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Over 60 UK Festivals Pledge to Rid Site of Single-Use Plastic by 2021

More than 60 British festivals have pledged to rid their site of single-use plastic by 2021, including Bestival, Boomtown and Boardmasters.

The initiative is the work of The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), which says it wants festival-goers to think about "re-use", not "single-use."

Paul Reed, AIF's chief executive, does admit that the three year timescale will be challenging, particularly for festivals on smaller budgets, however, he believes it is a realistic timeline and is very much achievable. 

"Considering the environmental impact of our industry it does feel like it's really time to take some collective and affirmative action," he says.

None of the AIF's festivals opted out of the campaign, which means that a total of 61 festivals will be making changes and working towards the target.

These include Boardmasters, one of the largest festivals to sign up, which has announced it will start a re-usable cup scheme in an effort to reduce the amount of disposable cups on site.

One festival leading the way is Shambala in Northamptonshire, which claims that 96% of its festival-goers now bring in reusable bottles.

Co-founder Christopher Johnson says that at first it was a "minor inconvenience" for people not to have a pint cup that they could throw away wherever.

"I guess one of the key benefits is that you suddenly have a festival without litter. Take the disposables out and suddenly you get a clean site," he says.

The festival has also installed more water taps, stopped stalls using sauce sachets and offered re-usable bar cups, and is now looking into bio-glitter.

Larger festivals such as Glastonbury and Festival Republic's Reading & Leeds and Download have also said they're doing their bit to reduce their plastic waste.

Festival Republic Managing Director Melvin Benn says: "Our aim is to not only implement schemes to minimise the use of plastic on site but to educate our audiences at the same time.

"Whether that's through our long-standing ban on single-use plastic across all food traders since 2009, or working in partnership with Greenpeace UK on the introduction of our deposit return scheme for all bottles, we're ensuring that our waste reduction and recycling rates improve year on year."

Glastonbury Organiser Emily Eavis has also said that the Somerset event will be banning plastic bottles from its site in 2019. 

She told BBC6 Music that implementing the ban is an "enormous project" that they will be working on in the next year.

"It's taking a lot of time to tackle it with all the different people we work with,” she said. “That’s the big project at the moment, to get rid of plastic bottles across the whole site."

Examples of single-use plastic items at festivals include:

  • Plastic straws
  • Glitter
  • Plastic food trays
  • Cable ties
  • Toiletry bottles (hand-wash, shower gel, etc)

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