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Music festivals in concert to get drastic on plastic

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Over the next few weeks, summer music festival season in the UK will reach its peak.

Hundreds of thousands of tickets have been sold to see some of the biggest names in music perform.

Rapper Kendrick Lemar headlines Reading at Leading while disco legend Nile Rogers and his band Chic will ensure there’s a party atmosphere at this year’s Wilderness.

A man walks past rubbish bins in the field in front of the main Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival
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Crucial to the plan’s success will be persuading festivalgoers to be less wasteful

But it’s what’s happening away from the stage in 2018 that will be remembered for decades to come. At festivals big and small, a concerted effort is underway to go greener.

Paul Reed, chief executive of the Association of Independent Festivals, said: “Given the environmental footprint of the industry it was certainly time to take some collective affirmative action.”

According to industry estimates, roughly 23,000 tons of waste are produced at UK music festivals each year and only a third is recycled.

Festival promoter Paul Reed says it's a problem
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Festival promoter Paul Reed says it is time to take collective action

So this year, 61 independent music gatherings have signed a three year pledge to get ‘Drastic on Plastic’, promising to rid their sites of single-use plastic by 2021.

“It’s three years because we think that’s a realistic timetable. We’re not just talking about straws and bottles, once you start looking across a festival site, it’s wristbands, cable ties, glitter, it’s the pervasive nature of plastic.

“Festivals are on incredibly tight margins, it is a challenge to build a town in a field, but independent festivals have made a firm commitment to do this.”

Even the big hitters are on board. At Reading and Leeds a cup-return scheme means that for every 10 cups or bottles returned, each festival goer can get £1.

Glastonbury might be taking a break this year but when it’s back it’s promising to implement a site-wide ban on plastic bottles by 2019.

The reusable cups can accommodate a pint of red wine, if desired
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Reusable cups have made a difference to the mount of plastic waste generated

Some 15,000 people are at Standon Calling in Hertfordshire this weekend to see headliners Bryan Ferry, George Ezra and Paloma Faith.

Festival director Alex Trenchard says he happily signed the Drastic on Plastic pledge after seeing a real difference in the plastic waste the festival generates since reusable cups were introduced a few years ago.

He told Sky News: “The sight of plastic cups littering the site is something I’ve always hated, it’s something the audience has always had a grumble about, so the reusable cups are something that completely eliminates that problem.

“It just cuts out one the biggest parts of all of our waste and that also keeps our waste bill down.”

Cutting out single-use plastic in three years will also mean considering alternatives for its less obvious uses.

Glitter – a festival favourite – might wash off once festival goers go home but as a microplastic that doesn’t mean it’s gone for good.

Glitter is a hidden plastic culprit
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Glitter has previously been a hidden plastic culprit but eco-friendly are now being used

It can easily pass through water filtration systems and end up in the ocean.

This year at Standon Calling, Holly Pollack – a make-up artist and the director of Go Get Glitter – has switched to using eco-friendly Bio Glitter litter on her beauty stand.

“We have a lot of people come over and say ‘I want it on my child but its plastic – is it going aggravate their skin?'” she said.

“Just to be able to know that we’ve got a plant based product that we’re applying, that it’s not going to cause any discomfort, it feels much better for the consumer.”

Stephen Cotton is a chemical engineer who helped manufacture the product.

He said: “We’ve replaced the polyester in glitter with a regenerated cellulose that’s extracted from trees.

“People just need to look more at some of these problems… it’s not that you’ve got to change the materials, sometimes there might be other solutions, maybe we need to change how we use them, how we deal with them.”

More from Sky Ocean Rescue

Crucial to that plan’s success will be persuading festivalgoers to be less wasteful – convincing those coming for the tunes, that the music line-up isn’t the only thing that matters.

:: Sky’s Ocean Rescue campaign encourages people to reduce their single-use plastics. You can find out more about the campaign and how to get involved at www.skyoceanrescue.com

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