Resource Use

Survey highlights lasting waste damage from festivals

Festival organisers, retailers and festival-goers are being urged to end the ‘wasteland culture’ at festival campsites, with organisers being asked to sign a 10 per cent campsite waste reduction agreement year on year.

The call comes from waste campaigning group Love Your Tent (created by Eco Action Partnership in association with A Greener Festival) and Buckinghamshire New University, after they found that many festival attendees had a ‘shocking wasteland culture’ when attending such events.

The survey, commissioned by Love Your Tent to understand festival attendees’ behaviour and attitudes, sought the opinions of 1200 respondents across a number of countries and found that consumers at festivals have developed a ‘socially unacceptable practise’ of leaving all of their waste – including tents and camping equipment – behind.

More than half of respondents have left tents behind

Indeed, it is estimated that campsite waste contributes to 86 per cent of total music festival waste, while 71 per cent of this waste can cause ‘lasting land damage to the native flora of the festival sites’.

Despite the fact that 86 per cent of those surveyed recognised that waste has an impact on the environment at festivals, two thirds of respondents (60 per cent) who said they had camped at festivals admitted to discarding their tents at the event.

When asked if they would change their behaviours in future, 36 per cent said they were ‘unsure’ if their behaviour would ever change, with a similar amount (35 per cent) saying they would ‘never’ change their behaviour.

Conclusions from the survey revealed that the trend of leaving camping equipment could, in part, be due to the inexpensiveness and poor quality of tents. Almost half of those surveyed (46 per cent) said they paid less than £75 for their tent, with 60 per cent saying they left their tent behind because it was broken.

When asked if they would pay more for the price of a ticket if it included the cost of campsite waste disposal (such as tents), just under a third (28 per cent) said they would.

Love Your Tent has warned that as over 6.5 million people attended a festival or live music event in the UK alone last year, the scale of camping waste and abandoned tents is ‘enormous’.

As such, it is calling on retailers and festival organisers to work together to promote the anti-litter message and make it harder for festival-goers to leave waste behind.

Those supporting the campaign are asked to show support through Facebook, and Twitter with the hashtag #JustTakeItHome.

‘Time for retailers to take their share of their responsibility’

Teresa Moore, Head of Music & Event Management at Bucks New University, highlighted that as there is a growing number of events and festivals being held across Europe, the litter problem could be exacerbated.

She said: “Bucks [Buckinghamshire New University] has been delighted to support Love Your Tent and last year carried out the first comprehensive survey on camping at festivals on their behalf. Through our research we wanted to put some data behind the annual media coverage of campsite waste at festivals. What we found confirms a growing problem which is not confined just to the UK. As tent prices continue to fall, more cheap tents are discarded at festivals. It’s time for retailers to take their share of their responsibility and work with event organisers to tackle this problem.”

Actions that can be taken

Juliet Ross-Kelly, founder of Love Your Tent and a Director of Eco Action Partnership Ltd, has cited the group’s collaboration with the Isle of Wight Festival as one way to change festival goer’s behaviour and increase sustainability.

Launched in 2012, the ‘Respect’ campsite at the Isle of Wight gives consumers the opportunity of ‘an almost VIP camping experience’ for free, upon signing the ‘Tent Commandments’, a code of practise that agrees to leaving the campsite without any waste.

She explained: “Thanks to the great support and work by Bucks we can see how much work still needs to be done to encourage a change in audience behaviour. By targeting festivals to reduce their campsite waste by 10 per cent year on year, we are leading a change that will help to protect festival culture for future generations and from the work that we’ve done with the Isle of Wight Festival, we know it’s achievable.”

Isle of Wight Festival organiser, John Giddings also commented, saying: “Audiences leaving stuff behind is an issue that us organisers have been dealing with for many years and the Bucks survey shows it’s a worsening problem.

“Supporting the Love Your Tent campaign has allowed us to offer a real alternative for campers who are fed up with wading through waste to get to and from their tents each day. We know there is a real market for a sustainable camping experience and we want to be at the forefront of that change.”

Read more about Love Your Tent or find out more about the problems of festival waste in Resource’s article on waste at Glastonbury Festival.