Elinor Jones discusses the effects that festivals have on the environment
Since first stepping foot in a festival field aged 11, I’ve been hooked on the combination of live music; camping; being in the great outdoors and attending festivals of all shapes and sizes, from Exeter to Spain. Growing up in a rural area, I was always conscious of recycling and protecting the environment. However, as festival-goers left the sites to go back to ‘reality’, many would treat the fields differently to the outside world, dropping litter here, there and everywhere, including single-use plastic and tents, often bought singly for the festival.
In the years that have followed, just like the rest of the world, festival organisers have been slow to change attitudes towards single-use plastics and littering, as often it becomes low on the priority list for security and volunteers compared to safety, alcohol and drugs. Whilst there has been growing concern over plastic pollution and overflowing landfills in the last decade, for the first time in its 48-year history, Glastonbury declared a ban on selling single-use plastic bottles this year. Many have said this is not enough, considering thousands of tents discarded at the end of the 5-day festival, mostly unable to be recycled or used again. Other problems are incurred with food and drink brought into the festival camping sites, a lot of which may not be recycled properly during all the revelry. Festivals have become a wasteland for disposable clothes.
festivals are doing their bit to slowly turn the tide on plastic pollution and climate change
Not only do festival goers leave rubbish and camping equipment, but there has been a culture growing around festival fashion, a new craze adopted by many high street brands. Fast fashion, a concept that’s been growing through cheap online retailers, has been thought to contribute more to global warming than driving, and festivals have become a wasteland for disposable clothes. As well as this, glitter, something we thought was lost to our childhood, has made a comeback. However, despite my joy at this makeup trend, plastic-based glitter cannot be recycled, often made from copolymer plastic or aluminium foil, described as micro-plastic.
Positively, times are changing, and more often than not, festivals are doing their bit to slowly turn the tide on plastic pollution and climate change. With many festivals now raising money for charities like Surfers Against Sewage, organisers are committing to promoting care for the environment. Some festivals like Leeds are engaging the support of local communities to help return the festival sites to their original conditions. There’s a small swell creating waves in the sea of British festivals as many small- and medium-sized festivals are leading the way in preventing food and drinks being served in single-use plastic, such as asking attendees to bring or buy a reusable cup, limiting the plastic sold at the bars.
Sixty-one festivals, including Boardmasters and Bestival, have signed an initiative to rid sites of single-use plastics by 2021, encouraging supermarkets and online retailers to stop marketing items as one-time objects. One of the UK’s largest promoters, Live Nation, which looks after more than twenty festivals and concert venues, has set ambitious sustainability goals in an attempt to reduce waste-to-landfill, greenhouse gas emissions, and make festivals a more environmentally friendly place. And remember, you can always buy biodegradable glitter!