01 Sep 2021
by brian.hioe | Interview, Feature
Electric Soul spoke to Camille from Bye Bye Plastic late last month about their efforts to reduce plastic pollution from electronic music events. We hope you enjoy it!
Brian Hioe: How did you Bye Bye Plastic form? How did it form?
Camille: Bye Bye Plastic was founded by Vivie-ann and myself, as an organization focused on plastic-free needs that were pressing as well as the opportunity of the music industry to trigger change. We got to a point where we realized plastic was the starting point to many environmental challenges and that we could have an effect on the live events scene. That’s how we decided this could be a force for good.
BLOND:ISH had the power to influence her artist profile to really make a difference. Together with her, I developed Bye Bye Plastic from a project and idea to the foundation that it is today.
Brian Hioe: Now it has eight staff members?
C: We have eight staff members at various levels of involvement. Some are volunteering, so there’s different involvement. It’s not eight full staff, but we’re an eight-member strong at different levels of involvement.
We’re remote first and very international, which we’re proud of. Our team works from Miami to Bali. That’s led to some fun challenges, but we believe that it’s a strength as the music industry is a global scene, especially with regard to the electronics scene. And the plastics pollution problem is a global problem as well.
B: What would you say the main efforts of Bye Bye Plastic are currently?
C: Our activity model is tackling each stakeholder of the music industry. But we start with the artists as the influential figures that can influence not only their fanbase but the events themselves.
The way our activity model works is that the DJs are able to connect with events and festivals that want to implement plastic-free festivals; our teams can then guide them to find the most suited and locally relevant solutions to their plastic-free operations. The eco-rider is what facilitates this.
B: You mentioned the artist rider. But is it also the case that more and more festivals have approached you, over time?
C: Yes, absolutely, & triggering solution-oriented impact has always been the goal in our mission. Events & clubs can reach out to Bye Bye Plastic and we in turn can help and guide them. Right after the launch of the Eco-Rider so early 2020, we had made more than seventy direct connections with clubs and events, festivals in various regions mostly in western Europe and the US.
We’ve resumed our plastic-free trajectory now with the COVID situation stabilizing and have helped five events so far this Summer.
B: You also offer classes to artists about ecological practices, could you talk a bit about that?
Exactly. Since starting the eco-rider, we realized that artists often have a few barriers preventing them from taking their voice further. So we started these classes to allow artists to become leaders of sustainable change in their community. It’s called Stay’ge Positive, & in May 2021 we kicked off our Early Seed edition as a four-week program taken on by eight artists.
We took the perspective of going back to the basics on climate change dynamics, how to look for the right sources, resource upward, and from there, how to become a voice for change. We had eight instructors each bringing complementary expertise, sharing their knowledge with the creative students. We also had hands-on classes to trigger students to think about their own situation & how they could build up solutions.
The responses and feedback about Stay’ge Positive have been tremendous. The students shared that it was the first time that they got the ability to be sitting together in the same room with producers and artists from all over the world talking about these very topics of sustainability and how to implement them in their work lives. They’ve also mentioned that this helped them get back to a more positive perspective and outlook on how they can implement change. And they felt very empowered, more confident they knew where to look for the right sources and who to collaborate with and how to look for meaningful environmental collaborations.
Christina: Could you bring up some of the examples of the ways that artists can incorporate this in their working environment?
C: There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. What’s very important is that there are some no-brainer steps, which are very easy for you to implement. That’s what we at Bye Bye Plastic provide with the Eco-Rider: can simply download the eco-rider from our website and start using it during all of your bookings.
This way, you seamlessly state your choices to no single-use plastics around you and your gigs. But you also become a voice of this movement, joining 1,500 DJs and artists who have made the same statement. It’s about joining this collective power of action.
So there’s this no-brainer step but beyond that, you can curate your own path of your own affinities and preferences, if you’re more sensitive to plastic pollution it makes sense to partner up with Bye Bye Plastic a little bit closer and we can look at all the ways we can activate your fanbase and your crew and your events into plastic-free party solutions. If you have more affinities with preserving bio-diversity or preventing e-waste, there are other actions you can take and more creative actions in that regard.
It can be as simple as getting that message out there, getting your little steps out there in a very humble way to your community. This is so that not only do they know what you’re doing, but maybe they start learning about a new topic themselves.
We have a model where artists would give a percentage of their fee to Bye Bye Plastic or they would hold an event, but the event would donate, say, one Euro or one dollar of the ticket sale to Bye Bye Plastic or another foundation. We’re also looking at the ways they can have greener merch lines because waste doesn’t stop at events.
Merch is another large area of waste with the fashion industry being one of the most toxic and wasteful. So we’re looking at better supplies and better ways of handling the merch, such as with more print on order. This is rather than ordering an enormous quantity and those products or t-shirts being produced en masse but not necessarily being sold.
BH: So there’s a plastic use calculator on your site?
C: The plastic footprint calculator is a project we would like to build up at some point. We elaborated the first chapter in 2020, but we’re still looking for funding to complete it because it’s a very tech-heavy project. It’s aimed at not only festival-goers but also events, to calculate their waste, and be directly connected with finding solutions with them and tracking progress.
This came out of the realization that in the live music industry, we do not know our numbers. There’s a very little trace or point of what a festival’s consumption is. This is preventing us from understanding the size of the problem and, in turn, making a plan of action--as well as allowing us to look back and feel proud of our accomplishments, with how many steps we’ve taken. That’s what this project of building a plastic footprint calculator for the industry aims to do.
