Every year, the waste produced by festivals is enormous. Approximately 23,500 tonnes of waste are produced by UK music festivals each year – the equivalent in weight to 78 fully loaded Boeing 747 Jumbo Jets. In the US, this is even higher, with each festival generating about 100 tonnes of waste a day.
Most festivals employ huge numbers of litter pickers and have massive waste management operations organised post-event, but most of this waste goes straight to landfill. Moreover, they aren’t just picking up the plastic cups and cutlery etc. purchased with food and drink within a festival. Festival attendees leave a high volume of waste from items purchased outside the festival – fancy dress, raincoats, toiletries, sleeping bags, tents etc. – most produced with plastics that don’t break down for centuries. Some people even choose to leave waste as they believe charities will come after and salvage what they leave behind.
Many festivals are starting to implement some form of environmentally aware waste management scheme but much more work needs to be done – especially to eradicate the disposable mindset and behaviours of festival attendees.
Potential for Change
There has been some success in trying to change the disposable nature of festivals: the Association of Independent Festivals in the UK has urged retailers to stop selling festival tents as if they are single use; many festivals are now banning non-compostable tableware; businesses such as Comp-a-Tent allow festival attendees to order a pop-up tent that they can pick up at the festival, and then take home or sell back at the end; and Shambala festival’s Recycling Exchange scheme successfully puts their attendees at the heart of the solution to help them make environmentally-conscious decisions, easily!
Whilst events and festivals have been scaled back due to the effects of covid-19, now is the time to think about how we can shift festival mindset away from disposability to one of sustainability and longevity and make sure all festival organisers and attendees alike are thinking about how to eradicate waste.
We are looking to support creative solutions that can make waste minimisation practices the norm at all festivals. We hope to see circular economy principles feature at the forefront of your plan.
For this particular challenge, as well as financial support, there may be the opportunity to pilot your solution at a festival The Dixon Foundation could host on our land.