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Commission hopes to make future festivals green

Monday, May 19, 2008 by Mark Richardson

The Solid Waste Advisory Commission wants organizers of the city’s myriad fairs and festivals to keep it green. Commissioner Rick Cofer introduced a resolution Wednesday proposing an ordinance that would require most all events to make recycling bins available and use compost-friendly materials.


Cofer said he sees it as part of the city’s commitment to Zero Waste (or Darn Close), adding that the Council has also approved a Climate Protection Plan to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from municipal activities by the year 2020.


‘It’s an incentive to organizers or groups who want to use city streets or facilities for their event to not use disposable items but recyclable items,” he said. “The goal is help the city create a national model ordinance in this area.”


According to Cofer, the Green Events Ordinance would apply to all events that receive a city fee waiver, require a public street closure, occur on city property, receive city funds or sponsorship, and include 100 or more participants.


It would require mandatory availability of recycling provided through Solid Waste Services and paid for by an additional Green Facilities Fee or a contract with a private vendor at the same service level, Cofer said. The city would offer incentives to ban items such as disposable plastic, Styrofoam and non-recycleable items from public events, and offer complimentary or discounted rates for use and proper disposal of compostable materials.


The referendum recommends that the city enforce this ordinance by either a civil penalty or fee at a significant dollar amount or by suspending access to city facilities to those who violate the ordinance.


Cofer said stakeholders in the development of the proposed ordinance are from Solid Waste Services staff, Austin Water and Wastewater, Ecology Action and other private recyclers, the City of Austin Climate Protection Plan Team, representatives from SXSW, ACL Festival and members of the the environmental community and local charities.


The commission unanimously adopted the proposal. Cofer said Mayor Will Wynn, and Council Members Mike Martinez and Lee Leffingwell have agreed to sponsor the ordinance at City Council.

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