How Bad For The Environment Is Our Summer Festival Habit?

Between straws, plastic cups and all of that glitter, our festival habits are making a huge contribution to an international crisis

Are Festivals Secretly The Biggest Environmental Nightmare We Face?

by Jazmin Kopotsha |
Published on

When you’re nipple deep in peak festival madness: flailing around at the front of a 50,000 strong crowd, a bit pissed, a bit disorientated and gloriously lost to the concerns of the real world, the state of the environment is probably the last thing on your mind. Bu that might be about to change.

Ahead of the government’s welcomed proposition to ban plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in England to try and minimise the huge amount of entirely unnecessary plastic waste that’s killing wildlife and polluting our oceans, British festivals have too made a commitment to making dramatic adjustments to the unnecessary waste amassed at their events.

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From Boardmasters to Shambala, Bestival to Download, more than 60 festivals up and down the country will be halting the use of plastic straws this season as part of the Association of Independent Festivals ‘Drastic on Plastic’ campaign.

The independent festivals and suppliers involved have also committed to a huge three-year plan to eliminate all single-use plastic at events by 2021. So, in the next few years you’ll probably be going about your standard festival antics a little bit differently.

I hold my hands up and admit I’m not very good at maintaining awareness. My priorities are finding a bar with a relatively painless queue, locating a portaloo without a sick speckled toilet seat, and remembering how exactly to get back to my tent. Finding a recycling bin for the plastic pint glass I’d just finished drinking from doesn’t cross my mind as frequently as it should.

But the reality is that festivals are the environmental nightmare than none of us attendees particularly want to face. If you think about how many times you’re served a drink in a disposable plastic cup over the course of a weekend, you’ll only begin to get an impression of just how much single-use plastic is used and then thrown on the ground and forgotten about.

The new plan is re-use instead of single-use, which makes sense for the most part. Deposit schemes to encourage people to return their reusable, more sustainable plastic cups are already in place at loads of events, particularly beer festivals and Christmas markets. But how well will that play out in the middle of a field overtaken by tens of thousands of drunk people?

It’d be a weird shift for consumers to make and hopefully it would quickly become as normal as it currently is to crumple up a plastic pint glass and throw it in the air mid-headline set. That said, there are other complications that come with encouraging the use of more environmentally friendly cups and bottles. Glass is a strict safety no-no on the festival circuit, so that's not really an option; especially if you were hoping to just start bring more of your own drinks to festivals. And, should you lose/drop/forget about the reusable pint glass you'd successfully carried with you for a few hours, are you really going to go searching for it/wash the shit from it/locate it again amongst the madness? You'd hope so, but practically speaking, it probably won't be that simple.

Then there are things like cable ties, the most seemingly practical but unsustainable little trinket relied upon to keep important shit together. Toiletry bottles, baby wipes, plastic bags, and so on. And then there's the huge issue of everyone's favourite festival accessory: glitter. If you're not wearing glitter are you even at a festival? Probably not but you're really not helping the planet if you have decided to cover your body in it for three days.

Glitter is just as harmful to the environment as microbeads are (which have already been banned), so if glitter is struck from the list too, what are the alternatives? Well bio-degradable glitter does exist, you just have to search for it. And obviously you can just not wear it and make some other non-offensive beauty statement instead.

At the crux of these schemes and incentives is making the right choices. It's brilliant that festivals are taking the step to revolutionise the way they operate to encourage significant change. But the onus is on all of us as festival goers and day-to-day consumers to carry the initiative through and think a little less about assumed convenience and more about how our seemingly small actions have a really big impact.

MORE: Your Complete Guide To UK And European Festivals In 2018


The Debrief UK and European Festivals 2018

MAY1 of 23


MAY The Biggest Weekend2 of 23

BBC Music's Biggest Weekend, Swansea

Saturday 26 May - Sunday 27 MaySingleton Park, SwanseaTickets: day ticket £18, on sale Monday 12 JanuaryLine-up: Ed Sheeran, Taylor SwiftWhat's the vibe? Listening to Radio 1 IRL with other people in a really random location

JUNE3 of 23


JUNE Field Day4 of 23

Field Day

Friday 1 June – Sunday 3 JuneBrockwell Park, LondonTickets: Day tickets from £39.50, weekend tickets from £69Line-up: Erykah Badu, Fever Ray, NAO, Thundercat...What's the vibe? Day only, super popular, 'alt-rock' but also quite eclectic.

