Bonnaroo music festival turns food waste into compost

The festival partnered with Eco-Products and Clean Vibes to convert 180 tons of food waste and packaging into compost.

The Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival turned 180 tons of what would have been waste into compost after the four-day event in June, announced its partner, Eco-Products.

Bonnaroo, held annually at Great Stage Park, the 900-acre farm and event space located just 60 miles southeast of Nashville in Manchester, Tennessee, is the largest camping music festival in North America. 

From June 13-16, this year’s sold-out festival generated 180 tons of food waste and the packaging associated with it. Bonnaroo collected and processed the waste right at the farm, including tens of thousands of compostable cups, plates and utensils made by Eco-Products of Boulder, Colorado.

“We’re committed to helping create not just an amazing festival, but the greenest festival, and a big part of that is partnering with Eco-Products,” says Anna Borofsky, co-owner of Marion, North Carolina-based Clean Vibes, Bonnaroo’s waste-diversion partner. “Our goal is to set the standard in sustainability for concert events, and the partnership with Eco-Products helps us ensure a clean compost stream, which in turn ensures we achieve substantive results in our waste diversion efforts.”

Bonnaroo has been partnering with Eco-Products for the past eight years to supply compostable products like beer cups, plates, food trays, forks and other items. Because all the packaging at Bonnaroo is compostable, festival attendees do not have to separate their uneaten fries or pizza crusts from the plate. All of that goes into compost bins that are provided throughout the festival grounds. 

“We’re proud to be part of Bonnaroo, a festival that aspires to be the most sustainable in North America,” says Sarah Martinez, director of marketing at Eco-Products. “This is the kind of partnership where everyone benefits – from the festival to the fans to the environment. It’s exciting to see our compostable cups and plates serve tens of thousands of fans, then get turned into tons of compost to serve the farm.”

What makes Bonnaroo unique? Rather than send its organic waste to an industrial compost facility to be processed and then sold to farmers, Bonnaroo collects and processes its food waste and packaging on-site at the farm and uses the finished compost to “beautify” festival grounds for future events, Eco-Products says in a news release. 

Composting is just one component of the festival’s waste diversion efforts, which include donating leftover food and recycling as much as possible. In 2018, the festival converted 140 tons of organic waste to compost and achieved an overall diversion rate of 52 percent. With a sold-out crowd at Bonnaroo this year, even more organic material was diverted. The festival is still working to calculate its overall waste diversion rate for 2019, and once more details about recyclables and other materials are available, this information will be provided on the festival website.

Bonnaroo is one of several festivals that partners with Eco-Products to use compostable packaging as a vehicle for keeping both the packaging and food scraps out of landfills. Others include the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado and Outside Lands in San Francisco.

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