A Greener Festival director Teresa Moore reveals details of her extensive studies into the problem of tent waste at festivals
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Organisers of more than 60 independent UK festivals call on retailers and festivalgoers to save on plastic waste and stop treating festival tents as single-use items
By Anna Grace on 08 May 2019
The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has issued a call to major retailers including Argos and Tesco to stop marketing and selling ‘festival tents’ as single-use items.
The call comes as part of a new AIF initiative to reduce the waste caused by single-use festival tents. As well as appealing to retailers, today (May 8) the association has launched a campaign to tackle consumer behaviour, urging festivalgoers to “Take your tent home” and “Say no to single use”.
The campaign includes an animated educational video that will be displayed across social media for all participating festivals.
AIF’s ten-year report revealed that almost 10% of people attending its member events, which include Shambala, Boomtown Fair, Boardmasters, Kendal Calling and End of the Road, had ditched a tent during the 2018 festival season.
Across the UK in general, it is estimated that 250,000 tents are left at music festivals each year, resulting in almost 900 tonnes of plastic waste every festival season. The average tent weighs 3.5kg and is mostly made of plastic – the equivalent of 8,750 straws or 250 pint cups.
“AIF launches this campaign to raise awareness and highlight abandoned tents as part of the single-use plastics problem”
Research by Comp-A-Tent, an organisation dedicated to reducing festival waste, suggests that Argos and Tesco tents make up as much as 36% of those left at festivals.
AIF member festival Boomtown is partnering with Comp-A-Tent to provide a pre-order tent service, selling £45 tents for collection at the festival. After the festival, attendees can choose whether to keep the tent or sell it back for £10 to be cleaned and resold the following year.
“We call upon major retailers to stop marketing and selling tents and other camping items as essentially single-use, and profiting from disposable culture,” says AIF chief executive Paul Reed. “AIF launches this campaign to raise awareness and highlight abandoned tents as part of the single-use plastics problem.”
Reed stresses that “the message here is not ‘buy a more expensive tent’”, but for festivalgoers to “reduce their carbon footprint simply by taking their tent home and reusing it.”
The issue of tent waste has been at the centre of attempts to make festivals more eco-friendly in recent years. A coalition of 36 festival organisers and six festival industry associations and sustainability groups formed the Campsite Roundtable in January 2018.
“As festivals, we can work with audiences to inspire better decisions, reduce single use and waste, and minimise ecological damage at this critical moment in history”
The group, led by A Greener Festival and Yourope’s green operation division, Go Group, aims to tackle “campsite chaos” and reduce waste left by festivalgoers.
The reduction of single-use plastic has also been a central issue. AIF launched Drastic on Plastic in 2018, an initiative encouraging member festivals to commit to eliminating all single-use plastic at their events by 2021.
Glastonbury Festival announced a ban on single-use plastic bottles at this year’s event and Danish festivals including Roskilde and Tinderbox are replacing disposable plastic cups with reusable models.
“We’re finally waking up to the climate crisis en masse,” says Shambala festival co-founder and director Chris Johnson. “The stuff we use is part of the problem – everything has an impact, usually hidden from the user.
“As festivals, we can work with audiences to inspire better decisions, reduce single use and waste, and minimise ecological damage at this critical moment in history.”