Thursday, May 29, 2008

Plastic in Concert

Do you remember the last time you went to see a band where the bar still served you a drink in a glass? How about the last concert that didn't sell water bottled in plastic? Or an outdoor festival without the ubiquitous plastic cup?

The change-over seems to have occurred sometime in the 1980’s, since I remember going to many shows in that era where the water was in fountains, the beer was in cans or glass bottles, and paper cups (albeit poly-coated, or with plastic straws and lids) were the norm. Bars that served drinks in plastic cups were rare. You could still bring a thermos to outdoor concerts, as long as it wasn't filled with alcohol. And vendors selling things like hot dogs in plastic clamshells, which they do now in many of our arenas, was unheard of.

The amount of non-recyclable plastic trash left after one Memorial Day party in my neighborhood tells me that entertainment and waste still go hand in hand, and we have a long way to go towards reducing petrochemical pollution. Plastic cups, cutlery, plates etc. are not currently recycled in this city, so the best solution for festivals and concerts is to bring your own containers or choose biodegradable alternatives. Two local examples, the annual Philadelphia Folk Festival, and the upcoming Popped Music Festival, provide water stations, so concert go-ers can fill their own bottles, instead of buying bottled water.

Getting bars, or any businesses, to comply with recycling laws has been next to impossible for the city's underfunded Streets and Walkways Education and Enforcement Program (S.W.E.E.P). But it might be getting easier, now that Mayor Nutter has appointed a new Director of Sustainability, Mark Allen Hughes. Hopefully, we will start to see more clubs sending their cans, glass, and plastic bottles to the recycling center instead of the dumpster. Unfortunately, this city still doesn't recycle plastic cups, so that problem will only be solved when clubs and bars start making more sustainable choices.

As for large arenas, Farm Aid  sets the best example nationally, consistently making strides towards reducing their environmental impact. Locally, Aramark, the food concession provider for arenas like Citizen’s Park, has unveiled their new environmental policy which includes recycling, using biodegradable cups, and recycling frying oil for biodiesel fuel. The Eagles have also switched to corn-based plastic at some of the vendors at the Linc and increased their recycling efforts as part of their larger "Go Green" plan. Let's hope this catches on at places like the Wachovia, and the Tweeter, and the Festival Pier, and The Mann... 

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