As the year's main event of Glastonbury Festival draws to a close, once again the newspapers like to remind us of the sheer scale of the clean up that happens after each event. While every festival will of course have to go through this each year, the scale in size in which Glastonbury sits is unmatched throughout the UK, and therefore usually has to foot the biggest clean up bill of them all. It was estimated that 2017's clean up ended up costing organisers more than £700,000, and given that Glastonbury is a very eco-friendly and charitable event, it seems a shame that so much of their profits should go on something that almost seems entirely avoidable. So is there anything we can do to help not only organisers help restore their lands faster but also make people aware of the damage these actions are having on our environment?
The growing offender of littering after a festival is of course the tents. Glastonbury released the figures of what they had managed to recycle in their clean up earlier this week, which included over 11 tonnes of tents. This also included sleeping bags and festival clothing that had been left behind as well. Which while it is not the highest amount of recycled goods, it is the fattest growing. Namely down to shops that are actively selling cheap tents simply designed for use on a single weekend. Usually costing the buyer around £20 and being next to ruined after a few days, people are extremely less inclined to pack these down and dispose of them correctly, usually opting to burn them in some cases. But there have been examples of other festivals doing their best to help improve the state of their sites, even during the events.
Reading & Leeds have adopted to extremely popular beer-currency approach, where by the cardboard cups that their bars use to dispense alcohol each have a numerical value attached to them. Now while punters can't exchange them for actual money, what they can do is use them to knock money off their next round. So keep your cups and receive a discount next time you are at the bar, or even better, walk around the site collecting dropped cups and save up enough to get yourselves a free beer. It has proven extremely popular at these events and could easily be adopted by other festivals, especially in the case of collecting tents. While you may not want your beaten up tent at the end of the weekend, trading it in for a beer on your way out could prove to be a well-rounded idea.
However it still doesn't solve the problem of the largest offender, which is of course alcohol that has been brought in. While glass and plastic bottles, as well as cans, are easy enough to recycle, the cost of searching throughout festival sites for these items are proving to be one of the longest and hardest jobs of any festival clean up. But this again could be helped by the arrangement of an onsite recycling centre. In the US, most cans are given a value of how much they are worth as recycled goods, and it wouldn't take too much effort to adopt these practises, even at a small scale like a music festival. It would once again help people earn some extra money while at these events, not to mention keep them clean. And while some may say that it is giving money away, given that many companies do pay for old plastic and metal to recycle and seeing how much money it costs to clean a festival, there can surely be a generous value added to these items.
But while good intentions and rewards are all well, the main focus has to be put on information and education. Festivals need to take a stronger stance against festival littering on the whole. Simply offering these services isn't enough unless everyone knows they exist and how they work. We need to remember that these festivals sites spend 99% of the year as parks where people walk their dogs and children play. But with so much rubbish left in them, sometimes it can take months before every broken glass and embedded tent pole is removed from the site. So it really does need to come down to the actions of the festival goers. We are lucky we live in a country that can provide us with so many great musical events, but it'll only take one disputed council decision or lawsuit that could spell the end to one or more of these festivals, so we can't take them or our environment for granted.