Golowan Festival: 5 ways we reduced its plastic impact

💚 Together we made *real* progress on reducing single-use plastic at Golowan Festival’s Mazey Weekend. There was a marked difference in plastic pollution this year. 🥤

A MASSIVE thanks to everyone who refilled, reduced and responsibly got rid of rubbish. Here’s five ways we reduced the much-loved Penzance festival’s plastic impact…

1. Amazing Plastic Free Penzance volunteers did regular rubbish picks, stopping anything getting in the sea.

2. Venues across town offered refill cups… leading to visibly less rubbish in these patches.

3. Many traders followed the Plastic Free Events charter and didn’t provide single use plastic.

4. There were no balloon sellers. Given the gusty wind, that will have made a massive difference to plastic pollution.

5. There were no goldfish in plastic bags at the fair. Phew. Poor things. These ‘prizes’ are bad for plastic pollution, and the poor animals.

Can you help us make an even bigger difference? Your donations help fuel our community projects, making a real difference in our town. If you’re able to donate, please chip in.

Thank you all – not least the Golowan Festival organisers and volunteers who are so supportive and work hard alongside us to help reduce impact. Onwards. Let’s do even better in 2023! 

Golowan is back: let’s reduce its eco impact

Golowan is back …

And we’re so excited. It’s always brilliant to see so many of the community out together celebrating mid-summer and keeping traditions alive. With tens of thousands due in Penzance over Mazey weekend, we’ve been working again with the Golowan team to try and cut the eco impact of the festival.

Back to where it started

We first started working with the Golowan team to reduce single use plastic in 2018. We introduced refill cups at all the main venues as well as the water refill point for the parade, to get rid of plastic water bottles. It was our first year, balloon sellers weren’t happy and a couple of venues decided to hold off on the reuse cups … but with just those two refill actions we saw a positive start in the reduction in single use plastic. A thousand items, if we look at plastic water bottles alone.

In 2019 we upped the game and the town did too. The refill cup scheme rolled out to more venues and the town’s Plastic Free Events Charter was sent to all traders and contractors. With awesome results. The refill cup meant 33 THOUSAND less single-use throwaway cups were used over the weekend. Pretty much every food stall used cardboard boxes, paper bags and sold canned drinks rather than plastic bottles. The only balloons on sale were from the street vendors (who can just rock up) and plastic ‘tat’ on stalls was significantly down. The fireworks were plastic free too.

We upped waste management in 2019, with more and bigger recycling bins … and our volunteer Prom Plastic Pick team did a great job of picking up any stray rubbish making its way to the ocean.  

The result was clear. For us volunteers at Plastic Free PZ it was pretty emotional. There was a visible difference in plastic pollution and rubbish on the streets. We couldn’t have been more grateful to everyone.

Then two things happened …

First, Covid. Bit of a game changer. The not so big thing (or life-changing) was that Plastic Free PZ grew into Sustainable PZ.

What did those things mean? Obviously a three year gap until the next Golowan. But also the opportunity to widen our work with the festival to look at its wider eco impact. Which is what Sustainable PZ was set up to do. Take the plastic free journey on into wider actions.

So, where is it at now?

Right now, after over two years of restrictions and fear, we’re just happy to pick up where we left off. There is still so much to gain from making sure refill cups and water bottles are used. That the water refill point is installed, that traders and contractors get the Plastic Free Charter and that we support community info on how we can minimize our impact as festival-goers.

We didn’t think it was the time to go hard on making everyone bring their own cup from home. Or crack down on beleaguered businesses over their ‘compostable’ take out cups/boxes (PS: compostable plastic = Greenwash to the MAX. Read why here)

We do think it’s time to get back on track with the basics to fight plastic pollution. Because things have taken a hit. We need to get back on the journey. Then we can take the next step.

One thing that is different is more info around encouraging people to reduce car travel over the weekend. It doesn’t help that there’s a rail strike, but with cheap bus fares being tried out in the area and car share apps like the Pasty Connection to hand … it’s doable.

The Future

After the 2019 festival we made a decision with the Golowan team that we weren’t going to keep ordering refill cups at the same level each year. They are a step in the right direction. But they are not a fail-safe solution. Afterall – we’re just creating another ‘thing’ in the world. And whether it’s plastic or not actually makes no odds. The real solution is to reuse what we’ve already got, not create something new. So, the next step was to put work into getting people to bring their own festival cups from home. A 2018 or 2019 Golowan Cup … another festival cup. (it’s always ace to see a Tropical Pressure cup presented at a Golowan bar) Then we’d gradually reduce the number of cups ordered for venues, so they still had back up for people who had forgotten their cup until the habit bedded in.

We also identified that we wanted to do more work around waste management in terms of collecting food waste and upping glass and can recycling as people swapped to those alternative.

There were conversations about toughening up the Event Charter … which was always a first rung action. The intention was always to use that as a basis to build and it was time to do that with a stronger expectation on single use cups and bottles.

We needed to do more education around why single use compostable cups aren’t an option and more awareness in the community about how we can all help. Number one: starting to normalise taking your own tub and cutlery in your bag for takeout food.

And in 2020 – with our new Sustainable PZ hat on – we started looking at transport to the festival, suppliers and traders and the wider picture to see where eco impact could reduce.

That all ground to a halt. With everything else. But Golowan is back. We are back. We’re looking forward to getting back on the plastic reduction journey … and then getting back to the future.