“Hey Bungalower, did you see all the trash in Lake Eola after Earth Day? It’s disgusting. What can we do about it?” – Bungalower reader
The above message was sent to us via Facebook, in regards to litter that was spotted in Lake Eola, following the Central Florida Earth Day celebration in Downtown Orlando.
Central Florida Earth Day has been hosted by the Vegetarians of Central Florida, a local nonprofit group that promotes a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle, for twelve consecutive years. They also host the annual Central Florida Veg Fest every October.
Following the event, a number of festival-goers and Downtown residents took to social media to point out the extraordinary amount of trash that could be seen along the periphery of the lake. The majority of the trash being single-use in nature; Styrofoam cups and plastic bottles, as seen below:
Channel 9 issued a report, HERE, on April 24 denouncing the event for having an adverse impact on the park. City Commissioner Patty Sheehan even spoke out at the following City Council meeting, urging Orlandoans to be more aware of preventing litter in City parks.
When we spoke with festival organizers, they told us that while the event isn’t zero-waste at the moment, they do have some strict policies for their vendors.
“We encourage all vendors to use sustainable materials. Things like Styrofoam and plastic water bottles are explicitly prohibited. We provide free filtered water at the event and encourage our attendees to bring their own containers. We partner with the amazing Keep Orlando Beautiful which provides us with extra recycling and trash receptacles for the park. We also partner with the City and Park.” – Ryan Feinberg
Vegetarians of Central Florida (VCF) set up waste sorting stations with containers for trash, recycling and food waste.
VCF has a rental agreement with the City that specifies that the City staff collects all of the trash during and after the event. Recycling dumpsters are rented by the event staff, and compost is distributed to local non-profits and organizations.
Feinberg issued the following statement concerning the trash spotted in the Lake:
“We are obviously heartbroken if any trash from our event made its way into the lake and will make sure that never happens again, but we strongly believe that the majority of the trash in the lake was not from Central Florida Earth Day. The photos and video primarily show obviously old Styrofoam and plastic from businesses that were not at our event.
Once again, Styrofoam and single-use plastic bottles are not allowed to be sold or given out at Central Florida Earth Day, so the Dunkin Donut and Chick-fil-a Styrofoam cups and Gatorade bottles that made up the bulk of Channel 9’s report obviously weren’t from Central Florida Earth Day. It also appears that much of the trash shown in the Channel 9 report was in parts of the lake that we don’t use and don’t go near.
We are grateful for the City of Orlando, Green Works Orlando, Keep Orlando Beautiful, Commissioner Patty Sheehan, and Lake Eola Park, as well as all of the wonderful environmental non-profits, for helping us with the challenge of sustainably managing waste at an event of this size and we will continue to work with them to improve.”
It must be noted that water levels at the lake are dramatically lower than usual due to the current drought. This is revealing years’ worth of garbage that made its way into the lake via the storm drains and surface runoff. The majority of the discarded plastic and Styrofoam seen in the photos is significantly degraded, which takes time.
Lake Eola is a receptacle for much of Downtown Orlando’s rain water, and as such, anything that is tossed away in the surrounding streets will inevitably make its way downhill. The City’s recent Only Rain Down the Drain campaign, where artists paint storm drains across Orlando, was meant to help educate Orlando residents on that fact.
Parks staff and the Downtown Clean Team do their best to keep the streets free of litter, but ultimately its up to all Orlandoans to keep the City beautiful.