Litterbugs and litter heroes

18th of August 2016 Article by Lotte Printz
Litterbugs and litter heroes

ECJ correspondent Lotte Printz takes a look at waste management and litter attitudes at music festivals in Denmark.

Plastic cups, food wrappers, cigarette butts. The music festival season is upon us. Where 50,000 people (festival-goers, volunteers and artists) are gathered every day of a festival, which is the case at the second-largest festival in Denmark, Smukfest, waste follows inevitably in their wake.

Both surveys and festivals that ECJ has spoken to confirm that the amount of waste has grown. With campsites apparently being in top of the litter league because campers abandon everything from tents, sleeping bags and muddy rubber boots to booze bottles and beer cans when they are done partying.

The Danish music festival organisers, however, seem highly committed to waste handling, and the idea of not only sustainable but also creative solutions is catching on.

At Smukfest a think tank called ‘the Green Room’ was set up in 2012 to come up with sustainable initiatives such as giving leftover food to charity and to guide festival-goers and volunteers in waste handling. Sleeping bags left behind are now sent to refugees on Lesbos. And campers can rent a used tent and get their deposit back when they return it after the festival.

Thus creating a counterbalance for a use-and-throw-away culture, partly generated perhaps by the cheap ‘festival camping kit’ you can buy these days. But reward incentives such as clean-up competitions on the campsites also seem necessary to make campers pick up their litter.

The total amount of waste at Smukfest last year was 690 tonnes, costing the festival approximately €200,000 (direct costs) to handle. Added to this, the many hours spend by hundreds of volunteers collecting and separating waste.

‘Trash Talkers’ they call some of the volunteers at another Danish music festival, Northside, because they talk to festival-goers and food stalls about trash and how to handle it. Northside does not have a campsite, but having grown from 5,000 guests to 35,000 guests in just six years means that considerably more waste is being generated on the festival ground.

“But during the same period of time we have also become much more aware of separating and recycling as much waste as possible. So in fact the festival has become far cleaner than when less people were gathered,” says John Fogde, festival spokesman.

The festival provides bins to separate waste for instance and now 60 per cent of all waste is being separated and recycled. This year 60 per cent of the festival’s cutlery, food packaging and other disposables will be biodegradable and can be dropped in organic waste bins. The goal is to become 100 per cent organic and litter-free within three years.

“If you do not work on such issues today, you’re lacking hopelessly behind,” says John Fogde.


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