It only feels like five minutes since Christmas, but already the festival season is upon us once again. This year, there is one notable exception to the line-up however; Glastonbury is taking a break. But, while music lovers will be mourning the absence of one of Britain’s most iconic summer events, the break signifies something important for environmentalists. When the festival returns next year, it will be a plastic bottle free zone.
If you’ve so much as glanced at these pages in the past, you’ll be well aware of my feelings about single-use plastics. And it’s with a small sense of pride that I point out MIW’s position way at the front of the band wagon. We’ve not joined the #OneLess bottle campaign, or donated drinking fountains and bottle refill stations to the GLA because it’s a trendy thing to do, but because it’s the right thing to do. Plastic pollution has been a bugbear of mine for years, and now we’re in a position where we can do something about it. This is why Glastonbury’s plastic bottle-free pledge is so important.
Following the typical Glastonbury festival, the Eavis family’s army of litter pickers gather around 1 million single use plastic bottles from the festival grounds. 1 million bottles from just four days. In recent years, they’ve attempted to quell this, installing free-to-use water taps around the site, but while festival-goers enjoyed the freebie, it didn’t do an awful lot for the litter. In 2019, things are going to change.
Emily Eavis, who now organises the festival, told BBC 6 Music; “It’s an enormous project; it’s taking a lot of time to tackle with all the different people we work with,” and this is probably something of an understatement. While It might be possible to create a free-water infrastructure, the problem is going to be in policing the public. Can every bag entering the festival be searched for plastic? With 175,000 people now attending every year, with the best will in the world, that would be a stretch. So, really, it’s down to the festival-goers themselves. Glastonbury can stop plastic bottles being sold on site, but everyone else needs to help too.
The important thing here though, is the message that Glastonbury is sending out. At every festival thousands of refreshments traders set out their stalls. If each of those traders has to find a new way to supply drinks to their Glastonbury customers, eschewing the plastic bottle, then what’s to stop them doing the same at the other events they attend throughout the year? From the spring garden shows to the Christmas markets, we could see the plastic bottle disappear. And we could see customers – the general public – taking note.
It’s a shame that Glasto is missing from this year’s festival calendar. It’s one of those events that you could classify as ageless. Whether attending in person, listening on the radio, or watching on TV; everyone loves a bit of the Glastonbury spirit. But, in taking a break, the festival is doing something even more important and iconic: it’s leading the way to a plastic-free future.