Splore: a Zero Waste Festival

Manning the waste bins at Splore

It’s been a while since my last post! I’ve been keeping busy after work gardening, cooking, fermenting, reading, hanging out with my friends and getting up to all sorts of zero waste adventures and events;

  • I successfully hosted a zero waste BBQ (even with meat!)
  • Did a spot of geocaching
  • Trawled op shops
  • Organised a community day with my colleagues, volunteering for Ecomatters Environment Trust and Project Twin Streams
  • Went to the movies (Academy Cinema) where we had zerowaste choc top ice creams and watched a movie about living self-sufficiently and off the grid “Life Off Grid”
  • Met fellow waste free advocates, Candace and Max from Waste-Less Living who organised ‘Locally Sauced’  a zerowaste local tomato sauce making workshop
  • Volunteered at a multi-day music and arts festival, Splore 

It’s been a really interesting past few weeks and I have met so many like-minded people and had some wonderful conversations. My partner and I have created only a few minor pieces of trash over this time; wrist bands from Splore (the plastic part and our volunteer band as the main one is fabric), 1 straw, a few stickers, medical waste (pill packets, KT tape, a bandage) and some birthday related waste  (mainly soft plastics). We also were given a new appliance, it came with some soft plastic and polystyrene. Thanks to Ecomatters I have already recycled this, they collect these harder to recycle items and send them off to the right places for recycling.

Splore; A Summer Odyssey


Splore is located at the beautiful Tapapakanga Regional Park in South Eastern Auckland

I had first heard about Splore last year when Wash Against Waste put out a call for volunteers to help wash Globlets, reusable cups that are used at the festival. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend then as my job was in peak busy season. This year I knew I wanted to be involved and signed myself and my partner up straight away. If you’ve ever been to a multi-day music festival before or seen photos of the aftermath, you may be aware of the huge amounts of waste that generally tend to happen at festivals. So how did we fare, a whole 4 day weekend zero waste? It was surprisingly easy, mainly because Splore was so well prepared.

Splore advertising sustainability!

Splore was on the ball in educating their crowd before the festival even started, posting heaps about precycling, leave no trace and even a rap video about sustainability. Alongside our camping gear, we packed cooking equipment and our camping utensils, collapsible plate and a large cup. As our fridge and pantry were already packed full of food for the week I figured we may as well take it with us so it doesn’t go to waste, and to save some dosh. I packed all of our food into meshbags, cloth bags, containers and reused zip bags (there’s a no glass rule) and took a small chilli bin/esky.

Splore was also heavily promoting carpooling and even offered discounts on parking based on how many were in the car. As we were volunteers we did not have to pay for parking or camping. I decided took a carpooler to ease my guilt of driving and provide for some new conversation in our radio-less car. I was stoked when I realised about 10 minutes into the trip that I picked an awesome carpooler, also volunteering on the zero waste team and as Camp Kaitiaki (Maori word meaning guardian). The Kaitiaki wander around the campsites chatting with campers about sorting their waste and not being messy, they leave them with compostable bags for food scraps and bags for recycling.

As we were volunteers we had arrived a night before the main crowd.  Unfortunately, a weather bomb hit that night. Our carpooler managed to get their small tent up during a brief non-rainy spell. We missed our opportunity and after getting soaking wet decided to sleep in the car.  The car, despite being a 28 year old hatchback, proved to be quite comfortable once we set up our camping mats and flattened the seats. The weather cleared up for the rest of the weekend, we pitched our tent in the sun and the rest was a stunning weekend.

One of the Waste Stations

What Makes Splore Sustainable?

