Catching the Zero Vibe

July 27, 2003

Thousands of people at an outdoor music gathering and virtually no garbage?

Sounds impossible but that is what a local environmental consultant is striving for at the upcoming Kaslo Jazz Etc., Society (KJES) music festival.

Michael Jessen, owner of Zero Waste Services, has been contracted by the KJES to eliminate as much garbage as possible from the four-day event scheduled from August 1 to 4.

"The main way we hope to reduce waste is by having all food and beverage vendors use compostable plates and cups," Jessen said.

"We will be using products from Biocorp North America and I believe this is the first time these products have been used at a music festival in Canada," added Jessen.

Biocorp is one of the leading providers of biodegradable packaging to the food and beverage industries. Its products were used at the recent summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia and at the winter Olympics at Salt Lake City, Utah. Biocorp products are certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute for biodegradability and compostability.

He said the products are not yet available in Canada and he has had to import the stock of plates, hot and cold drink cups, and straws from the firm's Los Angeles headquarters.

Jessen said the main savings on waste will probably be at the festival's beer garden where up to 4,000 cups of beer and wine expect to be poured.

"Festival organizers already have a unique system of writing people's names on their cup so they can use it more than once," Jessen said. "Now we'll compost the cups after people have used them instead of throwing them in the landfill."

Last year garbage generated at the festival filled a Village of Kaslo dump truck to overflowing, Jessen said. "This year we hope we'll make less than a car trunk full."

A three-bin collection system with simple, bright signage will collect all waste generated at the festival, Jessen said.

"There'll be one bin under blue signage for all beverage containers such as cans, plastic bottles, and cartons; a bin for compostables under green signage to collect food leftovers and the compostable plates and cups, and even napkins; then a third smaller bin with white signage for actual garbage," he said. Glass bottles are not allowed on the festival site, he added.

Jessen said he hopes festival attendees will get into the zero waste spirit by not bringing potential garbage with them or else packing it out.

"We're basically asking people to make one more sort," Jessen added. "In the past, festival attendees have separated out their beverage containers. Now we want them to separate the compostable food waste, and of course the cups, plates and straws. It's a big experiment, but hopefully people will understand the importance of their actions and co-operate."

The compostable part of the waste stream will be collected in Biocorp's compostable bags that leave no plastic residuals or polluting chemicals, thereby enhancing the compost quality.

Jessen said three corporate sponsors -- Nelson Toyota, Aquila Networks Canada, and Oso Negro Coffee -- have contributed to signage and other zero waste station costs. "We thank our sponsors for their help and generosity," he said.

"Organic waste represents about 50% of a municipality's waste so this is the area where we will find the next great leap in waste reduction," Jessen said. "Many communities such as Guelph, Ontario already collect organic waste weekly from residences and commercial establishments and they are achieving 70% waste reduction."

Organic waste can be composted and turned into a soil nutrient to be an integral part of the food chain, Jessen said.

"Compost enriches the porosity and density of the soil, increasing the possibility for water to reach plants and reducing erosion," he said. "It can also be utilized as an alternative to expensive fertilizers."

Jessen said that if the Kaslo zero waste event proves successful in dramatically reducing waste, he hopes other Kootenay area festivals will follow suit. He said he would be preparing a report on the waste reduction impact of the project.

Michael Jessen is a Nelson consultant who specializes in helping homes and businesses with waste-free living. He can be reached at 250-229-5632 or e-mailed at His business -- Zero Waste Services -- has an award-winning web site at

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