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Disposable cup ban still not possible, say Walloon festival organisers

15:43 02/09/2023

As the famous Fêtes de Wallonie approach, festival organisers say the ban on disposable cups at these types of events, which came into force this Friday (1 September), will not be achievable.

The proposal by Wallonia’s minister of environment Céline Tellier makes clear that organisers of cultural, recreational, sporting, folklore and leisure events must use reusable cups for outdoor and inside activities. A similar measure applies in Flanders.

Approved last March by the Walloon parliament, it is part of the new decree relating to waste, the circularity of materials and public cleanliness. The new measures now also apply to Wallonia's cinemas and funfairs.

The measure should dramatically reduce the amount of single-use plastic cups. Some 1.5 million were used during 2019’s Fêtes de Wallonie, representing 30 tonnes of incinerable waste, the minister’s office said.

However, some leeway has been given to the Fêtes de Wallonie this month, as there is not enough time to apply the new law.

In particular, there would not be enough reusable shot glasses to serve the typical Walloon Peket fruit brandy, given the hordes of people who attend the festival.

“A period of tolerance will be applied this year for these recipients alone, so that the festival organisers, buyers, suppliers and the hotel and catering sector can adapt and find adequate alternatives,” the minister said.

The Federation of Wallonia and Brussels Music Festivals (FFMWB) has welcomed the new law but said that it was unfortunate that it had not been applied at federal level. “There should be the same measure throughout Belgium and not only in Wallonia,” said FFMWB president Damien Dufrasne.

Dufrasne also noted practical and cost issues with the new proposal, saying: “Today, no firm in Belgium would be able to wash the required number of beakers in 24 hours. We would need two or three days. We would have to buy many more containers than necessary to be certain of having enough to last the duration of the festivals.”

The federation is also considering using the same cups at different events, he said, while warning that if they cannot be washed in less than 24 hours, the number bought can cost an enormous amount.

“At the Dour Festival [in July] for example, we would have needed slightly more than a million plastic cups,” Dufrasne said. “We must really start discussing with many businesses now, if we are to succeed in manufacturing reusable cups that can be washed in less than a day. If not, there would be no sense in having them.”

Price is another issue to consider, Dufrasne said. “We must also plan to set up additional areas in the festival to distribute and take back these cups,” he said, saying that this “logistical cost” would ultimately be passed on to the public.

Written by Liz Newmark