Whole Earth Festival University of California_ Davis One Shields

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					DRAFT                                          6.4.2002

                Whole Earth Festival
            University of California, Davis
        One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA, 95616

DRAFT                                                                                 6.4.2002

           Reusable dishware at special events
                   By Max Cadji, Donnie Oliveira, and Harold Leverenz

The Whole Earth Festival (WEF) is an annual event that takes place on Mothers Day
weekend on the University of California, Davis Quad. The event is planned and
coordinated by a volunteer staff composed primarily of UC Davis students, with support
from ASUCD and the Davis Community. Approximate attendance at the festival is
30,000 over a three day period (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). The Whole Earth
Festival brings together music, vegetarian food, appropriate technology, and education
for a holistic festival experience. One aspect of WEF is an integrated solid waste
prevention plan to minimize waste generation. In the past, the waste reduction plan was
based primarily on recycling and composting of festival waste. Implementation of this
system included, compatible material specifications for event food vendors, modified
collection systems, and waste sorting. In addition to the composting and recycling
program, for the 2002 WEF, a large set of reusable dishware was purchased including
plates, cups, chopsticks, and utensils. The following report is a detailed summary of the
planning, operation, and results of the reusable dishware program. In addition, due to
the nature of WEF, primarily unrestricted access, free admission, and outdoor venue,
special problems and solutions will also be discussed.

Historical perspective
Waste diversion and elimination at WEF stems from a steady progression from the
inception of recycling in the 1980’s to the initiation of composting in 1995 to the
development of the reusable dishware system in 2002 with the formation of the Whole
Earth Reusable Co-Operative (WERC). This progression was coupled with an evolution
of thought and a direction towards waste elimination (zero-waste). Diversion rates
peaked above 50% after the initiation of composting in 1995 and climbed to over 85% in
2000 through the use of biodegradable cutlery and dishware. Additional waste reduction
was achieved through restrictions on the use of non-recyclable dishware and packaging,
transport of difficult to recycle materials to surrounding counties that accepted these
items (#3-7 plastics), and ongoing public education.

DRAFT                                                                                             6.4.2002

Previous waste prevention and management activity at WEF was reported by Leverenz
and Van Horn (1999). The primary waste prevention activities consisted of upstream
material and packaging requirements (recyclable or compostable), specialized collection
system (compost, glass, and recyclables), and sorting of waste for characterization and
maximum recovery. One of the more innovative aspects, from an educational
perspective, in recent years has been the elimination of a container for waste. This year
(2002) was the first year in which a system was implemented for the complete reuse of
dishware. Current and historical WEF waste generation statistics are compared in
Figure 1.

                  9                                                 140
                  8                1.08
                                                                    120                       recyclables
                  7   0.98                                                23         40
                                   1.41                                                       compost
                  6   1.16                                                                    trash
                                                1.11                      15
    Weight, ton

                                                       Volume, yd

                                                                    80               14
                  4                                                       33                      37
                                   4.89                             60
                      3.98                                                           52
                                                3.24                40                             7
                                                                          48                      25
                  1                                                 20
                      1.47         1.15         0.96                                 25
                  0                                                  0
                      1998        2000          2002                      1998      2000          2002
                             Year of festival                                  Year of festival
                                  (a)                                                (b)
Figure 1 Distribution of solid waste components generated during the Whole Earth
Festival (a) by weight and (b) by volume

Reusable dishware
A significant amount of time was spent identifying the dishware to be purchased for the
event. Factors that were considered included durability, weight, cost, and compliance
with UCD Environmental Health and Safety requirements. Options explored for
dishware included liquidated items, used items, recycled items, and factory direct
wholesale items. None of these options proved to be feasible due to available quantity,

DRAFT                                                                                  6.4.2002

durability, or environmental health and safety concerns. Important factors that were
considered for each dishware item are discussed in Table 1.

