Resource Use

Unwanted tents at Glastonbury to be donated to refugees by Bristol charity

Unwanted tents, sleeping bags and non-perishable food items will once again be salvaged from this year’s Glastonbury Festival (21-25 June) and donated to refugees in Europe, the Middle East and right here in the UK.

Unwanted tents at Glastonbury to be donated to refugees by Bristol charity
Thousands of tents are left behind at Glastonbury every year
Aid Box Community, a Bristol-based refugee charity set up in 2015, will be returning to the festival to ask departing festival-goers to donate their unwanted camping equipment, help to dismantle the various campsites and retrieve usable equipment as well as raising awareness of the refugee crisis on our doorstep.

Last summer, some 177,000 people attended the world-renowned music and arts festival over the course of five days on Worthy Farm in Somerset, leaving a mountain of waste once the festivities came to a close.

Around 500,000 sacks of rubbish, 57 tonnes of reusable items, and 1,022 tonnes of recycling were left behind last year, with 2015 seeing 6,500 sleeping bags, 5,500 tents, 3,500 airbeds, 2,200 chairs, 950 roll mats and 400 gazebos left behind on site, with clean up costs reaching £780,000.

Aid Box Community

While a lot of this waste ends up in landfill, charities like Aid Box are trying to turn this waste into vital aid for refugees.

Speaking to Resource about the work that the charity carries out, Imogen McIntosh, Aid Box’s founder, said: “When I first set up Aid Box, we were sending stuff out and had a team on the ground in Dunkirk refugee camp. We’ve always sent out tents and sleeping bags and we made aid boxes that had everything someone turning up to a refugee camp with nothing needed.

“In Bristol, we have a free shop that we set up about three months ago where people donate items like clothes and toiletries and we then give them to refugees and asylum seekers who have just arrived in Bristol and don’t have anything.

“This year at Glastonbury we are running a stall telling people about our free shop and reminding people that there is still this massive crisis happening on our doorstep and in our country.”

Unwanted tents at Glastonbury to be donated to refugees by Bristol charity
Tents and reusable items will be taken to refugee camps and distributed to those fleeing war and persecution
While last year the majority of salvaged items went to Northern France, this year tents won’t be being taken to France, as McIntosh explains: “At the moment using tents in France can actually be more dangerous for refugees because the police see them immediately and go and drag people out, take their papers and don’t give them enough time to rescue their stuff.

“However, we will be taking tents to places like Greece, and items like sleeping bags, which are massively important, and non-perishable food items will be going to Auberge warehouse in Calais.”

Glastonbury organisers will be lending a hand to Aid Box this year, with the estimated 1,000 litter-picking volunteers going round and piling up left-behind sleeping bags to make them easier to collect. But McIntosh would like the festival to go further: “I’ve got lots of idea for how Glastonbury could use the leftover salvageable stuff in a much better way to raise money for charities or to recycle.

“Our problem is storage. If Glastonbury could do more with storage facilities, then we could collect tents and either sell them back to people for next year for other festivals and raise money for our charity or collect them a transport them directly to those in need.

“The situation in France is complicated, but places like Greece, Yemen and Syria do take the tents so we could send containers straight from Glastonbury and it would help thousands of people. It would be a big mission for Glastonbury but I think there are enough people who would be willing to get on board to make it work.”

‘Love Worthy Farm… Leave No Trace’

Waste left behind at festivals is the often unseen and forgotten product of such mass events, to which Glastonbury, despite its environmental ethos, is no different.

A survey in 2014 by Buckinghamshire New University in 2014 found that 86 per cent of the waste generated by music festivals comes from campsites, with 60 per cent of those surveyed admitting to have left their festival tents on-site following the end of a festival.

Unwanted tents at Glastonbury to be donated to refugees by Bristol charity
Fans will flock to Glastonbury this week to see acts including Radiohead, The Foo Fighters and Ed Sheeran
Glastonbury is trying to tackle this blight however, with its campaign ‘Love Worthy Farm… Leave No Trace’, encouraging revelers to clean up after themselves and to reduce the amount of waste they generate in the first place in order to lessen the impact on the farmland the festival is held on.

In a statement on the Glastonbury website, Michael Eavis, Glastonbury founder, says: ‘Everyone has woken up to the fact that we really have to do something about protecting the environment and reducing our impact on it. But, as a Festival, we’ve been highlighting new – and sometimes unpopular – ideas about the issue for as long as I can remember. Different ways of looking at and doing things, which we always hoped people would take notice of.’

Green policies that Glastonbury organisers would like festival-goers to adhere to include taking a ‘zero waste’ attitude, taking tents home, using the designated toilets to avoid polluting the Whitelake River which runs through the site, allowing only compostable or re-usable plates and cutlery to be used by vendors on-site, encouraging people to bring re-usable water bottles to reduce plastic waste, and encouraging people to make use of the more than 1,200 compost loos on site.

To find out more information about festival waste, you can read ‘The Post-party Clean Up’ from Resource 81, and to find out more about Aid Box, visit the charity’s website.

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