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With an estimated 38.5 million plastic bottles used in the UK every day, Ellina Webb looks into the announcement that Glastonbury and fellow festivals are waving a ‘drastic’ goodbye to single use plastic.

With summer around the corner and the festival season landing on our doorsteps with a massive Coachella thump, sales in fairy wings, denim shorts, wellington boots and glow sticks are set to soar.

But what‘s this I hear about plastic bottles?!

It was announced on the Guardian last week that more than 60 independent British music festivals have committed to banning single-use plastic from their site by 2021. The initiative has been labelled ‘Drastic on Plastic’ and is being led by the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF). It aims to remove plastic bottles, straws, glitter, food trays, cable ties and toiletry bottles from festival sites, replacing them with useable alternatives.

The carbon footprint of concerts

Concerts and festivals have been scrutinised for years over the rubbish and mess they leave behind once the fans have left. The use of single-use plastic cups, bottles and food containers makes the carbon footprint of the concert industry massive and over the past 5 years environmentalists and environmental groups have placed a huge emphasis on trying to solve it.

Back in 2014 environmental activist Dianna Cohen ran a project called Plastic Free Touring – part of her wider Plastic Free Living initiative. The project provided fans with reusable cups and stainless-steel containers. These single-use plastic alternatives proved to be very popular with over 7,500 purchased at Bonnaroo festival in America. Water refill stations were also provided in hopes that long term, people would break from their addiction to bottled water.

Dianna Cohen has also created a TED Talk on the ‘Tough Truths about Plastic Pollution’ which I recommend watching here.

The ‘A Greener Festival’ not for Profit Company also made waves in 2014 by creating a plastic free festival guide (called Making Waves). This was off the back of Shambala Festivals ‘Bring a Bottle’ campaign where festival goers and artists were encouraged to bring a re-usable bottle with them.


Helping ease the clean up

Over the past few years, not only have photos and videos from festivals filled our newsfeeds, photos of mass post-festival clean-ups have also hit the headlines. At Glastonbury for example, year after year we see photos of fields covered in rubbish dumped by over 150,000 festival goers. The only way to clean-up the mess is with a team of 800 people hired to pick up the waste along with hundreds of abandoned tents and other items.

The perks for Glastonbury litter pickers is a free festival ticket, but there is still no shortage of volunteers who sign up for the marathon task of walking 15-20 miles a day in order to pick up rubbish over the 900 acre site.

At Coachella festival in California the clean-up has also hit the headlines recently due to the 107 tonnes of waste it generates each day. Due to the high temperatures in the festival’s desert location, the usage of single-use plastic water bottles is extremely high and unfortunately in 2017 it was noted how the use of recycling facilities on site was poor and only 20% of waste was recycled.


The future of the festival

The future of festivals is something already under discussion with Festival Vision: 2025. Organisers are looking to change the way cups are disposed, make changes in the supply chain, be more energy efficient and improve water management. Festival Vision: 2025 is a shared vision of sustainability and is the festival industry’s response to the 2015 global climate change talks in Paris.

The overall aim of the pledge is to achieve a 50% reduction in festival-rated annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. You can read more about this pledge here.

As for the ‘Drastic on Plastic’ initiative with the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), the fact that 60 major UK festivals are now signed up and poised to take part from 22nd April (Earth Day) is a fantastic step forward and the future of festivals not only looks colourful, but all shades of green are shining through!

Are you going to a festival this year? Will you be taking or purchasing a re-useable bottle? Let me know over on our Twitter page @MEUK_LES

Ellina Webb is a Senior Marketing Executive at Mitsubishi Electric