again have a physical presence at the Bay View Bash, hand sorting all waste materials with the help of volunteer groups known as Green Teams. Green Teams are a new addition to Kompost Kids’ composting efforts this year, with small stipends awarded for Green Teams of 10 or more volunteers. The Bash has also barred the sale of plastic water bottles, instead using local organization, Canned Water 4 Kids as their water vendor. They are also encouraging Bash-goers to bring their own reusable cups (no glass), straws, utensils and water bottles –- but no plates, because, well, health codes.
It is also worth noting that both Kompost Kids and the Bay View Bash Planning Team are 100% run by loyal volunteers –- six individuals with Kompost Kids and eight individuals on the Bay View Bash Planning Team. In addition, all proceeds generated by the Bay View Bash are invested directly back into Milwaukee non-profit organizations through grants for their projects.
If you’re planning on attending the Bay View Bash this Saturday, Sept. 21, check out the official lineup and, as always, please remember that no carry-ins are permitted on Bay View Bash festival grounds!