  • Volunteers; There is a whole team of zero waste volunteers and Camp Kaitiaki
  • Education beforehand; Splore encourages precycling- not bringing any unnecessary packaging and promote ‘leave no trace’
  • Encourages and rewards carpooling
  • Reusable Cups; Splorer’s are encouraged to purchase a reusable Globelet cup, all of the bars serve only in these reusable cups. There is a $2 deposit for the cup, and you can return them for $1
  • Wash Against Waste; a team of volunteers who wash the Globelet cups and any other reusable items you may have
  • All food vendors were screened to ensure food packaging was fully compostable
  • 4 waste streams on site; compost, recycling, soft plastic recycling and landfill
  • The crowd; Splorer’s were incredibly mindful and willing to be sustainable as they know that Splore is a “Greener Festival”- yes Splore has won an award for this!
    The Wash Against Waste team

The volunteer shifts were 6 hours each day in a different location within the site. The first night was at the bins next to the main food stalls in the hub of the festival, the second night we were split up into different bins also in the main part of the festival (I was conveniently located next to Wash Against Waste) and our last shift was at a ‘waste station’ bin among the campers who were sluggishly packing up to leave. The first two nights was mainly food waste (compost) and the odd item in landfill, whereas the last day saw us sorting through several days of trash and recycling.


Splore had 3 waste streams at the festival- Compost, Recycling and Landfill, and a 4th stream at upper camping level for Soft Plastic Recycling. 


What we learned on the bins:

  • There’s a lot of confusion about recycling and composting
  • Due to this confusion, many people wanted to put their trash in landfill as they were unsure
  • All of the food packaging at Splore was compostable, even cutlery and straws
  • Callan learned about PLA (Polylactic Acid), which the packaging was made from
  • Composting is not common knowledge- many people didn’t know how to compost
  • No-one will believe you when you tell them their fork is compostable
  • Most of the crowd initially wanted to recycle their dirty napkins (they should go in compost as they are soiled and the fibres are too short to recycle anyway)
  • People are willing and interested to learn about waste
  • I’m not the only person crazy about waste and compost
  • Everyone was super grateful for our help
  • Food waste is a very real thing
  • Don’t bring leafy greens or chocolate to festivals
  • People will throw out all sorts of useful, barely used items when they were cheap
  • Majority of the ‘trash’ was compost or recycling (!!)
  • Glow sticks and wet wipes are abundant on the morning after

Compostable food packing


I was surprised how many people didn’t know how to compost or recycle properly, and their first instinct was to put their trash in the landfill. Majority of the landfill rubbish came from off-site, on the Sunday the landfill bins were full of glowsticks, wet wipes, un-salvageable costumes, and smaller things such as cigarettes, gum and condoms. We also found a lot of people were wanting to dispose of their once-used or even un-used costumes, thankfully there was collection point for these which were sent to Ecomatters. Callan scored a pair of shoes that had only been worn once and had a bit of mud on them, and we also ended up collecting a decent pile of Globelet cups people didn’t want to return. The amount of unopened food was also pretty shocking, food that had spoiled, melted or was slightly overripe- lettuce, chocolate, bananas were the main culprits. We (as well as the other zerowasters) tried to grab most of this before it went in the bins, and I will admit to gorging myself on chocolate biscuits that I wouldn’t normally buy due to the copious amounts of plastic (we recycled all of the packaging). We diverted a lot from landfill, most of the waste was compost, followed by recycling, soft plastics then finally landfill, this is a fantastic effort! On the Sunday we were receiving huge bags of unsorted trash, 90% of the crowd were willing to stand their and sort out these large bags with our help. They were all really grateful for our help and hopefully sorting their trash helped them to learn how to properly compost and recycle, as well as showing exactly what they are consuming and disposing of. If there was no-one manning these stations there would have been so much more in the landfill bins. The sorted rubbish actually gets double checked to ensure they are correctly sorted, any unsorted bags get sorted. The compost is then sent off to a large consented composting facility in rural South Auckland.

The waste station on Sunday morning with the sorted trash bags
All of the costumes we saved for Ecomatters

We purchased a few meals and snacks, all using our own cups, plates, and utensils, and Wash Against Waste washed them for us afterward. Even though all of the packaging was compostable, reusable is the most sustainable option, and I had all of these items conveniently in my bag (my plate is collapsible).

Food stall snacks in our reusable’s


Globelets & a new pair of shoes saved from the trash

We did the whole weekend on the cheap, only buying a beer at the end of the festival after our shift, cashing in the Globlets we rescued. Would I do it again? Heck yes! We thoroughly enjoyed sorting trash, having conversations about compost and protecting the landfill bin like our lives depended on it. It was like dumpster diving but without the diving.  And we are doing it again- this time next week we will be volunteering at WOMAD on their zero waste team with Beyond the Bin!

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