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Trash Fest Comes To An Ulster County Town

An Ulster County town will host its first Trash Fest beginning this weekend. And part of the month-long festival includes discussion about cutting down on plastic bags.

Trash Fest is not a wild music event, though there is some music involved.

“I’m so enthusiastic about garbage and there’s so much possibility in garbage,” says Becker.

Margot Becker is the brainchild of Trash Fest, a series of arts and educational events centered on waste at a variety of venues in the Town of Marbletown and other locations in Ulster County throughout June. She says an Arts Mid-Hudson grant helped with getting the first-time event into gear.

“We have to stop looking at our garbage as waste, something that just goes away and there’s no value in it. There’s actually a lot of value in the things we throw out,” says Becker. “We want to turn our minds away from the idea that we can make waste and that it goes away. We actually should be making things where whatever’s leftover we can use it for something else.”

And she mentions composting as an example. Part of Trash Fest includes a Bag Legislation Workshop, to bring together Marbletown’s retailers, shoppers and officials to build consensus on how to tackle the problem of plastic bag waste. Tom Konrad is chair of Marbletown’s Environmental Conservation Commission.

“So we actually started when we noticed that the Village of New Paltz, which is near us, had just passed a bag ban, and we initially started thinking a… a plastic bag ban,,, and we initially started thinking about plastic bag bans because there are several already in New York. There’s the one in New Paltz plus several down on Long Island in Suffolk County and in Westchester,” says Konrad. “However, when we started doing research, we found that often plastic bag bans lead to certain unintended consequences such as greater use of paper bags which have their own environmental impact and which increases the cost for the merchants.”

New Paltz’s bag ban went into effect in April 2015. A number of bans are in effect in the Northeast, including in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. More recently, Amherst passed a ban set to take effect in 2017. Konrad says a bill in the New York state legislature that seeks to ban any fees on carry-out merchandise bags would not affect Marbletown as the proposed legislation would apply only to cities.

“So we were really leaning towards a bag fee. However, one of the things we’re really trying to do with this workshop will be to get both retailers and shoppers on board with whatever we decided,” Konrad says. “So whatever comes out of the workshop is what we’ll try to get passed by the town board.”

Konrad says the long-term goal is to have a plastic bag ban or fee become law in the entire county. In addition to the bag legislation workshop. there are art installations, as Becker describes.

“Alex Lyle is building a beautiful piece out of waste wood that he and I found in Milton, New York,” Becker says. “It was a place that breaks down wooden pallets used for shipping.”

She says Alexander Lyle grew up in High Falls.

“He’s a former dancer and he’s worked in the visual arts for many years,” says Becker. “He was part of the Marina Abromovic show at MOMA and he’s worked with Robert Wilson,” Becker says. “So his piece, while it’s a sculpture, has a lot of movement and space in it.”

Skip LaPlante constructs instruments out of found materials and is building one of his musical waterfalls.

“He hangs crazy things off the trees and people pour water down these PVC pipes, resourced PVC pipes found. The water goes down the pipes, it falls out, it hits all this junk in the trees and makes sound. It’s not Beethoven but it’s really fun, especially if you can get a couple of people pouring water down the different channels at the same time,” says Becker. “The visuals of it are amazing. It’s kind of like some insane spider made a web in the trees and caught all the plastic barrels and the tins and things that the water falls on. It all courses down, goes into a little kiddie pool at the bottom and then people go to the bottom and pick it up and bring it back to the top and use it again. So it’s a recycled system for the water, too.”

Muralist Eugene Stetz also will display work at the transfer station. And Becker has her own contribution.

“I made a piece called ‘Obsolete’ which uses old television sets. It’s basically an educational piece. It uses words. I have a background as a writer. And so I wanted to elevate the message of Trash Fest and use TVs with words on them to try and get out the idea about how people can be part of making less garbage but also through my own personal journey through garbage and the excitement that I feel about it because it’s really fun.”

“Get creative with your waste” is the tag line for Trash Fest. Art works can be seen at the Marbletown Transfer Station and Wired Gallery. Trash Fest kicks off this weekend.   

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