If you’re looking for plastic straws or cutlery at Surrey’s annual Fusion Festival this summer, you won’t find any.
The festival went Styrofoam-free in 2014, but now, the City of Surrey is banning its vendors from handing out anything that isn’t biodegradable.
Instead of plastic, the city has decided plant-based straws and wooden cutlery are to be used at the festival, set for July 21-22 at Holland Park.
“This is the first of the first,” said Surrey Councillor Mike Starchuk, who chairs the city’s Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee. “We’ll ask vendors when doing food sales, they have to have either compostable or recyclable food items so nothing they serve for anybody that’s there needs to end up in a landfill.”
Starchuk said the initiative was “met with open arms” by Fusion Fest vendors this year.
“There was an appetite amongst the group that was there,” he chuckled.
Starchuk noted it could be a bit more complex to institute the same rules for other events, like the upcoming Canada Day event at Cloverdale Fairgrounds this Sunday, because private food trucks are invited to attend.
“I know they have agreements in place as to styrofoam and other things are there, but because of how the food truck industry purchases their stuff, I’d be willing to say most of their supplies would already be purchased ahead of time,” he noted.
With Fusion Festival, the city works with vendors much more, so the switch was a bit easier, he noted.
But Starchuk hopes the city’s annual Christmas Tree-Lighting Festival this winter, and next year’s Party for the Planet will follow in Fustion Festival’s no-plastic footsteps.
“It’s just part of the evolution,” he said.
And, the city is taking their sustainability efforts one step further.
The organic material from Fusion Festival, as part of the City of Surrey organics program, will be processed into 100 per cent renewable natural gas (RNG) at the new Surrey Biofuel Facility—the first fully integrated closed-loop waste-to-energy system of its kind in North America.
RNG produced at the facility will then be used to fuel the city’s fleet of natural gas powered waste collection and operations service vehicles, with excess feeding the city’s environmentally sustainable District Energy System, a city release notes.
The plastic-free initiative is connected to a similar effort at this year’s Surrey Vaisakhi Parade, where two brothers launched a program urging vendors to go “foam free.”
“We want to make a big change,” said Baljit Singh Sabharwal at the time, noting the Styrofoam used to serve an estimated 30,000 people at the first parade in 1981 is still sitting in the landfill today – and will remain there for generations.
In that effort, vendors were urged to shift to sugarcane products.
Starchuk was a big support of their efforts this year, and it was their work that inspired him to bring the idea for Fusion Festival to Surrey staff.
“If you’ve got stock in a polystyrene company, I’d consider selling them now,” Starchuk said. “I think the world is right on that tipping point, we’re so close. That other option just makes so much more sense, and the price point is getting so close.”
In a release, Mayor Linda Hepner said “implementing important sustainable initiatives like these is key to successfully achieving the vision, goals and desired outcomes outlined in our Sustainability Charter.
“We are proud to announce the inclusion of biodegradable straws and cutlery at the Surrey Fusion Festival,” she added, “which has become such a popular destination for enjoying delicious food and experiencing culture from around the globe.”
The annual event Fustion Festival features 50 cultural pavilions, and is expected to draw more than 100,000 visitors this year.
More details are posted at surreyfusionfestival.ca.