Ocean Beach surfing contest took a green turn
As the circus that was the Rip Curl Pro Search packs its bags, much of the waste has already been recycled, composted, reused and donated thanks to local non-profits Sustainable Surf and Wastebusters.
“We’ve partnered with Rip Curl to help make the Rip Curl Pro Search into the greenest ASP World Tour surfing event ever,” said Sustainable Surf co-founder and Ocean Beach regular Michael Stewart.
For an event that attracted the world’s best surfers to Ocean Beach, and thousands of spectators looking to watch them perform, the event was successful in its goal of becoming one of the greenest of its kind.
The event’s power needs were entirely met by recycled restaurant grease, and more than 90 percent of solid discards were diverted from landfills through reuse, recycling and composting, according to Wastebusters owner-operator Michael Siminitus.
San Francisco Special Events ordinance No. 73-89 says any applicant for a permit to hold a special event, such as a surf contest, must submit a recycling plan beforehand.
The nonprofit organization Sustainable Surf set forth a recycling plan that went above and beyond the City’s minimum requirements.
One of the most noticeable greening initiatives for such a large event was the use of 100 percent biodiesel generators. According to Michael Stewart, three generators running on B100, biofuel made of converted cooking grease collected by the city program SF Recycle, powered everything from the stage, communications and food vendors.
“This entire event is actually being run off of waste grease from San Francisco’s restaurants. If you’re eating fish and chips, or you’re eating fries, you’re actually helping power this event,” said Stewart. “The carbon footprint reduction, the environmental benefit, the fact that everything is local … that’s what this is all about.”
Reliance on fossil fuels was not the only issue Sustainable Surf looked to eliminate, but production of solid waste tends to be a major issue in dealing with thousands of visitors over a seven-day period.
As a whole, San Francisco diverts 77 percents of its daily waste, but the Rip Curl Pro set the bar high with a goal of 90 percent waste diversion, according to Michael Siminitus.
“In general, the San Francisco crowd is familiar with composting and recycling and sorting their discards appropriately,” said Siminitus. “We have a lot of international people here who at first weren’t getting it. Through outreach efforts … we’re able to educate people from all over the world about San Francisco’s zero-waste event program.”
After visitors discarded their “trash” into color coded bins, the Wastebusters team collected, hand-sorted and stored the materials in seperate dumpsters. After sorting, every bin was weighed to keep track of waste diversion percentages.
According to Siminitus, a few hundred pounds of film plastics, or 9 percent of discarded materials, are the only real “waste materials” headed for a landfill. The bulk, by weight, of what the Wastebusters collected were compostable organics including food waste, compostable forks, and paper plates. High volumes of cardboard, beverage containers, and paper were recycled.
“We’ve really made a huge effort to reduce anything being used on site that’s not compostable or recyclable,” said Siminitus. “None of our vendors are using anything that has to go to the landfill… everything’s being composted from food service, except for bottles and cans from beverages.”
Waste materials not to be reused or donated, such as coat hangers, contest banners, and construction materials including scaffolding and lumber, are still destined to serve a purpose. Compostable organics are sent to San Francisco’s organics collection system, to be turned into fertilizer for farms. Recycled materials are collected by Recology to be further sorted, baled, and sold at market according to Siminitus.
The 9 percent of “waste materials” that must be sent to a landfill, such as film plastics, will be sent to Altamont Landfill and stored in a “dry tomb.”
“The highest and best use of materials is what we’re going for here,” said Siminitus.
Sustainable Surf and Wastebusters were not the only nonprofits helping to green up the beach. The Surfrider Foundation, of which Michael Stewart is also the vice chair, held a beach cleanup midway through the contest.
Marcus Combs, volunteer manager at the National Parks Service, praised the work of the San Francisco chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and local surfers.
“We know what’s going on day-to-day because of them, the Surfriders, they are a good partner in cleaning up the beach,” said Combs. “You have these organizations that are working hand in hand with the National Parks Service to keep the environment clean.”
The effort made by Sustainable Surf, the Surfrider Foundation, and Wastebusters attracted the attention of locals and non-locals alike.
Twenty-year-old Matt Meredith, on a road trip from Missouri, happened upon the Wastebusters tent and was hired to sort trash during the contest. Meredith said he has never seen waste diversion on this scale in his home state.
“We develop a habit of putting it all in a bag and wait for the garbageman to pick it up once a week,” said Meredith. “Together it’s waste, but when you break waste down into what it really is, you can turn it around and make it into a cycle.”
All photos: Jon Weiand / Ocean Beach Bulletin