New Brunswick

Can you go plastic-free for a month? Moncton festival promotes eco-friendly challenge

Festival Inspire is challenging residents and businesses to go plastic-free for the month of July.

Festival Inspire is challenging residents, businesses to go plastic-free for the month of July

Lisa Griffin is the executive director of Festival Inspire. She hopes the plastic-free July challenge will make people think about their plastic use and spark conversation online. (Kate Letterick/CBC)

Festival Inspire provides a feast for the eyes. Now its organizers hope to inspire environmental consciousness.

The festival featuring murals, live art, street performances and music is launching "Plastic Free July Moncton".

Lisa Griffin, Festival Inspire's executive director, worked on an initiative on the west coast of Australia where the concept of a plastic-free month began. Griffin said only a small amount of plastics can be recycled.

"I mean everybody knows it's a big problem, but it's such a big problem I think that people need small, manageable, bite-size pieces of habit change that are full of hope," she said.

Griffin said residents and businesses are being challenged to give up single-use plastic as a way of tackling the global plastic pollution problem.

"You can try, instead of trying to do the whole challenge you can try to go plastic free for one day so that's a fun little starter, try to go plastic free for one week or try for the whole month," she said.

Griffin said it's hard to fix the problem, if people don't realize what they're doing wrong.

Portugal-based artist Bordalo II used more than a ton of plastic to make this wood turtle, emerging from the wall of the Starving Artist Cafe in downtown Moncton, during last year's Festival Inspire. (Bordalo II/Facebook)

People are invited to sign up online and take the plastic consumption quiz to target where their plastics consumption comes from and find resources for plastic-free alternatives to help them through the challenge.

Griffin said the top four problems are single-use disposable plastic bags, coffee cup lids, straws and drink bottles.

Challenge for landfill

Plastics create a challenge for Eco360, which deals with waste in southeastern New Brunswick.

Gena Alderson, the waste diversion co-ordinator, said Eco360 can keep an eye on what comes in through the blue bags. But a lot still ends up in the landfill, through clear bags and commercial waste.

Alderson said even some of the materials that can be recycled aren't.

"Number 6 hard plastic, which is your coffee cup covers, those are not recyclable because we do not have a market there's just nobody who wants that product," Alderson said.

"The same thing for straws, K-cups, single yogurt containers, plastic utensils, all of those single use kind of use and throw away things are very difficult for us to recover even if we could. We just don't have a market to send them to."

Gena Alderson is the waste diversion co-ordinator for Eco360, which deals with waste in southeastern New Brunswick. She applauds Festival Inspire's initiative. (Kate Letterick/CBC News)

Alderson applauded Festival Inspire's "Plastic Free July Moncton".

"Any initiative that kind of gets people thinking about how much they consume how much they use and what happens to it after they've put it at the curb is great," she said.

Hoping for community response

Griffin said she hopes it will make people think twice.

"The whole purpose of the challenge is to re-habit and to become more conscious," Griffin said.

The initiative will highlight businesses that are going green and spark conversation online.

"So if you have a question during the month, you're like look, 'I tried to buy a loaf of bread at the market and everybody wanted to give me plastic bags so I took my own paper bag and that helps everybody else — ok I also buy my bread at the market and these are the ways we need to think about, because we haven't been thinking about it before so it's amazing really how much stuff pops up," Griffin said.

"It's going to be a really interesting month to see how the community responds."

People can register on the Festival Inspire website or through the Plastic-Free July Moncton Facebook page.

Festival Inspire runs July 9-14 in Greater Moncton.