Are Festivals Dying ?

As mass waste continues to rise across the globe, the festival industry is frequently given the cold shoulder about how much waste is generated at festival sites each year, but this issue is firmly rooted in the festival operations and must be addressed before it is left to the festivalgoers to tackle. Fighting change while delivering unforgettable experiences lies directly to the organisers, to achieve successful festivals in a greener way.

Jozsitoeroe – adobe stock

 The waste generated at festivals reaches staggering new heights every year. The amount of waste collected every year equals the same weight as 78 fully loaded Boeing 747 jumbo jets.

Tents are a big problem. Over 250,000 are left behind at events every year, many of which end up in landfill. A 3.5kg tent produces the equivalent of 25kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Director of Festival Waste Reclamation & Distribution, Matt Wedge, said up to 90% of tents left at festivals end up in landfill or an incinerator.

In 2017, Glastonbury festival hosted just over 200,000 people, with many of the festival-goers leaving behind mountains of waste. The clean-up cost came to a staggering £785,000, lasting a grand total of six weeks. 

‌10 million plastic bottles per year. The report also indicates that UK festivals use 5 million litres of fuel and emit almost 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) every single year. At this current rate, it has been predicted that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

What should Festival Organisers Consider?

  • Allowing use of only biodegradable disposables or re-usable cups and plates on stalls.
  • Providing separate bins for recycling.
  • Utilising volunteers and potential sponsorship for the clean-up and sorting efforts.
  • Involving the crowd by supplying recycling bin bags and either a returnable rubbish tax or reward incentives.
  • Consider health, safety, and hygiene.
  • Being aware of legislation and being prepared.
Love Your Tent- A Greener Festival Film

Re-cycling Waste Products into Sustainable Items and the Promotion of Vintage Clothes sales at Festivals 

In the UK, 300,000 tonnes of unwanted clothing are dumped in landfills annually.

After housing, transportation, and food, clothing has the fourth-largest environmental impact.
Welsh fashion designer Beth discovered that hundreds of tents were being thrown out after attending music festivals all around the UK. The inspiration for her business came from seeing them.

CLICK HERE to see ITV’s interview with the founder, Beth Cosmos:

What can be done?

Reusable Cup schemes-

Reusable cups are used in different ways by event professionals. For instance, some use deposit schemes whereby when buying their first drink at the bar, the purchaser pays a refundable deposit amount – usually £1 or £2 – on top of the price of their drink. When purchasing their first drink at the bar, some bars offer refundable deposit schemes whereby they pay a refundable deposit – usually £1 or £2 – along with the purchase price. As long as the buyer keeps the cup, they can return to the bar for additional drinks at normal prices over and over again. Afterwards, the cup can be returned to the bar and the deposit returned.

You might also want to consider placing ‘bins’ for reusable plastic cups at the exit points of your festival site if you feel such deposit schemes might lead to additional queues at the bar at your event or festival. These bins can be filled with reusable cups from your visitors, and they know they will be sorted, cleaned, and reused at other events, thereby helping to reduce the overall environmental impact of the event.

W Davis – Reading 2022

Festival in a Bag

Event professionals can promote external brands such as Anne Kapoor’s Festival in a bag. Festival in a bag was created as a solution for those who buy camping equipment and only using it once. Festival in a Bag produces a 65-litre rucksack which includes a tent, camping mat, water bottle and sleeping bag already packed inside. It also comes with a unique code so it can be tracked if lost or misplaced.

Over the course of a festival, tens of thousands of tons of waste are generated, almost two-thirds go to landfills, and the remainder is recycled, consisting of tents, plastics, toiletries, and other discarded items. It doesn’t need to be this way, just repack your empties and take them home, so that they aren’t left behind for others to deal with at a great cost to the festival as well as the wildlife and landscape. Where festivals are held on farmland there have been multiple instances of animals being badly injured by swallowing parts left behind by Festival goers.

The solution to tackling waste is not done overnight and requires years of trial and error with global climate change ever so increasing and becoming more of a worry. festivals are not something people should have to ever miss out on but CANNOT continue to operate in the same way, which is why now is more important than ever to tackle the problem in-house and reduce plastic consumption, offer festival bags, increase recycling points and promote greener festivals.


s4006422 says:

Really interesting read, the festival in a bag section was particularly interesting, however, would love to know more information on the cost of this?

s4006831 says:

Hi, we’re glad you found this an interesting read. The festival in a bag is £99.99 and comes in three colours. You can also buy all the parts of the bag separately if they break or get lost.

S4001102 says:

Very informative, never knew the amount that went into the cleanups at festivals!

s4006831 says:

We’re glad you enjoyed reading and you learnt something new about festivals today.

George says:

Really interesting blog, as I also agree that festivals need to change with the large amounts of waste they produce, a question I do have is, how long will this take, as this is something that is not mentioned in the blog which I understand would require lots of research but am interested in knowing what you think about how many more years of this, as a globe we can take before they ban festivals, is it 5 years? 10 years?

Please let me know you thoughts

George P

s4006831 says:

Hi George, thanks for taking the time to visit and read our blog and share the same passion for the tragic amounts of waste at festivals. To answer your question, this is something that we most definitely looked at and talked about which we wanted to add to the blog but due to its importance and depth of this subject we believe we can tackle this whole question in another blog soon, but yes there is enough evidence to show that some major festivals will not be allowed to run unless they can provide guaranteed only a small amount of their generated waste goes to landfill, these rules could come in play in the next 5 years as world leaders continue to crack down on climate change. Keep an eye out for our next blog where this will be covered in further detail and any more questions in the meantime, please ask.

s4006831 says:

Hi George, great question and apologies for this late response. But if you are still interested on reading more about the time frame in which festivals will reduce their waste produce, then I would highly recommend reading: “The Show Must Go On Report” which states festival-related Greenhouse Gas Emissions will be reduced by 50 Percent by 2025. I will attach the link here for you:

S4003493 says:

Great issues that is highlighted enough sometimes. Think this gives a really good insight to some of the issues as well as a fantastic view into some of the solutions available to make festivals more environmentally friendly.

s4006831 says:

Thank you for taking the time to read our blog and have taken away new information, we hope to spread a wide message as possible and reach new readers to understand the problems festival waste will and does cause.

S4003493 says:

Really class insight into an issue that isn’t discussed as much. Think it’s very informative the way you highlight the issues but follow up with solutions to them such as the cups.

s4006831 says:

Hi S4003493, really appreciate your time for reading our blog. Yes! the cups are our favourite part too, as it really shows making just one little change at a festival can change a lot for our future.

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