This story was first published in Damaged Goods Zine
The aftermath of any festival is too often a sorry sight. As weary eyed attendees stumble away, a sea of waste is carelessly left behind. Plastic plates and cups are used once and thrown to the trash. Food wrappers float aimlessly in the wind. Strewn bottles and cans find themselves rehomed in the mud and grass. Bins overflow with un-recyclable rubbish.
Festivals create a lot of waste. As we roll in to the summer festival season, event managers will again be pushed to deal with festival waste. The people come and go. Little thought is given to the rubbish that might be left behind or what might happen to it. Amidst a time of celebration and jubilation, the rubbish created by festival attendees is mindless. For environmentalists, it’s madness.
In the past, the environment has suffered at the expense of festivals. But there’s a growing idea that festivals shouldn’t generate waste, that the environment shouldn’t suffer at the expense of festivals and that if possible, festivals should work to promote conservation and environmental awareness.
Kim Renshaw is working to make these ideas commonplace. The environmental zealot is the genius behind Beyond the Bin, an initiative aimed at pushing the idea of zero waste to festival organisers in New Zealand.
Beyond the Bin was no overnight epiphany. The initiative started out from humble beginnings in Mount Maunganui. As a surfer, Kim has for long been interested in environmental protection and conscious living. She was inspired by home compost collection systems in Canada and ever since, she has been working to reduce her own waste footprint.
The story of Beyond the Bin begins in 2013. Kim had been working at various farmers markets selling her own natural products. She got a feel for event management and began to think about the way festivals manage and process waste. Somewhat disillusioned with the way markets process waste, Kim set out to create her own night market in Tauranga.
She envisioned a market that would be both unique and waste-free. She began researching compostable packaging and later started The Gourmet Night Market in Mount Manganui. With the lofty goal of a waste-free market, Kim set out guidelines for the vendors working at the market. These rules outlined what packaging could be brought into the market and what couldn’t.
The vendors were keen on the initiative. All packaging that food was presented on was completely compostable and even sometimes, edible. The market not only aimed to decrease waste destined for landfills, but also to decrease recyclable waste. To further the markets zero waste philosophy, Kim banned plastic at the market.
The evening market was a success story in the making. It was quickly became a well known go-to for Tauranga locals every Friday. The market now attracts around 5000 each week.
Both it’s food and it’s ethos surrounding waste management were appreciated by market attendees. Kim strongly believes that zero waste events are not only beneficial for the environment, but also for the experience of those attending the event.
After three seasons, the market now diverts 98% of its waste from landfill. The market’s 2015/2016 summer season diverted 2.1 tonnes of waste away landfills. The Gourmet Night Market has set a bench mark for waste management in New Zealand. It has demonstrated what is possible and how zero waste can be achieved.
Along the way Kim teamed up with Sam Grey; a practical thinking and devout environmentalist. Together they launched Beyond the Bin in 2015. The pair initiated the business with the intention of pushing the philosophy and practice of the night market to other events around the country.
WOMAD festival in Taranaki was Beyond the Bin’s first project. Since 2006, WOMAD has worked to incorporate waste minimisation aims into the event. The festival called upon Kim and Sam to further reduce the waste the festival creates. The duo assisted the festival in selecting compostable food packaging, educated and trained a team of 150 volunteers, along with hands on, on-site waste sorting.
The pair's zero waste system was hugely popular with festival attendees. Surveys at WOMAD have shown that the zero waste program was the second element most popular that most enhanced the attendees experience of the festival, heralded only by the festival’s music itself. This year, Beyond the Bins services at WOMAD helped to divert over 80% of festival waste from landfill.
The story of Beyond the Bin is remarkable. Kim and Sam have worked to create a noble and sorely needed social enterprise built on passion and practicality. They have created both an ambitious and achievable standard for event waste management in this country. And now, the business is keen to spread the knowledge. Sam has developed workshops for event organisers to help them work towards zero waste.
From a small market of a few hundred to a large festival of thousands, Beyond the Bin has demonstrated the possibilities of event waste management. Kim’s story is one of empowerment and inspiration. She started with out with a few simple ideas and then set out to initiate change. At a time where our planet is at an environmental tipping point, the world needs individuals like Kim Renshaw and initiatives like Beyond the Bin