If you’ve trekked around the Atlanta scene much at all, you’ve encountered cigarette smokers. And if you’ve encountered smokers, you’ve probably also seen floors and sidewalks littered with the charred butts they’ve left behind. Andrew Joyce, singer and guitarist of local surf rock gang Antarcticats, certainly did. “I feel like every venue or house I go to has tons of cig litter around,” he tells me over email. “It’s always bummed me out, since pollutants and toxins in the filters can leach out into the groundwater.” As an environmental engineering student at Georgia Tech, Joyce was keen to find a solution, and after some research and adjusted planning, he’s devised a benefit gig and recycling initiative called ButtFest to shed light on both the problem and a potential solution.
Now, even without the philanthropic slant, Joyce’s modest outing boasts a stacked bill of locals. Mind, those hardcore outlaws Callous Daoboys have shared many a bill with amoebic hip-hop outfit NEWMONEY — but less common is the convergence of power pop rascals James Hunter USA, producer and Pop Weirdo Bennett Kane, and moody indie rockers Bird Laww. “I tried to put together a bill of musicians I personally enjoy and respect, that I’m friends with,” Joyce says. “I also tried to keep the bill from being too one-note, or homogenous, which can be tough with a smaller mini-fest like this. But I think we’ve got a pretty good palate of the different sounds that Atlanta has to offer.”
At the core of Joyce’s campaign is TerraCycle, a New Jersey-based company that offers incentive-based recycling programs. Clients order specific receptacles, for anything from old action figures to discarded superglue, and then ship the collected waste back to TerraCycle at no cost. But while individuals can order cardboard “zero waste boxes” for domestic use, Joyce aims to secure more permanent fixtures for music venues — these compact metal canisters could be secured to a tree or pole outside the building.
However, Joyce won’t have that first receptacle installed after ButtFest. Initially, he planned to host the gig at RowdyDowdy and donate the butt bin to them. However, after the club became mired in some controversy over its booking practices, Joyce reached out to Under the Couch to host the benefit. The shift worked out thanks to his close ties to the venue, but it also disrupted his initial plans. “Under the Couch is a smoke-free venue due to the [University System of Georgia]’s smoking ban, so it wouldn’t make sense to donate a receptacle back to them,” he explains. “Rather than purchasing a receptacle and then crossing our fingers hoping to find a home for it, the focus has shifted to donating that money to general Atlanta recycling initiatives — specifically Keep Atlanta Beautiful and CHaRM Atlanta (Center for Hard to Recycle Materials).”
With RowdyDowdy out of the picture, Joyce now has to figure out the next best venue to extend his campaign to. He assures me that upkeep for the butt bin itself would be minimal; the real challenge lies in finding someone at each venue who would collect and ship the butts. The artists on the bill had a few suggestions: Logan Wibb of Bird Laww suggested planting one in the bustling square of the Masquerade, while Bennett Kane believed somewhere huge like the Verizon Wireless Ampitheatre would catapult the campaign’s visibility. As for James Hunter, his answer was simple: “The Clermont Lounge. Because it’s the Clermont Lounge.”
Even though Joyce won’t be the first to advocate for cigarette recycling in Atlanta, his campaign might shake musicians to pitch their butts more carefully. A few bins from TerraCycle currently dot downtown Atlanta, including one near the Mammal Gallery; however, several of the bands on ButtFest’s bill had no clue such receptacles existed. “When I learned it was real, I was like, ‘Why isn’t this everywhere?'” says Kane.
Under the ButtFest banner, Joyce hopes to resolve that question. “After this year’s fest, I plan on reaching out to more venues, and hopefully find a good fit,” he says. “Then I can start planning ButtFest 2.” Ultimately, he’d like to collaborate with the city of Atlanta to spread more bins across downtown, but for now, he’s focused on just spreading the word.
To learn more about TerraCycle and their wide range of recycling programs, check out their website.
ButtFest: A Recycling Initiative goes down on Fri., September 22 at Under the Couch. Doors open at 7 p.m. $5 donation gets you in.