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Calgary Stampede looks to limit waste


With thousands of people piling into the Calgary Stampede over the last nine days, so does the waste.

From festival foods to ride tickets, it’s not easy to avoid single-use plastics and other garbage at large events like this.

However, some Stampede-goers say they are doing what they can.

“We’re gonna go recycle these bottles right away. We took a ride share here,” said Ross Nikulak.

Harish Sieana, another attendee, said he is reusing napkins, brings a reusable water bottle with him and ensures he is putting his garbage in the right bins.

“We need to keep our city clean and you know, it should look like after 10 days like nothing happened over here,” he said.

Vendors at the midway are also making an effort to reduce waste. Marchant Concessions out of British Columbia has 15 stands on the grounds, including slushy, coffee and ice cream spots.

“We just are very conscientious about our cardboard being recycled and not using any styrofoam or any bad plastics. We try to do the best we can,” said Tod Marchant, who runs the business.

The slushy stands also offer plastic souvenir cups that people can take home and refill two to three times while they’re at the festival. The coffee stands recycle their coffee grounds and use compostable cups, according to Marchant.

“Makes a better planet for my grandkids,” he told CTV News.

As of December 2023, the federal government will no longer allow the sale of plastic bags and takeout containers. The sale of plastic cutlery and stir sticks will also be prohibited, along with plastic flexible straws. It’s all part of a move towards a full ban on certain single-use plastics in Canada — one that will impact vendors at Stampede and other events like it.

“I don’t know if we’re there yet with manufacturing, but I think it’s getting better all the time. So, we’ve seen a lot of changes over the last five years of more plant-based stuff so, I think we’ll get there,” Marchant said.

Stampede organizers also have a strategy to reduce waste. Garbage, recycling and compost bins are scattered throughout the grounds and inside buildings.

“We encourage people to use those bins accordingly, much like they do at home,” said Kristen Anderson, a spokesperson for Stampede. She adds that the bins are emptied throughout the day.

Stampede also has a new program this year to reduce organic waste among vendors, where the vendor with the most compostable food gets an award. This year, Drink A Fruit From The Fruit won, Anderson said.

“It’s just all about sustainability. We pride ourselves on being the most environmentally friendly as we possibly can be and taking those steps and staying current with the innovations that are happening in our community,” she said.

Anderson also encourages people to bring their reusable water bottles and fill them for free at the water stations inside the permanent buildings on the grounds.

“We’re gonna see close to a million people or break over a million people, so we just want to keep all of those environmental initiatives top of mind,” she said.


John MacInnes, the founder of Calgary-based start up Earthware, said more can be done at festivals like Stampede.

“People definitely want their food, they want the mac and cheese flavoured ice cream and those sorts of things, but there is a better way,” he said.

“Probably the Stampede will use a couple million containers and all of those, whether they say biodegradable or compostable, they’re all going to go in the landfills.”

Earthware provides reusable containers to restaurants and venues in an effort to reduce the amount of single-use containers that end up in the landfill. The company then either collects the containers or retrieves them from community collection bins and reuses them up to 1,000 times. Earthware is not directly involved with Stampede, but has been called in to make independent events during Stampede waste-free.

“I would love to see the Stampede move to a reusable model. It’s happening, other festivals are doing it and Calgary is so progressive with this stuff. Our company has been so unbelievably welcomed here,” MacInnes said.

“People are actively looking for solutions that cut down on this and so, when venues give them the solution, then, they’ll always choose to go environmentally friendly.” Top Stories

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