JUNE Wychwood Festival5 of 23

Wychwood Festival

Friday 1 Junes – Sunday 3 JuneCheltenham RacecourseTickets: Weekend pass £137.50, day tickets from £47Line-up: The Gypsy Kings, Baxter Dury, Nina Nesbitt etc…What's the vibe? Camping, kid-friendly, lots of Real Ale

JUNE Mighty Hoopla6 of 23

Mighty Hoopla

Sunday 3 JuneBrockwell Park, LondonTickets: Early bird £35, first release £40, second release £45Line-up: B_Witched, Vengaboys, Lily Alen, Mel C_What's the vibe?* One day of glittery, lol-filled throwback clubby pop vibes

JUNE Ocean Fest7 of 23

Ocean Fest

Friday 15 June - Sunday 17 JuneCroyde, North DevonTickets: Early bird weekend ticket £45, regular weekend ticket £54Line-up: TBCWhat's the vibe? Water sports and beach vibes with music as a side dish

JUNE8 of 23

Isle of Wight

Thursday 21 June - Sunday 24 JuneIsle of WightLine-up: Kasabian, The Script, James Bay, Blossoms, Nile Rodgers & Chic... Tickets: [Weekend £209, Friday £65, Saturday/Sunday £75](http://Weekend £209, Friday £65, Saturday/Sunday £75)What's the vibe? Feel further away from home than you think you are. Activities rank just as highly as the music with Old Mout's Kiwi Camp's Disco yoga in our list of must-visits.

JUNE Also9 of 23


Friday 29 June – Sunday 1 JulyPark Farm, WarwickshireTickets: Early bird weekend £100, advance saver £120, standard £150What's the vibe? Think TED talks live, in the midlands with food, music and stuff

JULY10 of 23


JULY Wireless11 of 23


Friday 6 July - Sunday 8 JulyFinsbury Park, LondonTickets: SOLD OUT!Line-up: Cardi B, Mabel, J Cole, Stormzy, J Hus, DJ Khaled, What's the vibe? One of the UK's best hip-hop/r&b/grime festival offerings. Artists very male heavy. Good place to play celeb spotting.

JULY Fresh Island12 of 23

Fresh Island

Tuesday 10 July – Thursday 12 JulyPag, CroatiaTickets: Three days from 119 eurosLine-up: J Hus, Stefflon Don, Goldlink...What's the vibe: Sun, sea and shenanigans as soundtracked by hip hop, grime and R&B

JULY Electric Castle13 of 23

Electric Castle

Wednesday 18 July – Sunday 22 JulyCluj-Napoca, RomaniaTickets: Regular access with camping 140 eurosLine-up: Damian Marley, London Grammar, JP Cooper, Wolf Alice What's the vibe: 24 hour line up across 9 stages in and around a IRL castle.

JULY Larmer Tree Festival14 of 23

Larmer Tree Festival

Thursday 19 July – Sunday 22 July****Larmer Tree Gardens, Cranborne Chase (Wiltshire/Dorset way)****Tickets:** Weekend ticket £179, day tickets TBC Weekend ticket £179, day tickets TBC**** Line-up: First Aid Kit, Jake Bugg, Seamus FogartyWhat's the vibe?** Eccentric old school festival fun in fairytale-esque garden surroundings

JULY Kaleidosope15 of 23


Saturday 21 JulyAlexandra Palace, LondonTickets: From £40Line-up: Ghostpoet, The Flaming Lips, Katherine Ryan, Mark WatsonWhat's the vibe? Live music, comedy, spoken word, food activities. Big day out, kinda thing.

JULY Port Eliot16 of 23

Port Eliot

Thursday 26 July - Sunday 29 JulySt. Germans, CornwallTickets: Weekend camping ticket £176What's the vibe? Grown-up Britishness. Lots to see and do. An excessive weekend away with your mates that the ones with kids can join in on.

AUGUST17 of 23


AUGUST Neverworld18 of 23


Thursday 2 August – Sunday 5 AugustHever, KentTickets: Weekend ticket £114Line-up: Clean Bandit, Tom Grennan, We Are ScientistsWhat's the vibe? A grown up, upside down, cooler than Peter Pan could handle, Neverland party

AUGUST Wilderness19 of 23


Thursday 2 August – Sunday 5 AugustCornbury Park, OxfordshireTickets: General Spring release camping £190.75Line-up: TBCWhat's the vibe? Your bigger replacement for Secret Garden Party with an insane club night in the middle of a valley

AUGUST Sziget20 of 23


Wednesday 8 August – Wednesday 15 AugustBudapest, HungaryTickets: 1 day 70 euros, 3 days 189 euros, 5 days 275 euros, 7 days 299 euros Line-up: Arctic Monkeys, Kendrick Lamar, Mumford & Sons, The Kooks, Liam GallagherWhat's the vibe? Glastonbury on tour

AUGUST Reading and Leeds21 of 23

Reading and Leeds

Friday 24 August - Sunday 26 AugustRichfield Avenue, Reading and/or Bramham Park, LeedsTickets: Weekend camping £210.40Line-up: TBCWhat's the vibe? Lots of sixth-formers festivalling for the first time and some solid, dependable music acts

AUGUST Camp Wildfire22 of 23

Camp Wildfire

Friday 31 August – Monday 3 SeptemberSevenoaks, KentTickets: Weekend tickets from £134Line-up: TBC. What's the vibe? Activities based community adventure fun with as much or as little (thank god) obligation to be consistently pissed as you want. No kids allowed.



Follow Jazmin on Instagram @JazKopotsha

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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