Piles of single use plates, cups and cutlery often scatter the festival ground as litter, or fill the bins after an event until they overflow. When the big party is over truckloads of rubbish makes its way to the nearest landfill (in the best case scenario) and all the fun ends to grieve for the environment.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Several festivals in the USA have now trialled what has been a well established practice in Europe for decades: Dish and cutlery deposits at events.
There are several versions to the theme and all have proven to be highly successful:
Food and drinks are served in reusable ceramic, glass or plastic jugs and dishes, and the visitor is charged a small fee or deposit (usually $2 for a plate and up to $5 for a fancy jug) for their “equipment”. Consecutive refills are therefore cheaper if you can already provide a plate or mug. The dishes are then returned (if this is part of the concept) at either the same food stall or at a central collection station where you get your deposit back. However, with funky and annually changing designs on some items those jugs even gain collector value and are often taken home as a souvenir.
Due to the value of the plates and mugs even items left behind by careless visitors are likely to get collected and returned by others to retrieve the deposit.
For bigger events you will need to not only collect the plates and mugs, but also clean them on site which is often done with mobile dishwashers at the central collection station. Dishes and even cleaning staff can be hired from catering companies. The result of this concept is a clean festival ground and zero food packaging adding to the rubbish piles after the event.