Association Of Independent Festivals Goes ‘Drastic On Plastic’ In The UK

The organizers of more than 60 independent festival across the UK have committed to get rid of single-use plastic on site by 2021. The campaign is dubbed ‘Drastic On Plastic.’

– Bestival
One of many independent festivals that have pledged to ban single use plastic by 2021

The first step sees participating events ban plastic straws in the upcoming season. Dozens of festivals have pledged to inform their fans about the impact of everyday plastic use through their respective websites.

Several festivals, such as Shambala, offer branded non-plastic cups and bottles for fans to order online and bring to the event. Shambala has been on the forefront of UK festivals when it comes to sustainability. It was 100-percent renewably energized and used no plastic in 2016, which earned it a European Festival Award 2017.

Other events have announced their sustainability commitments on the back of the Association of Independent Festival’s ‘Drastic On Plastic’ announcement. One of them is Boardmasters, a 50,000 capacity surf and music event in the southwest of England, which is headlined by Catfish and the Bottlemen, The Chemical Brothers and George Ezra.

The festival recently hosted two beach cleans in association with the charity Surfers Against Sewage and supported by hundreds of volunteers, clearing Fistral Beach and Watergate Bay of 200 kilograms of marine litter. Besides reducing the amoung of single-use plastic, Boardmaster’s goals for the coming three years include “reduction in overall waste generated by the event, increasing site-wide recycling, reducing its carbon footprint and plans to continue working harmoniously with the local community and environment.”

Darina Stoda (Boardmasters Festival)
– Boardmasters
The festival recently hosted two beach cleans in association with the charity Surfers Against Sewage

Festival Republic, which has participated in Julie’s Bicycle’s Creative Green Certification since 2007, is also committed to continue its sustainability efforts. All plastic bottles bought at Festival Republic festivals have a refundable deposit, which is standard practice in a lot of mainland Europe.

Festival Republic partners with Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Ireland, Useful Projects, Simply Cups and other green organizations, including Every Can Counts, Festival Green Machine, Big Green Coach and Liftshare, to further reduce its waste and carbon emissions.

The festivals in Broadwick Live’s portfolio – which includes Field Day, Y Not, Truck, Snowbombing, Hideout, Standon Calling, Kendal Calling and Victorious – have also re-emphasized their commitment to becoming more sustainable.

Points include encouraging customers to bring/buy refillable water bottles, setting up extra stand-pipes with access to free drinking water, no single-serve sachets for condiments, no plastic straws, no polystyrene, eco cups where possible.

For camping festivals in particular, Broadwick announced incentives for customers to keep campsites clean, tent recycling, use of tent rental companies, no plastic bottles back of house for staff as well as biodegradable glitter at glitter stations.

– Shambala
The Northamptonshire event points out on its homepage, that plastic glitter will be banned from 2018. There will be bio glitter on site.

It is just the beginning, according to the AIF. The master plan is to eliminate all single-use plastic on site by 2021. The association cites stats, according to which 38.5 million plastic bottles are used in the UK every day, of which 91 percent is not recyclable.

AIF CEO Paul Reed said it was “encouraging and inspiring that so many AIF members have taken this initiative and pledge on-board without hesitation and are taking a collective stand against single-use plastic. This is one of the most critical issues facing our businesses and wider society. By working together as an industry and taking affirmative action, we can make a tangible difference.”

Co-founder of Bestival and AIF Rob da Bank added: “I’m very proud that the organization we started with five members 10 years ago now boasts over 60 who have all signed up to eradicate single use plastic in the next couple of years. This is exactly the sort of work the AIF needs to be doing – leading the global charge against essentially unnecessary plastic at all our festivals.”

Pollstar reached out to Holger Jan Schmidt, director of Yourope’s GO Group, who’s been dedicated to sustainability in live events for more than 15 years now. He said, “I think ‘Drastic On Plastic’ is a remarkable initiative! It will of course depend on how consistently the initiative is carried through. If the festivals go full on and manage to include audience, partners and suppliers, this will be a big deal. Think of all those materials you need to find new solutions for: cable ties, duct tape, foils and banners, food packaging, wristbands, lanyards, cutlery to name just a few.”

He pointed out that “there are big discussions ahead if you tell your headliner that you will not fulfill the requirements on the rider due to your sustainability policy. Just changing from single-use plastic cups to reusable is obvious and easy, that has happened in other countries twenty years ago and would be hardly worth mentioning in an international context. But going the full way would make the real difference and I keep my fingers crossed that the festivals succeed!”

Claire O’Neill, director of A Greener Festival, a UK non-profit company assisting events in adopting green policies, told Pollstar: “After working in sustainability of events for nearly 15 years I have never seen such a groundswell of support to a ‘green’ cause in the UK as witnessed this year with the plastics issue. It is wonderful to see AIF, AEG, Live Nation and many others throwing their hat in to the ring to tackle single use plastics.

“Whilst many events have done this for decades it’s that industry wide support that will make complete and lasting change. What is equally encouraging is the awareness of the public generally about disposable culture. It is to be seen whether we will witness a reflection of this in the way that campsites are left by audiences this summer. We hope so!”

O’Neill added that is was “important to consider what alternatives are being put in to place. In many cases compostable or biodegradable serveware cannot be processed by composting facilities for example. We are strong advocates that reusables and durable materials are the way forwards, and disposable culture in general is what we need to collectively tackle. Not only are reusable solutions ecologically better but also they are cheaper once production, reuse and disposal are taken in to account.”

In recent U.S. news, Live Nation committed to remove all single-use plastic straws at all of its 45-plus U.S. owned and operated amphitheaters, teaming with environmental organization The Lonely Whale.

Update: Comment from Claire O’Neill was added after the article had already been published.