For months I had been waiting with excitement for Riptide Music Festival. I could not wait to be immersed in the energy and music, and dancing on the sandy beach of Fort Lauderdale. As someone who is committed to not using single-use plastics, I was also stressing about the amount of waste I would have to dodge. Nonetheless, I went in with an open-mind and a plan to focus on having fun with friends.
All hopes to just enjoy the moment and forget about the Pacific Garbage Patch for one evening flew out the window when I noticed thousands of people at the festival wearing plastic foam hats labelled with “#sharksagainstplastic“ and “Be a Force of Nature”.
Hold up. Plastic hats to raise awareness about the issue of plastic pollution, being distributed by Nova Southeastern University?! NSU is a university located in Fort Lauderdale, well known for its shark mascot and Marine Sciences program.
Truly baffled by the irony, I thought to myself "This is impossible! Maybe there is a biodegradable foam alternative that I simply do not know about?” In fact, I was optimistic that NSU was going to teach me something new! Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I stopped by their booth to inquire about this foam material.
No one was able to give me a response other than “foam” (polyurethane), and it turns out they were also distributing styrofoam (polystyrene) light up wands by the hundreds both of which are not biodegradable or easily recyclable.
Let me paint the picture. Their booth was located directly on the beach, was approximately 30 feet long (one of the biggest ones at the festival), had a photobooth station where people could take the pledge to say no to plastic, and had a dozen NSU members handing out hundreds if not thousands of polyurethane and polystyrene freebies to event-goers from 10 am until 10 pm for three days straight. Last year, the event drew 37,000 people.
The biggest deception of all however was hands down the way my concerns were met. When I tried to have a conversation with people at the NSU booth, my questions were responded to with rudeness, condescension, and blatant misinformation. I was lied to multiple times being told that “styrofoam IS easily recyclable” and that people should know not to throw their trash on the ground. In fact I was told and I quote “the focus of this event is to educate event goers about not littering the beach with plastic and that what people do with these freebies is beyond their control.” I’m sorry but if you are mass producing and distributing styrofoam (or any material!) you have a freakin RESPONSIBILITY TO PROVIDE A PROPER DISPOSAL STRATEGY.
As expected, despite NSU’s apparent efforts to “raise awareness” about plastic pollution, their single-use freebies ended up laying around the entire beach/event and even in TRASH cans. SHOCKER.
Riptide Plastic Report
The biggest let down at Riptide Music Festival was the usage of standard plastic cups as well as thick, tall guitar shaped plastic cups, and plastic straws. thousands of these items could have been easily avoided had the organizers simply implemented a BYOC or a reusable plastic cup system.
Despite waste bins being labelled with recycling signs on one side and trash signs on the other, every bin looked like righthand side photo by the end of day 1. Proof, that single-use plastics must be tackled at the source.
Thanks to my 10oz klean kanteen
(which cost me $8) I didn't use a single piece of plastic during the 6 hours of festivities! On the other hand, my friend without a reusable cup used 6 plastic cups, 6 plastic straws, and 2 plastic water bottles. And thats just one person. last year 37,000 people attended Riptide Music Festival.
Which brings me to my next point. There were no water refill stations at the venue apart from one tiny fountain tucked between the men and women restrooms. A couple proper water refill stations throughout the festival could have replaced the distribution of thousands of plastic water bottles.
I point these two things out because they are small changes that would go a long way and I truly hope that the Riptide Music Festival Organizers will consider making them in 2019.
I'll give it to them that the large fence along the shore must have prevented a lot litter from directly entering the ocean. That being said, even if every single plastic item was collected at the fence the following morning and thrown into the trash, they would now be sitting in landfill for thousands of years. Now lets say Riptide went above and beyond and hired someone to collect and recycle every cup, that may sound great in theory but did you know that you can only recycle plastic so many times before it becomes too weak and ends up in a landfill? The point im making is that we really can not justify this type of single-use consumption in general, and definitely not when at a music festival ON THE BEACH.