State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Recycling Efforts Boosted for Arts Fest

by on July 08, 2014 1:45 PM

Each July, more than 100,000 visitors descend on State College for the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. With them, they bring tons upon tons of trash.

The hope is that those mounds of garbage will soon become a thing of the past. According to Amy Schirf, education coordinator of Centre County Recycling & Refuse Authority, State College is ramping up its efforts to prevent waste this Arts Fest, held July 9-13 on Penn State's campus and downtown. 

During the festival, there will be six locations where visitors can deposit food and organics for composting. In addition, there will be a recycling container for plastic bottles and metal cans next to every trash container.

There will also be a booth full of recycling education materials, manned by a group called Fest Zero. That's a team of about 15 volunteers from the community, local government and the university who have a common goal of helping the festival become a zero-waste event

Fest Zero began with an idea in February. Brad Fey, a local musician, spent years collecting trash as a volunteer with his rotary club. He was troubled when he discovered how much trash from the Arts Fest could be recycled. The borough takes in an extra 75 tons of trash during the festival, adding up to about $5,000 in extra waste disposal costs.

"Trash does cost taxpayers a lot of money," Fey says. "People just think it goes away but there's a real cost to it. If we can reduce that cost, by doing something simple, we're saving money that would go to a landfill. Taxpayers are paying money to do that."

In late March, Fey contacted the Centre County Recycling & Refuse Authority and Arts Festival planners. Together, they set a goal of making it a zero-waste event by the festival's 50th anniversary in 2016.

The borough will audit its trash during the festival to gauge Fest Zero's impact.

This year's Arts Fest is only the beginning for the Fest Zero crew. Those volunteers want get to a point where all trash cans are replaced by compost cans.

"We are going from over 50 trash container locations to 25 locations and we are including recycling containers at each of these 25 locations," says Edward Hicks, Public Works foreman.  "In the past there were only about six to eight recycling locations."

For now, the Fest Zero crew is focused on planning and making incremental changes. Fey talked to local businesses, targeting ones on Allen Street, over the last few months about distributing compostable materials during the week of the festival. Fey says the response from owners was positive and his efforts on this front will increase next year.

Surveys were sent out to Arts Fest vendors to ask what they will bring so the Fest Zero crew can prepare.

"Once we know which types of products the vendors are currently using we can better understand the waste stream," Hicks says. "Then we can see what types of recyclable/compostable products are available and see if the vendors will use these products in the future."

Down the line, Fey hopes vendors are required to bring only compostable materials. Hicks says the goal he keeps in my mind is to someday offer only recycle receptacles and compost receptacles.

Besides his desire to save the borough money, Fey hopes his interest in recycling will make for a cleaner region.

"It's good for the Earth, and it's good for the environment," he says.

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Jessica Tully recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in journalism and political science. She is a frequent contributor to StateCollege.com and has also reported for USA TODAY, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Onward State and The Daily Collegian.
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