In 2020, we did some research to get baseline data from the industry, where we calculated what the typical plastic footprint of a one-day festival was, as well as a 2,000 attendance club.
One of the interesting finds was that a 2,000 person club would have a bigger footprint on a yearly basis than a one-day 50,000 person festival. If a club is open two times a week, we have operations adding up on a yearly basis. What this 2,000-person club would consume in just the straws, the cups, and water bottles, would have a carbon footprint equivalent to driving around the earth two times in a car. For a one-day festival of 50,000 people, for the same products of straws, cups, and water bottles, it’s just under one time around the earth in a car.
BH: You also sell merch, is that right? For example, there are some eco-friendly goods sold on the site.
C: That is our “Sustainable Picks.” Basically, we’re recommending plastic alternatives and plastic-free go-to items that you can take with you on your way to the festival that can help you set up. They’re all brands and innovators that are really pushing the boundaries of ecological standards and finding solutions to typical, very wasteful plastic items.
For example, we have this collapsible fork and spoon at the same time, it’s called a spork! It’s the best item you can take with you while traveling or for a one-day festival, if you think you’re going to have food, having this spork that is collapsible and reusable. Another one is the “Last” swab because cotton swabs are another extremely wasteful item, which we use almost every day. Whether taking those items from plastic to paper or bamboo is one thing, but making it reusable is the next step. Reusable is always greener from an environmental perspective.
Same for masks, as well, needed for helping the music industry on the way to recovery. The masks we have are extremely comfortable, I’ve never worn such comfortable masks since the start of this pandemic. We will have some more projects coming up around this soon.
BH: I’m wondering if you can talk about the Clean the Beat events, which feature music alongside beach cleanups as part of the same event. Likewise, how has your work been affected by COVID?
C: Let’s start with COVID. When COVID hit, we were still very recently registered as a foundation. For the rest of the industry and the world as a whole, it’s been like an earthquake, wondering where we go from here. We didn’t really know what would happen and everything was closed.
The relevance for us was that we used it as a time for change and recovery in the industry. The pandemic was an occasion to pose and rethink operational models. That was the case as well for events and festivals.
What we’ve started to do is to focus back on education. We did a lot of online education and content curation. We partnered with four online festivals curated and produced more than four hours [unclear] and more than 25,000 viewers. So it’s been tremendous for community building and the awareness that came out of it. That’s how Stay’ge Positive came about.
We sought to leverage the artist’s community, and the conscious music lover community for our Clean the Beat events. It’s an attempt to use the power of music for beach cleanups. Bye Bye Plastic is organizing more organic cleanup bases here and there. It’s always triggered those magical moments of eco-empowerment.
This program consists of running an event alongside a cleanup. We would have it in a certain city each time. There are two environmental elements that are enhancing the cleanup. One is data collection: we always make sure to inform the scientific community of the results of the clean-up, so that they can monitor the development of festival pollution in different countries. Cleanup initiatives can power this evolution on a local scale. What we can do with Bye Bye Plastic is to inform the move of the tide in many locations around the world.
Likewise, every time we partner with a different local innovator who is recycling in innovative ways, so that the plastic that is collected is not just prevented from polluting the environment, but injected into a value chain of its own. For example, for Clean the Beat: Miami, our initial event of May of this year, we partnered with RecycleGo, which recycles plastics into threads that can be used not just for bags, but also draperies that can be used in automotive cars.
for Clean the Beat: Miami Within just one hour of trash collection, we collected over 3,000 pounds of plastic, which is unbelievable. This sets a precedent for the participants as well.
Christina: Bye Bye Plastic also does consultancy work. Could I ask about that and how it works?
C: So that’s the work we hosted into the umbrelly Plastic-Free Trajectories. We work on a project basis, where we guide events and clubs to find locally relevant and suitable solutions for their varying contexts. Every event is different and they’re standing at a different point in their plastic-free timeline.
We have a plastic quicks can form, that helps us audit. From there, we can really map what the most suitable solutions for the event. We also help the team implement the alternatives on site when needed.
It’s not only about procurement but how you communicate this to your audience and how you set this up internally, with your team, but also externally, with your audience. And so, we want to really power the full circle of a plastic-free ecosystem and be present on-site, helping solidify the messaging and helping events with their efforts. Once everything is successful and they have implemented their trajectory, we can certify them with one of four certification badges, which provides wider recognition of their efforts.
We know how challenging budgets are with solutions, so we work with teams to decide what a creative structure could be that could be beneficial to everyone. Such as whether we implement a one Euro or one dollar on top of ticket sales that would go to Bye Bye Plastic, if it is an opt-in ticket option for audiences when they buy their tickets, or whether it is a deposit and an invitationf or audiences to give their deposit back to Bye Bye Plastic or collecting it themselves. If it is fundraising on-site. There are many different ways, where we can set up together for it to be win-win situation and not too strongly impeding on budgets and operations.
BH: So more events in the Clean the Beat series are planned?
C: Yes, there are three events planned in 2021. This is a bit of exclusive news since we just nailed this down, but we’re going to start again with the Miami cleanup. This will be part of a series where in October we do a Clean the Beat event in Amsterdam, then we’ll have an event in Tulum in November. Every time, we’ll be activating the community and using this occasion for music professionalsto come together and take action, network, and connect to local innovators. Music professionals can connect with music enthusiasts to shine light on local innovators and local partners of all sorts.
Stay up to date with Bye Bye Plastic initiatives on their Website, Facebook, and Instagram.