Fields littered with abandoned tents and plastic bags, bottles and containers. These are the images people often see on the TV after a large music festival. An estimated 23,500 tonnes of waste is left by UK festival goers each year according to think-tank Powerful Thinking. That’s more than double the weight of the Eiffel Tower. Here, Duncan Clark, head of operations at biodegradable biopolymer research platform Teysha Technologies, explains some of the best solutions for festival organisers to minimise their plastic problem.
for many, the return of events like Reading Festival will be a blessing after a long period of isolation during the global pandemic. However, many people are waiting in trepidation for the scenes of fields covered with discarded plastic waste that have been a regular occurrence since the iconic Woodstock Music and Art fair in 1969.
However, music festivals don’t have to be synonymous with mass littering and festival organisers are trying to change this stereotype. For example, Glastonbury, which produces around 2,000 tonnes of waste per year, has required attendees to adhere to the Glastonbury Green Pledge since 2019. Single-use plastic bottles were no longer available, and attendees were encouraged to refill their water bottles for free at water taps. While this is a step in the right direction, there is still so much more that music festival can do to limit their plastic waste.
Go a step further
Firstly, it’s not enough to just ban the sale of single-use plastic bottles. This needs to be extended to all areas of packaging supplied by festivals. Sustainable products are increasing and many events are currently utilising them, music festivals must do the same. From food and drink packaging to small plastic trinkets, limiting the amount of traditional plastic allowed will see a direct decrease in plastic waste.
Secondly, music festivals should encourage attendees to make sustainable choices. Every year more than 250,000 tents are abandoned at music festivals in the UK. Though some may be salvaged and given to those in need, this only pushes the plastic problem onto another location when the cheap tents eventually become unusable.
If music festivals were to offer attendees eco-friendly alternatives to the main culprits of waste, the problems would lessen. Teysha has developed a unique polycarbonate platform from renewable resources that can be customised for a multitude of applications. These products can even undergo selective degradation into non-harmful substances, a good solution if attendees continue to litter.
Festivals can encourage visitors to purchase products made from these alternative materials through festival branding or endorsement from performing artists on stage and social media. Encouraging a change in attendee behaviour is just as important as providing greener alternatives.
Finally, festivals need to start investing more heavily in sustainability schemes. Eco-friendly materials, like biodegradable biopolymers, are only able to compete with the traditional petroleum-based plastic industry with funding. Contributions will not only fund further developments in how to make products more durable and user friendly, but they also make a statement of solidarity in progressing towards green technology. The more events push towards sustainable products, the more options they will begin to see.