Music Festivals and the Plastic Bottle Problem

It’s a gloriously warm day, you’re with your best friends, watching incredible live music and trying to stay hydrated. The crowds are packed tight and there’s not a recycling bin in sight. Now what to do with your empty bottle?

Music festival attendees leave absolutely incredible amounts of waste behind. If you’ve ever been one of the last to stumble to your tent or had the unfortunate job of cleaning up a festival site, you’ve encountered the sea of trash that goes as far as the eye can see.

What are music festivals doing about plastic waste?

Year after year hundreds of thousands of people flock to the desert of Indio, California for the Coachella Music Festival. Under the extreme heat conditions, drinking enough water is crucial, but an estimated 1,612 tons of solid waste is generated at Coachella every year. And while a great deal of that trash might actually be recyclable, only about 20% of it ends up in the proper disposal containers. This past year, Coachella attempted some new initiatives to try to encourage attendees to help in the recycling process, with 10 collected water bottles you could earn a reusable bottle or even rides on the Ferris wheel. While that may help get the recyclables in the recycling bins, we, unfortunately, know that recycling is not the sole answer to reducing plastic waste.

Where does all the plastic go?

Music festivals typically take place in largely rural areas, much too small to accommodate the waste left behind by transient festival goers. So on top of the garbage itself, there’s also the extra carbon emissions of trucking out all that waste to consider. Yikes!

Can festivals just ban plastics?

Well, sort of. With 23,500 tonnes of waste being produced annually at UK music festivals, Glastonbury is finally trying to do something about it. The festival organizers have announced that they will no longer sell single-use plastic bottles after an announcement that an average of 1.3M plastic bottles are typically disposed of at the festival. With other International festivals banning glitter microplastics and plastic straws, it’s refreshing to see such a large festival (which has already banned plastic cutlery and food containers) encouraging attendees to bring their own bottle and use their free refilling stations. Hopefully, this becomes the new industry standard.

What to pack for your plastic-free festival experience?

Heading to a camp-out festival but want to leave as little of an environmental impact as possible?

Here’s what you need to bring;

  • A refillable, lidded cup. Staying hydrated in the sun is hugely important. So pack a lightweight cup and locate all the refilling stations, so you’re never running low.
  • Snacks in reusable food bags. Bring all the delicious snacks the festival allows but try not to bring in any disposable packaging.
  • Reusable cutlery and straws.  These are great alternatives to using plastic utensils each time you eat at a festival. Bamboo is light and easy to clean.
  • Package-free toiletries. Forget mini hotel shampoos, bring a shampoo/body bar in its place. Pop it in a tin for safe-keeping.
  • Plastic-free sunscreen. Don’t forget the sunblock! You can now find a wide selection of sunscreens in zero-waste tins in a range of SPFs.
  • A good tent. A shocking number of tents are simply left behind on festival grounds, so be sure that yours is one you intend to use again and again.

So, this festival season, get out there, enjoy the music. But pack wisely, and maybe collect enough discarded recycling to take a few turns on the Ferris wheel.

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