Katherine Junk Festival recycles waste into sculptures, costumes

Garbage is precious in the small town of Katherine where waste disposal options are limited.

There is no selective collection and no sorting in the red, yellow and green bins.

A tractor-trailer loaded with crushed beer cans and glass bottles is collected from a sorting center once a month and driven south, but as far as recycling goes, that’s about it.

Max Paez says that Junk Festival emphasizes the issue of waste management.(ABC KatherineRoxanne Fitzgerald)

Junk Festival volunteer Max Paez said the event brought the whole town together.

While the festival, now in its tenth year, may only divert a small amount of waste from the landfill, he hopes the take-home message about the huge and everlasting footprint of waste will be clear.

A sculpture of a fly.
Sculptures made from discarded materials are entered into contests at Junk Fest. (ABC KatherineRoxanne Fitzgerald)

“We have things happening in our community around recycling, but the more Junk Fest we have, the more we bring people together around this common issue, we can continue to put a little more pressure on those who make these decisions. “

Reduce and reuse

Katherine residents lobbied for more options for dealing with waste long before Junk Festival was established.

The landfill site in the small town of about 10,000 people is aging and due to be closed within the next five years, making the need for innovative recycling ideas urgent.

Last year, Katherine City Council decided not to recycle curbside.

An entertainer wears a big wig and stares sternly at the camera.
Constantina Bush performed at the festival alongside a range of local musical talent. (ABC KatherineRoxanne Fitzgerald)

Performer Constantina Bush said the festival provides a perfect opportunity to highlight the importance of reducing and reusing, especially as the population grows.

“All these kids coming in now, the millennials, they’re the ones we’re going to leave the country to,” she said.

A woman looks at a bird sculpture made of plastic and straws.
Penny Fawkner’s sculpture of an arbor bird earned her a coveted first prize. (ABC KatherineRoxanne Fitzgerald)

Katherine resident Penny Fawkner said while there is a great need for recycling in her town, more attention is needed elsewhere.

“But often what isn’t talked about enough is the small part and the regulation of big business to stop being so wasteful and immoral with what they do.

“Now they are cracking down on oil, their new big focus is plastic.”

Small wire figurine shaped into small sculptures of people.
The Junk Festival encourages people to reduce, recycle and reuse waste.(ABC KatherineRoxanne Fitzgerald)

Turning trash into treasure

Dozens of pieces were on display Saturday night for an event that drew 2,600 people, by far its largest crowd.

Trash was turned into clothes for a parade, dancers wore old tents to perform, and the message to reduce, reuse and recycle was ubiquitous.

“The festival really brought everyone together and brought a lot of attention to an issue in Katherine that concerns everyone,” Mr. Paez said.

“How we deal with our waste is a very important thing in any community.”

A woman wearing a banana headband stands smiling with her two children.
Mandy Edge Tootell turned trash into wearable art for Junk Fest. (ABC KatherineRoxanne Fitzgerald)

It came as waste management options increased.

The federal government in February announced $7.2 million to fund a materials recovery facility in Katherine to “ensure that people have access to recycling facilities, specifically, in this case, for glass , tires, plastic and paper”.

But the inhabitants will still have to sort, and deliver, their waste to the sorting center if they want to recycle their waste.