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Staying Green at Music Festivals

Posted on: June 15, 2015

It's festival season again, meaning thousands of people will be heading to muddy fields and dancing in the rain, leaving a trail of waste as they go. Only a handful of music festivals have a recycling plan in place to remove the excess amount of rubbish that gets left at festivals, so what is being done to stop this?

A music festival in Reykjavik, Iceland, is determined to become the greenest music festival, using geothermal energy and hydropower reserves.

Secret Solstice is a three-day music festival which is never sees darkness due to it being so close to the Arctic Circle. This means there is minimal need for lighting, saving the use for diesel generators which produce greenhouse gas emissions.

A Greener Festival

Claire O'Neill, co-founder of the consultancy A Greener Festival, said in a recent interview:

"If you look at some festivals that happen around Europe you would think people had no eyeballs," she says, "The norm nowadays is just to buy a lot of cheap camping crap and then dump it at the festival for people to deal with afterwards."

"Even with the best festivals you end up with a large amount going to waste or landfill and it's a myth that they all get given to Africa or recycled. Some does but it's just a drop in the ocean."

Festivals That Are Doing Their Bit

O'Neill is urging more festivals to follow in the footsteps of the Shambala Festival in Northamptonshire, which asks festival goers to pay a deposit for a rubbish bag at the start of the weekend. They only get their deposit back if they return a full bag of rubbish at the end of the festival.

A lot of Shambala's festival waste comes from campsites which then used to go straight to landfill. In recent years' though, Shambala has seen a huge increase in recycling rates with 40% of waste being recycled in the first year!

She is also interested in seeing how Glastonbury's new waste policy pans out this year. The legendary Worthy Farm is clamping down on waste and is encouraging people to think 'zero waste' by taking home what they bring to the festival. They don't want people to bring items that will end up in landfill. They have also made sure all traders use wooden cutlery instead of plastic, so it's easier to recycle and is environmentally friendly as well as urging festival-goers to use stainless steel water bottles rather than plastic ones – an estimated 1m plastic bottles are used during the weekend. In 2008 Glastonbury festival recycled 193,000 tonnes of composted organic waste and is the biggest single regular donor to Greenpeace.

There are many actions festival organisers can take to become a greener festival:

  • 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
  • Separating waste for recycling
  • Involving festival-goers by supplying recycling bin bags and either a returnable rubbish tax or reward incentives

Take a look at the video below by A Greener Festival on tent waste: