Feeling the Vibes

Several thousand party animals who “throw down” at a massive outdoor concert are proving that they are just as willing to help pickup — as long as the right recycling and waste management systems are in place.

According to organizers for the three-day Bonnaroo Music Festival held in June at a 500-acre farm outside of Manchester, Tenn., more than 80,000 concert attendees helped to recycle 113 tons.

Prior to the concert, organizers were committed to making the Woodstock-esque event as “green” as possible. So they hired Portsmouth, N.H.-based Clean Vibes, which specializes in waste management for outdoor festivals. Clean Vibes then contacted several local materials recovery facilities (MRFs) to find one that would accept commingled materials. Eventually the John F. Germ Recycling Center at Orange Grove, Chattanooga, Tenn., agreed to accept commingled products, and a private hauler was contracted to transport materials.

“We were thrilled to have someone contact us because not many concerts are interested in being green,” says Jan Hollingsworth, Orange Grove's recycling education coordinator. At the event, Clean Vibes worked to educate participants on what and how to recycle. Signs around the concert area and campgrounds provided recycling facts, and several recycling receptacles were placed throughout the area. Attendees also were given two different colored trash bags — one for refuse and the other for recycling, such as aluminum, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high-density polyethylene (HPDE) and glass bottles. Concert-goers were instructed to bring filled bags to the side of the road in the camping areas to make it easier for volunteers to collect. Bags were collected with roll-off trucks.

Even with its commingled agreement, Clean Vibes had to ensure that no more than 5 percent trash contaminated the recyclables. Therefore, each recycling bag was clear, so that volunteers could easily detect whether the contents were too contaminated.

Admittedly, some recyclables were thrown away with refuse if a bag appeared more than 5 percent contaminated. However, Evangelyn Morse, owner of Clean Vibes, says the challenges were worth the rewards.

“People are disconnected from where their trash goes, but our goal is to educate and bring [people] closer to their community and to how they impact the earth,” Morse says.

Concert promoters paid a reasonable price to organize Bonnaroo's recycling efforts, according to Morse. But the costs were worth it.