1 Feb 2019

The waste left behind at festivals

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:10 pm on 1 February 2019

Festivals are an integral part of a kiwi summer and camping often goes alongside the event.

It's easy to pick up air mattresses and tents on the cheap from big outdoor stores, but not everyone takes them home with them.

Outdoor music festival.

Photo: 123RF

With the rubbish from food and drinks plus these bigger items, the amount of waste left behind can be huge.

Cheryl Reynolds, Chief Entrepreneurial Officer of Xtreme Zero Waste, joined Afternoons to explain the problem and give us a few solutions.

Reynolds says that after this year’s Soundsplash festival in Raglan, 500 or 600 tents were left abandoned by attendees. She said they’re ripped, dirty and often structurally compromised leaving them with no choice but to go to the landfill.

The festival hosts around 6000 campers who erected between one to two thousand tents. The mess left behind was 50 times greater than the previous year.

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Photo: Instagram / Sewlove

“It’s devastating. How is this possible?” she said. “This year something changed with the behaviour of the festival attendees.”

Extreme Zero Waste has a contract with Soundsplash and has worked with the festival for 17 years. Reynolds said the organisers are committed to zero waste and are exploring solutions to mitigate the damage next year and in the future.

One listener emailed the show to say her daughter had attended the festival for the past three years and had given up on taking quality tents after they were twice destroyed by teenage boys.

Reynolds said this sort of behaviour coupled with the rise of cheap camping gear is a terrible problem.

“In an era of rapid climate change, the last thing we need right now is a new culture emerging of single-use tents.”

Reynolds has been working with the organisers to understand the people who are coming to the festival and the behaviours they are enacting. Sixty percent of the attendees are under 18, she says, while 70 percent are girls. The majority who bought tickets were from the greater Auckland region and Tauranga.

“All of the campers that attend were given clear instructions that its zero waste,” she says.

Reynolds and the organisers are looking into solutions but are weary of cardboard tents that have cropped up in Europe because they’re still a single-use product. Currently they’re looking at a bond-system where campers have their tent area checked, or making attendees pitch their gear in advance of the festival.

Mainly, she says, it’s about education and behaviour change.

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