The big clean up: Tackling waste and recycling at summer events

how much waste is produced by summer events

Litter at summer events

With the summer comes outdoor events: music festivals, food festivals, fairs, and sporting events – and people flock to these in droves. All of these events have one main thing in common: they all generate waste!

Whether it’s food waste, plastic bottles, merchandise packaging or fast food trays, summer events all generate large volumes of waste.

As these events draw to a close, there is a huge clean-up operation for the local authority or the commercial waste company hired to tackle the mess.

How much waste is generated at marathons and festivals?

Marathons are notorious for creating swathes of litter – streets of the hosting city strewn with bottles is an all too familiar sight on race day; with people competing against the clock, and against other runners, they have no time to find a bin or recycling point for their empty bottle, so it’s discarded onto the floor.

This year’s Virgin London Marathon, which took place on 23rd April, welcomed over 40,000 runners with 750,000 bottles of water being made available to them. All in all, the event produced a whopping 11,000 tonnes of waste – 4 tonnes of which was recyclable.

Despite this, Westminster City Council’s cleaning team and Veolia cleared the streets in just two hours.

london marathon generated tonnes of waste

Waste at festivals is an increasing threat to the environment; Glastonbury is arguably one of the biggest festivals in the UK, with over 135,000 music-lovers in attendance each year – and with that many people comes a lot of litter. The organisers of Glastonbury are fully aware of this and aim to reduce any negative impact.

The Glastonbury website states: “The festival is committed to minimising the amount of waste, and managing the on-site collection of that waste efficiently, “reduce, reuse and recycle”. We want all Festival goers to think ‘zero waste’ and to take home what they bring onto the Festival site.”

To help festival-goers take responsibility for their waste, there are 15,000 bins dotted around Worthy Farm – these are clearly labelled as non-recyclable, and wet and dry recyclables.

As well as focusing on recycling, and reducing and reusing products, Glastonbury are also dedicated to helping the environment in other ways; they encourage attendees to think about how they get to the festival – encouraging public transport use and car share, they utilise solar and wind-powered energy, they don’t use plastic bags, and they have over 1200 compost loos.

festivals produce waste and recycling

Zero waste events by 2020

Summer events are on the rise, with new festivals and fairs popping up around the country; with an increase in these social activities needs to come an increase in responsibility for waste and recycling.

In 2012, WRAP launched a campaign to tackle the problem of waste at events; titled ‘Zero waste events: a 2020 vision’, the initiative is part of the EPOW project (European Pathway to Zero Waste) and aims to challenge the events’ industry to act on waste and the impact it has on the environment and the economy, with the end goal of achieving zero waste to landfill events by 2020.

You can download the zero waste action plan from the WRAP website; if you’re a council planning a community event or a private organiser hosting a festival, you can glean valuable information from WRAP’s resources and help make your event zero waste.

If your local authority wants to push recycling efforts on a day-to-day basis, and not just at events, then take a look at the @HOME app, which allows easy communication with residents and the transfer of key recycling messages.

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