Table 1 Selection criteria for reusable dishware at WEF 2002
Item                                       Special considerations
Plates          Durability - light weight plastic, scratch and stain resistant/proof
                Thickness - for stacking and storage efficiency
                Diameter - 9 in to fit within bucket storage container
                NSF (Nation Sanitary Foundation) certification – public safety
                Dishwasher safe – institutional type dishwasher
                Cost effective
Cups            Durability - light weight plastic, resistant to breakage
                Container volume – 16 oz cup can be used as 8 oz or 12 oz cup
                NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) certified – public safety
                Dishwasher safe - institutional type dishwasher
                Cost effective
Utensils        Lightweight – ease of handling
                Ridge free – improved sanitation, public safety
                Stainless steel – durability, safety
                Dishwasher safe - institutional type dishwasher
                Cost effective
Chopsticks      Durability – will not break, blunt tipped
                Dishwasher safe - institutional type dishwasher
                Cost effective

The purchase of the reusable items for the Whole Earth Festival was made possible
through a student fee based grant from the Associated Students of University of
California Davis (Student Government) and partially from surplus capital acquired from
the existence of the Whole Earth Festival over the last 30 years. The operating budget
was a capital investment of $8,000 dollars for the event. Reusable items were
purchased through wholesale distributors and university affiliated distributors, which
related to a discount of nearly 50% in retail cost of reusable items. A description of the
materials selected in provided in Table 2.

An institutional dishwasher, located in an adjacent food service building was rented for
the weekend for dishwashing purposes. The cost of the dishwasher use and was
passed onto the participating food vendors at the festival, through a dishwashing fee

DRAFT                                                                                6.4.2002

based on relative booth size. The use of the reusable dishware saved the vendors
money by eliminating the need to purchase relatively expensive, environmentally friendly
(post-consumer recycled, compostable, etc.), disposable products.

Table 2 Description of reusable dishware at WEF 2002
Item                            Description                       Quantity
Plates          Cambro™ polycarbonate plates, 9 inch          3000
                diameter, beige color, lightweight, NSF
Cups            Cambro™ tumbler, 16 oz volume, NSF            5000
Utensils        Stainless steel, from local source,           4000 spoons,
                standard size, no ridges for more             1000 forks
                effective cleaning
Chopsticks      Melamine, from local source, standard         1000 pair
                size, no ridges for more effective

To promote reusable dishware, beverages distributed in single use containers (soda,
water, etc.) were not sold at the event, i.e., all beverages were sold in the reusable cups.
In addition, water stations were set up in the two food areas to distribute purified water
(free of charge) to festival patrons. At the water stations, patrons were encouraged to fill
their personal container or rent a cup from the reusable collection station.

Quantity of dishware
The quantity of reusable dishware and cutlery purchased for the event (see Table 2) was
determined by comparison to the Vancouver Folk Festival and Willamette Folk Festival.
These two events use reusable plates and disposable cups and cutlery. Factors
considered when estimating the amount of items to purchase were based on average
festival attendance per day and at peak times, number of food vendors, types of food
items traditionally served, dish turnover rate, cleaning time, and collection/distribution

Deposit-refund system
Fourteen food vendors and the UC Davis Coffee House serve food throughout the
weekend event. To minimize dishware loss, a deposit-refund system was developed
based on the standard bottle bill system for beverage container recycling. Plates, cups,

DRAFT                                                                             6.4.2002

utensils, and chopsticks were sold, for a set deposit amount (see Table 3), to food
vendors in known quantities and packaged in sealed buckets and containers. Upon sale
of food and beverage products to customers, the food vendor would collect the required
deposit amount from the customer. When finishing their meal or beverage, the customer
returned their dishware to WEF collection stations for refund of their deposit. The
deposit was aimed to roughly mimic the replacement value of the item. The deposit
refund system is described graphically in Table 4.

Table 3 Deposit amount for dishware
Item                  Deposit fee         Replacement Cost

Plate                    $1.00                 $1.50

Cup                      $1.00                 $0.50

Utensil                  $0.50                 $0.13

Chopstick                $0.50                 $0.11

Table 4 Graphical description of deposit-refund system used for reusable dishware

   Word description                                    Diagram of process

1) Food vendors will purchase
   dishware, cups, utensils, and
   napkins from Whole Earth
   Festival. The purchase price will
   be equivalent to a pre-
   determined deposit fee.
2) When distributing food and
   beverages with dishware, cups,
   utensils, and napkins, the vendor
   will collect the pre-determined
   deposit fee from the customer (in
   addition to the price of the food or
3) When the customer returns the
   used dishware, cups, utensils,
   and napkins to our collection
   stations, we will refund their
4) All dishware, cups, utensils, and
   napkins will be cleaned and
   prepared for reuse.

