Glastonbury bans plastic bottles for 200,000 festivalgoers

Music festival will no longer sell single-use plastic water bottles in bid to cut waste

Glastonbury: the English festival has become almost as infamous for the mountain of rubbish left in its wake as it is renowned for its music. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty

Glastonbury: the English festival has become almost as infamous for the mountain of rubbish left in its wake as it is renowned for its music. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty

 

With its sea of discarded tents and litter-strewn fields, Glastonbury has become almost as infamous for the mountain of rubbish left in its wake as it is renowned for its music. But organisers are hitting back – by banning plastic bottles in a bid to stem the tide of waste.

They have announced the festival will not sell single-use plastic water bottles this year because of their impact on the environment. At the last event, in 2017, visitors got through 1.3 million plastic bottles. This year more than 200,000 people will attend Glastonbury, which is so huge that it takes a break every other year, to allow the farmland it is held on to recover.

“Obviously we are all fighting the fight against plastic, which is an enormous task but well overdue, and we need to make steps in the right direction,” Emily Eavis, the co-organiser of the festival and youngest daughter of the founder, Michael Eavis, says. “A vast amount of plastic bottles were gotten through, and when you see images of the arena completely covered in old plastic bottles it’s quite haunting.

With more than a million plastic bottles sold at Glastonbury in 2017, the festival’s organisers said they felt stopping their sale was vital

“We have been working on this during the year off. We spent a lot of time in 2018 working on the logistic side of all this, speaking to suppliers and market managers, area organisers,” she added. “We are tackling drinking bottles at the moment, water bottles… and we are encouraging people to bring their own reusable bottle – but there will also be reusable bottles available on site.”

Friends of the Earth said it was an important step but there was much more to be done to tackle other littering issues. “We’ve seen other festivals giving plastic-free the headliner status it deserves, so we’d urge Glastonbury to carry on along the path to plastic-free bliss.”

It added: “It’s time for all festivals to think about things such as food containers, cutlery and encouraging festivalgoers to ditch the plastic tat when thinking about fancy dress. It’s also important that festival kit such as tents is built to last rather than to be abandoned in a field after one use.”

Greenpeace estimates that, globally, 12.7 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans each year. With more than a million plastic bottles sold at Glastonbury in 2017, the festival’s organisers said they felt stopping their sale was vital.

The organisers said they were encouraging all festivalgoers to use a reusable water bottle and refill it at the free water taps around the site. They said they would also increase the number of WaterAid kiosks on the site where people can refill their bottles or get a free cup of water. Canned water and soft drinks will be available to buy from all traders who previously sold soft drinks in plastic bottles, and they will continue to recycle any recyclable waste plastics on site.

If there is a message for the industry, it’s that if you don’t design plastic packaging so it’s genuinely compatible with recycling on a large scale, people will walk away from it

Backstage catering will also be plastic-free, with canned drinks and reusable water bottles available to performers.

Previously, the festival banned plastic cutlery and plates from food traders, with everything having to be compostable. They note that they already have only paper straws on site. The festival already does not use single-use plastic cups at the bars, and the wristbands are made of cloth.

Richard Thompson, professor of marine biology at Plymouth University, said: “It’s a great step, but the devil is in the detail. It depends on what the alternatives will be. We need to know about the environmental footprint of the cans [being used] and whether they are recyclable.

Adding that it was also important for single-use plastic to be recyclable wherever possible, he said: “If there is a message for the industry, it’s that this should be a wake-up call, and if you don’t get your act together and design plastic packaging so it’s genuinely compatible with recycling on a large scale, people will walk away from plastic.” – Guardian