Pre-sorting means 100 per cent compostable waste

Cr Brent Hoare distributes the bins before Winter Magic
Cr Brent Hoare distributes the bins before Winter Magic
A rubbish room at Winter Magic 2019

A rubbish room at Winter Magic 2019

Cr Brent Hoare checks the organic waste skip.

Cr Brent Hoare checks the organic waste skip.

Washing out the reused bin bags.

Washing out the reused bin bags.

Garbage ain't just garbage anymore. It's variously landfill, recyclable and compostable.

And at Winter Magic this year, a new approach to the rubbish rooms resulted in a new record for the purity of the compostable waste collected.

For several years, the festival has set up rubbish rooms to separate waste. They are staffed by volunteers and have been used at both the Blue Mountains Music Festival and Winter Magic since 2014.

But there has always been some uncertainty about the process. Some bioplastics, such as supposedly compostable coffee cup lids and cutlery, don't break down unless they are treated under very specific conditions.

The festival needed a new plan, said Greens Cr Brent Hoare.

"When it became clear these contaminants needed to be completely eliminated from our green bin collections at the rubbish rooms, it challenged us to review the system we use ... to ensure 100 per cent compliance."

So for the first time a sorting table was set up in the rubbish rooms.

The red general waste and yellow recycling (glass, plastic and aluminium) bins were left open to be used directly, and those with clearly compostable items could put them in the green bin.

But people with the "iffy" things - like the coffee cup lids - were invited to leave them for the volunteers to sort.

"Adding the sorting tables to the front of the rubbish rooms enabled our volunteers to deal with high volumes of mixed waste quickly," Cr Hoare said.

"Rather than having to have many complicated discussions, it was just so much easier and more reliable to just say 'thanks, just leave it on the table'.

"This ensured sorting was done by trained volunteers who were able to do it right the first time and minimise the need to sort through bags before and after they were emptied into the 7.5 cubic metre skip.

"It was the final stage in the process we adopted this year that gives me great confidence we were able to meet the 100 per cent pure requirements of our valuable composting partners at Australian Native Landscapes in Blayney."

Two other innovations at this year's festival were a great success. For the first time, all bin bags used were re-used bags from previous festivals.

"Although expensive, these bags are remarkably durable, and with a simple rinse and dry on the washing line, they can be reused many times," Cr Hoare said.

The other winning move was to divert the vast majority of recyclable containers into the "return and earn" container deposit scheme.

The festival's ecological funding group, led by Ian Tanner, recovered eligible containers to claim the 10 cent deposit, raising about $900 and ensuring the remaining recyclable waste volumes were tiny.

"With over 30,000 people enjoying a magnificent community celebration we have limited our waste to landfill to only 17 domestic waste bins," Cr Hoare said.

"There is still room for improvement, and I'd like to think we can reduce this even further as use of compostable packaging improves, and use of keep-cups becomes more widespread at festivals.

"I believe the way we manage our large community festival waste is as good as it is done anywhere in the world."