DRAFT                                                                                6.4.2002

Dishware collection, cleaning, and distribution
The logistics of reusable dishware were optimized for effective collection, cleaning, and
distribution. To accomplish this, a method was developed for making the dishware
accessible for food vendors during the event, easy for customers to return their dishware
and get refunded, and an effective cleaning and redistribution system.

Used dishware was collected at two collection stations. The collection stations were
located on the perimeter of the festival but near to the food vendor sites. As patrons
returned their dishware for a refund, dishes were stacked and/or put into empty buckets
for return to the dishwashing area. When needed, an electric vehicle was used to drive
to the dish collection stations, dirty dishes were loaded onto the electric vehicle, and the
dishes were transported to the dishwashing area. Because the collection stations were
located on the perimeter, access with the electric vehicle was easily accomplished. A
minimum of two volunteers were stationed as each collection location. Each station had
a cash box and a preset number of assigned volunteers to work the station for three
hours with a half an hour overlap to avoid leaving the station unmanaged. The collection
stations were arranged so that festival patrons could only access from the side in which
dishes were to be returned. Patrons stood in line to return their dishware. In turn,
patrons returned dishes and were given the correct refund amount. The dishes were
handed over a bench, food waste was deposited into an adjacent compost collection bin,
and the dishes were separated for transport to the washing area. Utensils and
chopsticks were pre-soaked in a bucket of dishwashing detergent at the collection

At the dishwashing location, dishes were unloaded from the electric vehicle and carried
to the input side of the flight-style dishwasher. A crew of volunteers (typically 1 or 2)
loaded the dishes onto the dishwasher; a crew of volunteers (typically 1 or 2) at the
outlet of the dishwasher would remove the clean dishes from the dishwasher and set
them on a drying rack for several minutes. Periodically, temperature test strips (140 oF)
were also run through the dishwasher to confirm that the dishes were being correctly
sanitized. Upon drying, the plates and cups were placed face down into clean buckets.

DRAFT                                                                               6.4.2002

To quickly count plates a measuring stick was marked at a level to represent a
predetermined quantity. After placing the plates in the bucket, the depth was measured
and plates were added or removed to obtain the correct number. After getting the
correct quantity, the buckets were covered to keep the dishes sanitary until use.

                                                   Figure 2
                                                   Diagram of UC Davis Quad (site of the
                                                   Whole Earth Festival) to show
                                                   relationship between food vendors,
                                                   dish collection stations, and
                                                   dishwashing site.

Plates and cups were stored in 5 gallon plastic food grade buckets (donated by the UC
Davis Coffee House). Utensils and chopsticks were stored in smaller food grade
containers (also donated by the UC Davis Coffee House). The dishes were carried from
the dishwashing area and loaded onto the electric vehicle. When needed, the electric
vehicle was driven to the dish collection station, which also served as a staging area for
the clean dishes. The buckets of clean and covered dishes were stored off the ground
on pallets. The food vendors, located nearby, were able to walk over and buy or sign a
form confirming their acquisition of the dishware. A signature form was critical for
avoiding disputes with food vendors who preferred to keep a running tab instead of
paying for the dishes immediately. In some cases, food vendors that were busy serving
customers would ask a volunteer or staff member to deliver dishes.

Educational Impact
The overall reduction of materials generated at the Whole Earth Festival was coupled
with a great educational activity that impacted each food consumer at the event.
Festival patrons were not given the option to eat off any disposable items and there were

DRAFT                                                                                  6.4.2002

no receptacles labeled as trash at the event. Through the reusables system, festival
patrons were faced with an alternative system of waste management where reusability
(not disposability) was the only option. Once social responsibility was placed in the
consumer’s hands, waste management became more efficient, with less waste sorting
time, less management of recovery receptacles, and less grounds cleanup. In addition,
to avoid paying the dish deposit, a growing percentage of festival patrons opted to
supply their own dishware.

