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Make Dirt Not Trash: The Bay View Bash Keeps Trash Out of the Landfill

An article series by Kompost Kids and Milwaukee Area Science Advocates.

It’s time again to talk trash in Bay View. The city is hosting its annual Bay View Bash on September 15, between Potter and Clement on Kinnickinnic Avenue, and this year is revving up to be the biggest yet. The entirely volunteer-led festival is focused on becoming a sustainable, zero-waste event with all the food, live music, art, crafts, books, and community organizations you’d expect from a festival. Although Milwaukee overall has made great strides recently toward a greener, more sustainable community, the waste at annual festivals is undeniable. Corn cobs, plastic beer cups, food wrappers, paper plates, napkins, etc., mound up in garbage bins, destined for a landfill. Kompost Kids and Milwaukee Area Science Advocates (MASA) want to keep Milwaukee moving toward greener living and sustainability at the Bay View Bash. To help promote zero-waste festivals, we’ve teamed up to present a short series of four articles that explain how one neighborhood festival is rethinking its “waste” and “resource” stream. Help us #MakeDirtNotTrash.

017 Kompost Kids Board Members and Sustainability Intern (Kneeling: Marion Ecks; Standing Left to Right: Brian Williams-Van Klooster, Kat Kocisky, Maddy Riordan, Harini Aiyer, and Renee Scampini)

Casey Schroeder and Nora Sadik enjoy the Bash while limiting waste produced.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the United States produces over 250 million tons of waste per year, with over 130 million tons ending up in landfills. The consequences of landfills go well beyond smelly trash heaps. Toxins that leach from the site can poison water sources and natural habitats. Worse yet, landfills release a significant amount of greenhouse gasses, which contribute to global warming. Volunteers of the Bay View Bash know that “It’s only waste, if it’s wasted,” and food scraps and recyclables are an important part of our sustainable future. Unphased by the prospect of dealing with the food and drink discards of 30,000 to 40,000 of our closest neighbors, the Bash, Kompost Kids, and MASA rolled up their sleeves and got dirty. In 2017, the coordinated effort reclaimed about one ton of waste headed to the landfill by hand-sorting all materials that were thrown into garbage bins. It cannot be overstated how vital volunteers are to this effort. The Bash, Kompost Kids, and MASA are all 100 percent volunteer-run organizations, and hand-sorting is quite labor intensive. Join us.

Renee Scampini pulls a full bag of trash to hand-sort and reclaim compostables and recyclables from the landfill.

Maddy Riordan shows her daughter, Penny, which items in the recycle bin should really go to the compost or landfill.

Festival-goers who think tossing recyclables into the blue bin is the best way to be green, we have some news. Our country’s biggest importer of recyclables, China, recently declared it would no longer accept foreign waste. This has caused a ripple effect that places many items intended to be recycled into the landfill. Waste prevention is the best tool for managing discarded items and composting is a sustainable and beneficial alternative to sending waste to landfills or recycling plants.

This year’s event and the volunteers involved are working together to reduce the amount of waste produced at the festival by increasing composting in the community as well as raising awareness of multi-use, durable products. For instance, The Bash purchased corn-based compostable plastics (such as beer cups, straws, and utensils) for this year’s event. The used products go to a local, commercial-grade composter, Blue Ribbon Organics, which can process them into soil. These products make a big difference. That’s because Americans produce 4.38 pounds of waste per person per day and 14.5 percent is food waste. With the help of some industrious bacteria, that 232 pounds per year of each person’s waste could be turned into a valuable soil amendment to support agriculture through composting.

The Bay View Bash is an amazing partner: incentivizing and requiring vendors to use compostable disposable products from Auburn Supply Company, finding alternatives for plastic water bottles with aluminum canned water, and making suggested changes and improvements each year. Even with all these efforts in place, visitors to any street festival make a lot of trash. Literal tons of it. The Bay View Bash, Kompost Kids, and MASA are committed to making the event near-zero waste. That has been a challenge, and we’re still learning the best ways to do it. We’re keeping momentum by improving education, outreach, and of course, “waste” diversion to create our favorite resource: compost.

The Bay View Bash is just one example of how large scale events can move towards near-zero waste, imagine the impact if it were scale-up to include larger festivals and events in Milwaukee. We need your help to get there. We are inviting the public to #MakeDirtNotTrash with us at the Bay View Bash. Follow along in this series to learn more, and how you can get involved.

For more information on the event, how to sponsor the efforts, or to volunteer, visit our website here. New this year, Kompost Kids may provide support funds for teams of volunteers larger than 10 people. Requirements for that Eco-Friendly Fundraising Opportunity are here.


The Bay View Bash festival raises funds that are directly invested back into the city’s neighborhoods through grants. Kompost Kids Inc. makes compost for the community and educates the public about the benefits of composting. MASA seeks to positively influence public opinion in the areas of Science Education, Public Health, and Sustainability.