As I made my way out of Telluride Town Park last week after each night of a special two-night run with legendary Vermont band, Phish, I was struck by the fact that I did not see a single discarded beer cup on the ground. And for that matter, I only saw a handful of plastic water bottles.
Now, the latter was true because access to fresh, cold water was fast, free and easy. But in terms of the beer cups, there is a different explanation, although it is governed by a similar concept.
One increasingly popular method of addressing the plastic beverage cup issue is by sourcing compostable corn plastic cups. The problem with this route is making sure you can close the loop and divert the cups from the landfill and into a commercial composting facility.
Another option is to encourage festival attendees to use a single cup by offering them a recyclable plastic cup they might want to hold on to as a souvenir. Give people a $1 discount when they return with the cup for another beer and you’ve got a winning combination for drastically reduced solid waste.
Attendees of this week’s two sold-out shows from Phish, at Town Park in Telluride, Colorado, were treated to a Telluride tradition: custom-made souvenir beer cups that knock a buck off the price when they are brought back to the beer stand for a refill.
The Town of Telluride and Planet Bluegrass, the organizers of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, also held on the grounds of Town Park, have long opted for the souvenir cup route because it not only reduces the amount of waste festival organizers have to clean up, it reduces the number of cups that have to be purchased in the first place. And on top of all that, lucky fans have a nice little keepsake reminder of the beautiful town, the lush venue, and of course, the epic music.
Now, if we’re talking about a massive four-day 75,000-person festival the size of Bonnaroo, the plastic souvenir cup solution may be both too expensive and too resource intensive to be practical. But for smaller venues and those that cannot accept what are potentially tens of thousands of corn cups into their own on-site composting pad, the souvenir cup is a pretty elegant solution, as the one and only beer cup I purchased over the two days can attest.