Virginia Couple Leads Massive Concert Composting Effort

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When Anne and Derek Bedarf won tickets to FloydFest on the radio in 2008, they may have expected to see some rockin’ bands, check out funky artisan vendors and meet some new friends by the campfire.

The FloydFest Green Team: Back row (left to right): Aaron Hofberg, Gus Colom, Claudine Cloutier, John Oprandy, Anne Bedarf, Derek Bedarf, Jan Mahon, Adam Damewood, Austin Bush Front row (left to right): Konrad Zeller, Stephanie White, Valerie Farrell, Barbara Frost. Photo: Anne Bedarf

They never dreamed they would be leading the festival’s Green Team in a composting effort that collected 7.2 tons of waste only two years later.

But that’s exactly what happened.

While walking through the rows of vendors and stages, the Charlottesville, Va. couple was pleased to see trucks cruising around carrying loads of bottles and cans and blue bins bearing the familiar chasing arrows.

But Anne, who works as project manager for the not-for-profit GreenBlue, found herself looking for bins to place her food scraps.

A few weeks later, the couple met up with FloydFest producers Erika Johnson and Kris Hodges at another Virginia music festival to discuss composting at FloydFest, and the rest is history.

“They really opened up their hearts to us,” remembers Anne, who is now sustainaibility coordinator for FloydFest. “They didn’t have the man-power or the expertise for composting before, but they were so excited about the idea. They gave us the resources and support we needed to do it.”

This is the second year the Bedarfs have volunteered their time to manage the environmental sustainability at the four-day festival, but 2010’s shocking compost total of 7.2 tons blew last year’s 4.9 tons out of the water.

“Last year we felt like we got most of it,” she says with a laugh. “So, we were very surprised to see the number get so high this year.”

Anne attributes this shocking total to increased awareness and collaboration with the festival’s producers, Across-the-Way Productions, who made using compostable packaging a requirement for all vending contracts.

FloydFest’s 15,000 attendees were confronted with Waste Stations at every turn, with bins for compost, recycling and landfill waste.

Most Waste Stations were manned by one of the many FloydFest Green Team volunteers that numbered as high as 25 per day. Volunteers spent four hours each day manning Waste Stations and informing concert-goers which bins to place their waste in.

“Last year was a lot of trial and error as to where to put the bins and which ones were priorities for volunteers,” Anne says. “We improved a lot on that this year, and we were also able to make more bins available.”

The 48-gallon rolling composting bins were distributed by and transported to PME Compost, LLC, a Riner, Va. couple’s family farm which they converted into a composting facility.

It may sound like this effort was all smooth-sailing for these composting couples, but this successful composting program was not without its struggles.

“There are only two composters that are certified to take post-consumer food waste in the state,” she says. “We were really lucky because we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did in other areas of Virginia.”

Anne, whose day-job with GreenBlue makes her all too aware of the hindrances to compostable packaging, says that limited composting infrastructure is a problem across the nation.

“The big picture is that the technology for compostable packaging is advancing beyond the ability of composters to accept it,” she says. “There are only 30 composters in the country that are certified to process post-consumer waste. It’s just not enough.”

The couple aspires to undertake similar composting efforts at another Virginia festival, The Festy Experience, this October, but with no certified composting facility for hundreds of miles, the feasibility of the project is low.

“We could apply for an educational exemption, which is what the University of Virginia operates under to take some of its dining waste to Panorama Farms, a composter who is ordinarily only allowed to process yard waste,” says Anne. “But I don’t know if there is enough time to process the application by October 9.”

“The producers [of the concert] want to do the right thing, but the ability to do composting is limited,” says Anne, who still plans to host a recycling effort at the Festy with her husband.

But the Bedarfs’ passion for composting doesn’t stop with their home state.

This is the couple’s third year operating the recycling and composting program at Farm Aid in Milwaukee, Wis., and you may also spot their Waste Stations at the Bear Creek Music Festival in Live Oak, Fla.

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