Plastic Festival Waste: Are YOU Doing Enough?
13th November 2019
With global warming (at its worst), many Event Managers are looking for ways to make their events greener. This blog will highlight the recent discovery of plastic waste being sent abroad and ways to combat this issue. It is important for us, as Event Managers to understand where our waste is going so we can do our part for the environment and avoid any negative publicity.
Music Festivals, on average, generate 23,500 tonnes of waste which includes plastic bottles, food waste, abandoned tents and clothing.
“BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend produced 60 tonnes of rubbish. It took 160 large bins, 300 wheelie bins and 22 skips to collect the waste”
Where does your festival waste end up?
One of the biggest contributions to festival waste is plastic. Roughly two-thirds of plastic waste in the UK is being sent overseas with the aim to reduce costs. However, countries such as China, Malaysia, Turkey and Poland are starting to reject plastic waste, due to its impurity. Back in 2018, China decided they will reject any plastic waste that is more than 0.5% impure. The amount of UK waste taken by China dropped by 94% after this period.
With the event industry growing and festivals being one of the largest contributors to plastic waste being sent abroad, it is an Event Managers responsibility to do our part for the environment.
Why should we care?
With greener events becoming more popular, a number of festivals are banning single-use plastic, including the UK’s largest festival, Glastonbury. David Attenborough appeared on the main stage during the festival to speak to over 100,000 people about the importance of going plastic free and its effect on the planet. With popular festivals taking their first steps to being plastic free, you don’t want your event to fall behind and gain a bad reputation with your out-dated waste management policies.
An events environmental footprint has been deemed one of the key parts of a company’s reputation. Environmental violations can influence the public’s perception of an event. Reputation risk is increasing due to the rise of social media, where bad news spreads faster. A bad reputation can be extremely damaging and can affect the event dramatically, from a decrease in attendance and support from sponsors. It can also look like the company has weak regulations and management incompetence, not only affecting the image but also planting doubt about the organisers.
This year, Biffa has been fined £350,000 for sending waste to China. This makes us question the reliability of our contractors and how much plastic from festivals is being sent abroad?
How can we stop this?
When you are thinking about entering into a contract for recycling or other waste collections, it is useful to ask some questions to make sure the service fits your requirements. Questions to ask your contractor:
- Does the waste collector have a waste carrier’s license? Anyone who collects and transports your waste must be a registered carrier of controlled waste.
- What happens if the wrong materials get put in the recycling bin? Will bins be rejected? Or will you incur additional charges if bins are ‘contaminated’ with wrong materials?
- Ask them about where the waste and recycling is taken and how it is disposed of? – If you suspect the waste carrier is disposing of the waste illegally, report them to Crimestoppers.
However, sometimes it can be hard to know the truth about where your contractors are sending our waste. Here are some tips on how you can encourage attendees to cut back on their plastic waste:
- Bring reusable bottles and hot coffee cups.
- A festival without glitter- microplastics on the land or in waterways is a problem. Crack out the face paints!
- Carnival costumes- Create costumes using second hand/recycled/reusable materials, to avoid buying plastic tat that is worn once and chucked in the bin.
With developing countries sending our festival plastic waste back, it is important to consider the above suggestions to protect your reputation and produce a greener event.
Please let us know in the comments below, your thoughts on this topic and how you plan to cut back on your plastic waste!