It’s that time of year again, when it feels like everyone is recovering from the effects of Glastonbury. But this year, the site of the festival itself is apparently having to do less recovering than usual.
After the five-day festival finally came to an end on Monday, almost every single one of the tents pitched on site have been taken away again by festival-goers, according to organiser Emily Eavis.
It might not sound like a particularly exciting development, but it’s actually big for festival sustainability.
Across the UK every year, it’s estimated that around 250,000 tents are left behind by people who can’t face taking them home again.
And according to the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), the average tent is equivalent to about 8,750 straws or 250 pint cups. So they’re bad news for plastic pollution.
Paul Reed, the AIF’s chief executive, has said that part of the problem is that a lot of people believe their left-behind tents will go to support charities.
“The reality is that most won’t,” he told the BBC in May. “They will go to landfill with no other option.”
So it was good news on Tuesday when Eavis shared an aerial photo of the site on Instagram and Twitter showing a vast patch of the campsite looking pretty spotless — with just one tent remaining.
“Just heard that 99.3% of all tents were taken home,” Eavis wrote. “That is absolutely incredible. HUGE thanks to the record numbers who loved the farm and left no trace!”
Meanwhile, this year’s festival also saw a complete site-wide ban on plastic drinks bottles, according to the Independent, which prevented more than a million bottles going to landfill, along with 45 tonnes of aluminium cans being recycled on site and 4,500 litres of cooking oil being turned into biofuel.
Since 2016, organisers at Worthy Farm — the site where Glastonbury was first born and still thrives — have been championing the “Love the Farm, Leave No Trace” slogan, calling on people to cut down the damage being done to the land and to clear up after themselves.
In 2017, the campaign was believed to have led to an 81% reduction in the number of tents being left behind. And, according to Eavis’ updates, the success continues.
“I think people are really starting to understand how important it is to treat the land with respect, and to stop living a disposable lifestyle,” Davis told the Glastonbury Free Press.
Meanwhile, the more than 60 independent festivals that make up the AIF have joined together to launch a campaign urging shops to stop marketing “festival tents” — giving the impression, they say, that the tents are only intended as single-use items.
There’s also a campaign petition on 38Degrees to support the efforts, which has already been signed by over 100,000 people.
In 2018, the AIF launched its Drastic on Plastic campaign with the aim of getting festival sites free of single-use plastic by 2021, reported the BBC.
But the movement has really taken off this year along with the rise of public concern about the environment, climate change, and plastic pollution.
Event organisers are bringing in increasingly strict measures to cut down on waste and carbon emissions, reported the Thomson Reuters Foundation last week.
Claire O’Neill, from nonprofit A Greener Festival, which assesses festivals on their environmental performance, said: “Previously … if it got difficult or if there were pressures on budget, it would often be the first thing to go to the bottom of the pile or to be put off until next year.”
She continued: “Now we see that a lot of the stops are being pulled out.”