ENCINITAS — Organizers of two of the city’s signature summer events, the Summer Fun on the 101 in Leucadia and the Switchfoot Bro-Am at Moonlight Beach, asked the same question during cleanup of the events.
Where did all the trash go?
The events produced significantly less trash than years past, and organizers also reported more waste being kept away from landfills through recycling and diversion efforts — both good things, said Jessica Toth of the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation.
“It’s a small victory for the environment,” said Toth, who oversaw the “Green Team” recycling program at the Bro-Am, a group of 60 volunteers who educated eventgoers on the proper way to dispose of refuse at the collection sites. “Both events saw drastically less trash than the previous year, and I think that’s a result of a couple of factors.”
The Bro-Am — the daylong surf contest and concert attended by 16,000 people — generated 1,700 pounds of waste this year, compared to more than 3,000 pounds in 2016. Numbers weren’t available for the Summer Fun event, which is organized by Leucadia 101 Main Street Association, but organizers anecdotally noticed a “significant decrease” in trash.
Leucadia 101 Interim Executive Director Kellie Hinze said that historically they have to replace the trash bags at the event multiple times during the day. This year, she said, they didn’t have to replace any of the trash bags.
“Every trash can had the same bag as it did at the beginning of the event,” Hinze said. “It was kind of a beautiful thing to see.”
Toth attributed the decrease to a couple of factors.
First, Toth said, vendors are paying heed to the city’s recent bans on plastic bags and expanded polystyrene food packaging and using more environmentally sustainable packaging.
Second, event attendees are getting the message and generating less trash.
“I think the city’s efforts are leading to a more educated public,” Toth said.
Hinze said that at the Summer Fun event, one of the event’s sponsors, Carlsbad Alkaline Water, provided refillable water stations and Leucadia 101 encouraged eventgoers to bring their own water bottles, which led to a significant decrease in the amount of paper waste.
The same occurred inside the event’s beer garden, where the sponsor handed out reusable cups that attendees were able to take home.
“I think the vendors and the public did a good job limiting the waste,” Hinze said.
The public is also more educated on how to properly dispose of waste, Toth said, pointing to the Bro-Am’s 41 percent waste diversion rate in 2017, more than twice as high as 2016, when only 18 percent of the waste stayed out of landfills.
This isn’t near, say, the 93 percent diversion rate of the mayor’s State of the City Address earlier this year and it is actually significantly lower than the 2015 installment of the Bro-Am that saw 83 percent of waste go to landfills, Toth said, but a step in the right direction.
In previous years, Toth said, volunteers manually sorted trash after the events to reach the high diversion rates, which she called “artificially high.”
“I don’t think (sorting trash) is what we should be doing,” Toth said. “We should be educators, not sorters.”
So in 2016, Toth said, they didn’t sort the waste, and the diversion rate dropped as a result.
This year, Green Team volunteers manned 60 of the event’s 100 or so collection sites, and educated people on where to place their waste in one of several bins — recyclable products, trash and food waste.
Toth said that they saw diversion rates of 55 percent at stations with a volunteer.
“I think clearly next year we will look to expand the number of volunteers so that we have them at all of the stations,” she said.