Waste not want not. Are festivals plaguing our planet?

Is it just us or are the months whizzing by already this year?

Don’t get us wrong, we are keen for lighter evenings, warmer days and all the gorgeous things we associate with summer.After what feels like a pretty brutal winter, who isn’t ready to slip on their flip flops, head for a pub garden and slurp on an Aperol Spritz?

As the temperature improves, so does our social calendars and for many thousands of us in the UK, festivals play a big part in that.Tickets for most major music festivals have already been snapped up and plans are well under way as music lovers start to get giddy about the thought of watching their favourite bands with their bestest buddies.

Heaven on a stick, if that is your bag.

Ah yes, bags and bottles…and polystyrene food trays…and plastic cups…and plastic cutlery…and even tents and sleeping bags - all of these things are left behind in their tonnes by festival-goers each year.

As awesome as these, often whole weekend, events are, they also generate an obscene amount of waste and trigger a huge clear up operation.

In our industry, we experience this first hand as our teams work quite literally in the field at many of these festivals.

As an agency we have to take responsibility for our own waste and our teams are fully briefed on how best to minimise our impact on the world’s rapidly growing problem when it comes to non-sustainable materials - with single-use plastic at the heart of the issue.

We re-use and rebrand where we can, but festivals on the whole generate an unprecedented amount of rubbish with a concerning percentage of that going straight to landfill each year.

In partnership with Greenpeace, and known for their eco-friendly ways, Glastonbury organisers have announced they will be taking a huge leap forward concerning plastic waste at their own festival this year.

Unless you have been living under a rock (at least they are sustainable) you will know that single-use plastic drinks bottles will not be sold at Worthy Farm this year.

Neither will they be handed out to those working behind the scenes; backstage, in production, in dressing rooms or in catering areas.

Instead family Eavis will ensure the site is flooded with taps where revellers will be able to refill their reusable drinking vessels with mains water, just like the stuff you get at home.

They are also increasing the number of WaterAid kiosks threefold and, if you really want to buy water, it will be available in cans. Groovy.

Glasto has always been quick to push out its green message and in 2016 encouraged festival goers to “Love the farm, leave no trace”, in the hope people would take their litter home and recycle it accordingly.

If you have ever been to a festival, or even witnessed people travelling home on the train from one, you will know these exhausted souls are barely in a fit state to tie their own shoelaces, let alone focus on environmental issues.

While a lovely idea in whichever lengthy planning meeting that initiative was conceived, in reality it just did not stick.

It took a whole fortnight to clear the land after the last Glastonbury festival in 2017 and this has prompted Emily Eavis and team to take direct action, for which they should be applauded.

Hopefully organisers of other major events will take stock of their policies on waste and make a stand too.

There are now hundreds of large scale festivals that take place in the UK alone every year so every effort to reduce their imprint on the planet’s wellbeing should be considered where possible.

As a small contributor at such events ourselves, we work hard to accurately calculate reach, opportunity and deliverables so as not to over order and create more waste.

Left over items are disposed of responsibly and recycled accordingly and we work with a longstanding partner who specialises in storage, handling and fulfilment at a cost to us.

We embrace the move made by Glasto this year and believe more trailblazers like them are urgently needed if we have any hope of clawing back the damage we, as a population, have already caused to our planet.

Starting from the very top, the way in which food, drinks and other domestic products are manufactured and packaged needs a complete overhaul before it is too late.

There is no doubt the BBC documentary Blue Planet II had a profound effect on many of us and it is heartening to hear reports of companies like Iceland pledging to eradicate single-use plastics from their own-brand products by 2023.

With recent reports of a dead whale washed up in the Philippines with more than 40kg of plastic in its stomach, and an estimate by the United Nations Environment Programme that our seas will contain more plastic than fish by 2050, now is the time for us all to act.


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Andrew Flett