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July 26, 2014

Marina Brown: A Clean Slate

Born in the wild west of Canada, waste-management warrior Marina Brown settled in the Blue Mountains village of Katoomba three years ago, and this is where she plans to stay with partner Andrew Taylor and their young son, Archie.

Seeing it as a privilege to live in such a beautiful place, Marina says she feels very connected to the Blue Mountains community and wants to show her respect by helping to build a “better, stronger and cleaner environment”.

A self-proclaimed ‘Planet Avenger’, Marina has become a pioneer in waste management at local festivals and events. Here she tells us how she gets the job done.

marina brown
Above: Shirley Lewis (aka ‘Baglady’) on left with Marina Brown (aka ‘Boxlady’). Photo: David Hill – Blue Mountains, Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

How long have you had an interest in sustainability?

marina brown

I’ve been a ‘greenie’ for as long as I can remember and I’ve always seen the beauty in what other people discard. Andrew and I have been making boxes and other items from waste wood, metal, fabric, glass and lino for over 20 years, and while I lived in Sydney I was employed at Reverse Garbage for seven years. Now that I have a son, I’m more inspired than ever to try to create a better world for him and his friends.

Which festivals and events do you manage the waste for and how long have you been doing this?

Blue Mountains Music Festival and Winter Magic (both in Katoomba), Leura Harvest Festival and the Leura Village Fair.  It started in 2012, when I saw the piles and piles of unsorted waste spilling out onto the street at Winter Magic. I said to myself, ‘We can do better as a community in a national park’!

What did you and your team achieved at this year’s Music Festival?

We had 30 volunteers on the Sustainability Team across the three days, and around 4000 people attended. We set up three ‘Rubbish Rooms’, which comprise bins for general waste, paper and recycling.

One patron commented that the festival was cleaner because there were more bins, but there were actually less – 24 compared to the usual 40. The fact that the bins were staffed meant they were continually monitored for contamination and regularly emptied.

rubbish room
Above: ‘Rubbish Rooms’ at the Blue Mountains Music Festival helped to reduce the amount of waste that ended up in landfill after the event. Photo: David Hill – Blue Mountains, Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

How much waste went to landfill at the end of the event?

Over three days we didn’t even half-fill one 7m skip! After the event we delivered two 4m skips plus one 7m skip full of bags of organics to the North Katoomba Community Garden, and it’s now all feeding a garden bed.

How closely do you work with your local Council regarding waste management?

It was hard at first and I was called a ‘feather ruffler’. But after the success of our efforts and the fact that I am not going away, we have started to understand one another. I am leading them gently by the hand.

Advice to anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

The most important thing at events is to have people monitoring the bins – as soon as bins are left unattended they will get mixed and contaminated, no matter how big or small the event.

Also, try to have some control over what comes in to the festival. Stallholders should be responsible for the packaging they provide. Definitely ban polystyrene and plastic bags.

Another challenge is what to do with the organic matter. In the Blue Mountains our council won’t process it, so we have to rely on the goodwill of people in the community to take it. Community gardens and schools are good places to start.

Tell us about your radio program.

It’s called The GLObal TV Show and I present it with Shirley Lewis – she’s the ‘Baglady’ and I’m the ‘Boxlady’. We invite friends and family to join in and we are all about supporting LIVING ASAP (As Sustainably As Possible). Tune in to Radio Blue Mountains 89.1 on Monday mornings from 10am-12pm. The program is streamed live on rbm.org.au.

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