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Was 2019 the most environmentally friendly Glastonbury ever?

The use of plastic bottles and numbers of tents left behind was massively down

  • Sean Griffiths
  • 3 July 2019

OK, so it might be tempered by the news that record numbers travelled to and from the festival by helicopter, but 2019 looked like the most environmentally friendly Glastonbury festival yet. Or certainly the most environmentally friendly since the festival’s been anything close to the scale it’s at now. Environmental concerns were raised early on as climate activists Extinction Rebellion and Greenpeace staged a protest march at the festival on Thursday, and across the weekend the impact of encouraging punter conscientiousness and a number of important new policies paid off.

According to organiser Emily Eavis over 99 per cent of people took their tents home, and the ban on single-use plastic bottles meant none were sold on site when there’s usually over a million left to clean up. Looking back to 2015, 5,500 tents were left, 6,500 sleeping bags, 3,500 airbeds and 2,200 chairs, so the decrease in people leaving stuff behind is massive. Of course, there are schemes in place to help get abandoned tents to those in need elsewhere (in 2016 Bristol-based charity Aid Box Convoy collected tents to send to refugees in Europe for example), but even then a majority of them still end up in landfill.

And the shift away from plastic bottles was fairly seamless from a punters point of view. There were taps all over the place with fairly manageable queues (save for the ultra peak time morning rush) thanks to WaterAid tripling the number of water kiosks on site. And they were selling some pretty tasty looking metal refillable bottles etched with the Glasto logo, which were attachable to a bag or belt through a metal hook. In fact, as well as lessening your impact on the environment, not buying bottled water all weekend must save each punter a fair amount of cash throughout the weekend too.

Next year we’d like to see people using more refillable pint cups as paper cups can be very difficult to recycle thanks to a plastic coating that basically stops the cup getting soggy when filled with liquid. There were metal pint glasses on sale at the festival but something with a hook on, or something that collapsed to fit more easily in a bag would be great in 2020.

And finally, we saw a minimal number of people urinating where they weren’t meant to be, even in the early hours at The Stone Circle. The ground water runs into the Whitelake River and local wildlife and fish are affected if people piss all over the place. The Environment Agency has the power the shut down the festival if urine has polluted the site and it’s one of the things that could ultimately end the festival. So remember, if you want Glastonbury to continue for years and years: Love the farm, leave no trace.

Sean Griffiths is Mixmag's Deputy Editor. Follow him on Twitter

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