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Charleston Wine + Food Festival Prioritizes Waste Management and Recycling Efforts

Wine bottle recycling station.

Charleston Wine + Food Festival Prioritizes Waste Management

Behind the Scenes of Charleston’s Food Festivals

The annual Charleston Wine + Food Festival has a considerable impact on the Charleston area, particularly generating a significant amount of waste. From unfinished appetizers to the discarded commemorative wine glasses, all waste is meticulously accounted for by the organizers to ensure minimal environmental impact. “It’s not easy, and it’s not inexpensive,” says Alyssa Maute Smith, the festival’s executive director, shedding light on the massive operations that take place behind the scenes at the culinary village.

Waste Diversion and Recycling Efforts

Statistics from the previous year’s festival conveyed that 8.78 tons of compost and 5.25 tons of mixed items such as cardboard were diverted from landfills. While the figures for this year’s event are still being tabulated, the numbers are likely to be slightly lower due to the Charleston area’s severe rain and flooding, which led to a temporary close of the culinary village. Nevertheless, Alyssa states that waste was also collected from events held throughout the city during the festival, meaning the volume decrease might not be as much as expected.

The Complexities of Waste Sorting

Waste management at the food festivals is not as straightforward as hauling away waste. The subtleties involve separating the discarded food from the plates and cutlery, a necessity since food items are not allowed in recyclable waste. “We’re one of the only culinary festivals that is 100% compostable. We do our best to educate everyone on what’s compostable — the serviceware, plates, forks, and napkins — and that the only thing that should go in the trash is the food products because you can’t compost meat or seafood,” Alyssa elaborates.

The Specialized Team for Waste Sorting

Zero Waste Event Productions, a company from Athens, Ohio, handles waste sorting at the festival as there is no local company that provides this service. The waste collected from the festival grounds and other affiliated events is sent for sorting on a conveyor system into trash, compost, and recycling categories. Recyclable items are dispatched to the County’s Material Recovery Facility. Compost subsequently becomes available to local farmers after being processed at the Bees Ferry Convenience Center.

Glass Prioritized Over Plastic

In an effort to reduce plastic waste, the festival prefers using glassware instead of plastic cups, which are handed to attendees to keep. Discarded glass items, including the Pellegrino water bottles, are sent to Fisher Recycling in North Charleston. Fisher cleans the glass, crushes it, and repurposes it into products like countertops and landscaping glass aggregate. The festival successfully captured 9.28 tons of glass last year.

Educational Aspects of the Festival

Alyssa Maute Smith emphasized the festival’s educational backbone, stating, “The festival isn’t just about the food and the wine. It’s extremely important to use the platform of the festival as an education point. That’s a lot of the programming we do. The events we do really offer a place of education to the consumer.”

The Importance of Individual Action

Visitors to upcoming local festivals such as the Charleston Spring Wine Festival, Black Food Truck Festival, and the Lowcountry Strawberry Festival are urged to be conscious of recycling and waste handling practices.

Charleston Wine + Food Festival Prioritizes Waste Management and Recycling Efforts

HERE Charleston
Author: HERE Charleston

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