The Whole Earth Festival reusables program proved to work both in system function and
to be economically feasible. The cost of replacing the lost and misplaced reusable
dishware and cutlery as well as the cost of renting the dishwashing unit was offset by (1)
charging the food vendors a dishwashing service charge, (2) forfeit of the deposit by loss
of the reusable item, and (3) voluntary and involuntary donation of reusable items to
collection stations. It is expected that next year there will be fewer lost and unreturned

When compared to the average of 1998 and 2000, the reusable dishware system
reduced the overall weight of waste, compost, and recyclables (not including cardboard)
by 27, 27, and 36 percent, respectively; the overall volume of these materials was
reduced by 62, 41, and 52 percent, respectively. The per capita waste generation rate
was reduced from 1.61 to 1.23 lb/capita-d.

Table 5 Summary of waste generation and diversion data
Parameter                                   1998              2000              2002
                                    Volume    Weight   Volume Weight Volume Weight
Trash                                 48       1.47     25          1.15   14      0.96
Compost                               33       3.98     52          4.89   25      3.24
Recyclables                           15       1.16     14      1.4075      7      0.82
Cardboard                             23      0.9775    40          1.08   37      1.11
Total                                119      7.5875    131     8.5275     83      6.13
Diversion                            60%       81%      81%         87%    83%     84%
             a                 -1
Generation        (capita-d)         0.32      1.52     0.35        1.71   0.22    1.23
    Based on assumed value of 10,000 festival participants per day.

DRAFT                                                                            6.4.2002

As shown with the results in Table 5, a clear trend exists where the overall amount of
waste generated was significantly reduced. These results are shown conceptually in
Figure 3.

Figure 3 Waste diversion and prevention as a function of solid waste management
strategy at the Whole Earth Festival.

As shown in Table 6, a portion of the dishware were lost for various reasons.
Approximately $877 was lost due to unreturned dishware. Unclaimed deposits and
donated dishware resulted in a surplus of about $1000, resulting in an overall gain of
$123 (an additional $900 dishwashing fee was collected from food vendors to offset the
cost of the dishwasher and other expenses). This money will be recycled back into the
festival budget for next year’s event or donated to a charitable organization.

Table 6 Recovery of reusable dishware

              Quantity     Initial  Percent Replacement
Item         Recovered    quantity recovered   Cost     Total Cost
Plates          2850        3000        95          $1.50          $225
Cups            4150        5000        83          $0.50          $425
Spoons          3550        5000        71          $0.13          $188
Forks           200          200        100         $0.13           $0
Chopsticks      1652        2000        82.6        $0.11          $38
Total                                                              $877

DRAFT                                                                                  6.4.2002

The reusable system at the Whole Earth Festival incurred some minor problems in its
first year. The two problems most commonly encountered were a lack of $1 bills for
deposit refunds and a shortage of buckets for storage and transportation. An initial
capital loan of $6,000 in singles and quarters was acquired to cover the return of the
deposit to the customer. Most interactions were done with the vendor based on a
running tab, which was settled at the end of the day. The proper facilities did not exist to
exchange the larger bills the vendors paid the collection stations, which resulted in a lack
of singles to redistribute to the festival patrons who returned their dishware. It was also
a challenge to keep accurate records of the number of plates and cups purchased by
each vendor due to the tab system. In order to reduce the dependency on dollar bills we
charged the vendors for the plates at time of purchase and asked festival patrons
returning their reusable items to make change. A larger initial capital of dollar bills would
help remedy this problem as well as a facility to cash large bills continuously throughout
the weekend.

