In July EREK News interviewed one of the organisers of Ieper Hardcore Fest, an independent Flemish festival that has won several Green Awards and even a Lifetime Achievement Award for their green policy. EREK followed up with Jan Verheyen of OVAM, the Flemish Public Waste Agency, that organised the awards. We spoke about these Green Awards and how they and their winners ended up changing national policy.


Can you give a brief outline of the work OVAM does?

OVAM is a Flemish government agency established in 1981. We ensure that waste, materials and soil are dealt with in a well-considered and environmentally conscious manner. As such, the organisation also has an important role in the transition towards a circular economy. 


What is the relationship between OVAM and Ieperfest? 

As I explained, OVAM is responsible for waste, material and soil policy in Flanders. There are certain sectors that require a specific approach, festivals and events are one of those sectors. We encountered Ieperfest in that context. Our agency had created an online scan that festivals and events could fill in to see how environmentally friendly their event was. Events that used that scan could also apply for the Green Awards: the award for the most environmentally friendly event in Flanders. Ieperfest won that award the first year. They were and still are very thorough in their environmental policy and have made a resolute choice for sustainability. Their policy extends beyond separating waste into catering, ticketing and reusable plates, cutlery and cups. Ieperfest kept applying for the award and has won it multiple times, two years ago we even presented them with a lifetime achievement award.

The Green Awards gave the winners a platform, a way to communicate their ideas to a larger audience. The awards have resulted in many news articles and requests for lectures. There was also a price attached to the award, but that in itself was not high enough to cover the cost of the green policy of the events. 


How have the Green Awards influenced green policy in Flanders? 

Last year was the last time that we have awarded the Green Award. As the winners of the past Green Awards, such as Ieperfest and the Gentse Feesten, have shown that it is possible to events and festivals to be more environmentally friendly. The awards have provided many examples of how this can be achieved. It was time to take a step forward: by making changes in the law. From 2020 onwards, it will be illegal for festivals to use disposable materials. There will be a transitional arrangement, where disposable materials can be used if the event can prove that over 90% of waste has been separated thoroughly. This will push the entire market to be more environmentally friendly. 

Ieperfest has cleared the path for this policy shift. They served as inspiration and have shown that it is possible. We have had many conversations with their organisers on how we can better support events and festivals in their green policy. 


What makes Ieperfest special?

They have their own niche; through the type of music and artists they program. But for us, what makes them special is their intrinsic motivation with regard to the environment. This motivation is not only implemented very consistently, but also communicated thoroughly to the visitors. That is something that we have found to be incredibly important and unique.