7 September 2023

A portable potty fit for a party! Yours and Owls festival introduces the 'VIPoo' experience

| Keeli Royle
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Yours and Owls Festival. Aerial shot of people on football field at UOW.

Yours and Owls is implementing sustainability initiatives to make the festival more ecofriendly. Photos: UOW.

Yours and Owls is flushing away fears around composting toilets by showcasing the future of sustainable waste disposable at next month’s festival.

A protype of the ‘VIPoo’ portable waterless toilet is just one of the ways the popular festival will promote sustainability and reduce its environmental impact.

“It works like any other composting toilet in that no water or chemicals are required to treat the sewage,” Yours and Owls promoter Balunn Jones said. “Human waste material is decomposed and turned into fertiliser for gardens.”

He said the experience would help festivalgoers to become aware of ecofriendly alternatives to the traditional porta-potty and hopefully inspire researchers to continue to create solutions to the massive waste problem at festivals.

“The more people who become aware that flushing perfectly good drinking water down the toilet is very wasteful and that this does not have to be the norm in the future, no matter how squeamish it makes us feel at this point in time, the better,” Mr Jones said.

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“Working with Pootopia was a great partnership opportunity to trial the initiatives of some clever minds at UOW to hopefully provide a more environmentally friendly portable toilet solution for events in the future.”

It’s part of the raft of ‘Party with a Purpose’ initiatives being introduced at this year’s event, including BYO water bottles, eliminating single-use plastic beverage containers and merchandise being printed on organic, ethical, climate-neutral clothing products.

“Our aim is to divert 90 per cent of waste from landfill to recycling and compost,” Balunn said. “Without any effort, most events would mainly be recycling aluminium cans and plastic bottles because you get a 10-cent rebate on these. Everything else would be going straight to landfill.”

Yours and Owls music festival founders and UOW vice-chancellor on UOW football field.

Yours and Owls founders Ben Tillman, Balunn Jones and Adam Smith at UOW, with vice-chancellor Patricia Davidson.

Their ultimate goal is to become a carbon neutral festival and to introduce the model for other events to follow, but there are some challenges.

“This year the difficult thing to manage is disposable food containers,” Balunn said. “Previously we’ve been able to implement a compostable food ware policy so that any plates, bowls, cutlery can be composted with leftover food scraps, however recent EPA changes banning compostable food ware have made this issue a difficult one.”

And this year the focus will be on assessing their new location at the University of Wollongong to see how they can improve sustainability in coming years.

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“Because we’ve moved to the new festival site, the main priority this year is making sure we are measuring our consumption – water, electricity and fuel – and our output – what waste is coming out of the festival and how much of it is there?” Balunn said. “This way we can set a baseline and implement new measures to work towards.”

As part of the partnership with UOW, Yours and Owls will be contributing to new solar upgrades to supply the UniBar year-round.

Professor Tim McCarthy from UOW’s Sustainable Futures Committee said the contribution of solar panels over the next three years would help the university get one step closer to meeting its pledge to be carbon neutral by 2030.

“UOW has been working to reduce its emissions for many years and are thrilled to work with a partner that has the same goals and commitment as we do,” Professor McCarthy said.

“After the strains of the last encore has faded, the sun will still be powering our university for years to come,” he added. “But while we are making progress on carbon neutrality, there is still a way to go.”

“We don’t just waltz in for two days of the year and leave again until next year,” Balunn said. “We live and work in the Illawarra. It has been our home for more than 20 years and we are still committed to seeing it thrive.”

Yours and Owls will run on 14 and 15 October. For more details or tickets, visit the website.

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