The second issue was a shortage of storage containers and lids for the distribution of the
reusable items. Food grade buckets are currently being collected for next year’s festival.
Other issues encountered were the occasional use of disposable products by the
vendors when reusable items were not cycled through the system fast enough.
Appropriate biodegradable, environmentally friendly back up products are necessary in
case the reusable systems fails for any reason. Better educational signage on the
reusable system and accompanying deposit information would help eliminate the loss of
dishware from the festival. A few festival patrons tried to take advantage of the
collection system by collecting dishes from the festival grounds from unknowing dish
owners and subsequently collect a deposit that was not rightfully theirs. A similar
situation occurred with a small number of festival patrons who attempted to aquire dirty
dishes from the collection system to receive a monetary deposit. In addition, an option
should be in place at the dish collection station to return the dishware as a donation to a
charitable cause picked prior to the event, giving the festival patron the option of
donating his or her plate to a good cause rather than waiting in line.

DRAFT                                                                                                         6.4.2002

Environmental Impacts of Reusable Dishware
Dishwashing and reusable dishware raise questions about the lifecycle cost (e.g.,
environmental footprint) of such activities. The most difficult questions are related to the
use of plastic dishware instead of biodegradable or recyclable materials. To address
this question, the following was considered (1) during the three day event, each plate
and cup was used approximately five times, (2) pubic education on waste and other
environmental issues is a major objective, and (3) the dishware will be used throughout
the year as a replacement for disposables (see discussion below ‘Dishware as a
Community Resource’). In addition, the public response was overwhelmingly positive
regarding the reusable dishware system.

The energy required to run the dishwasher was also a concern. The dishwasher was
operated for approximately 18 hours over a three day period, with an estimated overall
electricity usage of 120 kWh and nearly 6,000 gallons of water. Water was heated with
steam produced at the UC Davis Central Heating and Cooling Plant which runs primarily
on natural gas. Negative environmental impacts of reusable dishware system will be
offset, in part, by reductions in resource extraction, manufacture, and transport of
disposable, recyclable, and compostable products as well as the reduced need for post-
consumer waste management services and activities.

Dishware as a Community Resource
As the Whole Earth Festival is an annual event the plates are only needed for a period of
three days throughout the year. Through the Whole Earth Reusable Co-Operative
(WERC) the reusable dishware and cutlery are offered to campus departments, clubs,
recreational and educational events free of charge throughout the year. Greater
outreach into the community is planned for the upcoming year to get the reusable items
used at other festivals, city functions, and social events.

We would like to acknowledge the Vancouver Folk Festival & Willamette Folk Festival for sharing their experience with us,
Sharon Coulson and the UCD Coffee House for being an excellent partner and resource, Susan Cummings for ongoing
support and invaluable feedback, ASUCD for sharing the expenses, Sodexho dining services for letting us use their
dishwasher and being so friendly and helpful, Friends of the Reusable Co-operative (FORC), for helping us wash all the
dishes!, R4 Recycling for joining in the effort to reduce waste, and ASUCD Project Compost for providing the use of an
electric vehicle, educating all on compost, and composting the biodegradable components of WEF!

DRAFT                           6.4.2002

                    Figure 4
                    Cup, plate, spoon,
                    and chopsticks
                    used at the 2002
                    Whole Earth

        Figure 5
        Typical sign used to educate
        festival goers about the deposit-
        refund system for dishware

DRAFT                         6.4.2002

        Figure 6
        Collection of dishware and
        deposit return at dish
        collection stations

        Figure 7
        Collection of dishware and
        deposit return at dish
        collection stations

DRAFT                      6.4.2002

        Figure 8
        Dish collection station
        (note free water station in

        Figure 9
        During the busiest times
        for dish collection, lines
        would from for a short
        time while festival goers
        waited to return
        dishware. Some people
        decided to donate their
        dish instead of wait in

DRAFT                        6.4.2002

        Figure 10
        Hobart flight type
        dishwasher used for
        washing large quantities
        of dishes and meeting
        institutional sanitation

        Figure 11
        Staging area for clean
        dishes located near food
        vendor booths (at dish
        collection stations).
        When food vendors
        needed more dishes,
        they would send a
        representative to
        purchase or sign for the
        dishes they needed.

DRAFT                                    6.4.2002

                          Figure 12
                          Dish collection and
                          clean dish staging

        Figure 13
        Waste collection system, from left to
        right, (1) glass, (2) compost, and (3)
        other recyclables (note absence of
        container for trash)

        Figure 14
        Waste sorting station


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