Wellfleet OysterFest Returns ‘Plastic Free’ this Weekend

WELLFLEET – A signature fall event on the Outer Cape returns this weekend and will feature a major, environmentally-friendly change.

The 19th annual Wellfleet OysterFest, presented by Wellfleet Promotion and Tasting, Inc., will be a plastic free event for the first time.

OysterFest is Saturday, October 19 and Sunday, October 20 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Wellfleet Town Center.

Attendees will be served food on “backyard-compostable” paper products, beverages will be served in aluminum cans and refillable stainless steel cups, and some vendors will also use returnable metal utensils.

“We are all well aware of plastic being in our marine environment,” said Michele Insley, the executive of Wellfleet SPAT. “And one of our missions to sustain the shellfishing industry is to support the marine environment.”

The organization will partner with Sustainable Practices, an environmental non-profit group seeking municipal plastic bottle bans across the Cape.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Sustainable Practices,” Insley said. “They are of the same mindset of SPAT.”

Sustainable Practices will be on hand to help collect aluminum cans and will be the beneficiary of the refunds.

Wellfleet is one of several towns on Cape Cod that recently prohibited the municipal purchase or distribution of single-use plastic containers. Although, the Wellfleet ban does not apply to organizations using town property, Wellfleet OysterFest is taking action.

Insley said organizers of the event have noticed the trash growing with the increased popularity of the festival. She said the goal is to create a festival where everyone eats, drinks and has a great time while minimizing the amount of waste generated.

For many years, the festival has partnered with NOAA to recycle the shells from the shellfish.

“Those shells get stored and winter over and then get reintroduced back into the harbor for habitat, substrate for erosion, and encourage spawn of new shellfish,” Insley said.

Single-stream recycling was also attempted, but the trash would often get contaminated.

“We noticed that we weren’t really being as successful as we wanted,” Insley said.

Insley said the goal is to separate the water generated and the trash with compostable paper and utensils and food scraps that can be used as compost.

Wellfleet SPAT will be working over the next year to identify a recipient of the compost.

“Hopefully we will see a dramatic reduction in our waste and be a model for future festivals,” Insley said.

OysterFest celebrates the town’s famous oysters, clams and shellfishing traditions and features raw bars operated by the town’s shellfishermen.

Insley said 15 percent of year-round residents in Wellfleet make a living with shellfishing.

“That’s really significant for a little, tiny town,” she said.

In 2018, the value of seafood landing was $6.8 million.

The town lands the second most oysters and third most quahogs in the state.

“So Wellfleet produces 25 percent of the shellfish in the entire state,” Insley said.

The fundraising event for Wellfleet SPAT also includes an art and craft fair, educational and culinary programs, children’s activities, music and the annual Oyster Shuck Off competition.

Tickets are $10 for adults and children 12 and under are admitted free.

Tickets can be purchased in advance at wellfleetspat.org or on the day of the event.

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