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How single use-tents are harming the planet


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The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), who represent the likes of Boardmasters, Truck and Y-Not, have called on shops to stop marketing goods as ‘festival tents’ in the fear that it “implies they are single-use”.

Field full of tents

Image Credit: Hembo Pagi on Flickr

In addition to criticising retailers' marketing choices, the AIF, which encompasses 60 festivals nationwide, has released a ‘Take Your Tents Home - Say No to Single Use’ campaign asking festival-goers to take more responsibility for the items they bring to festivals.

Last year, thousands of tents were left across multiple festival sites by attendees who falsely believed their abandoned tents would be donated to positive causes. It is estimated that 250,000 tents are left behind each summer. Despite good intentions, the majority of these find themselves in landfill, 'amounting to 900 tonnes of plastic waste every festival season'.

Becon Dry Waste RMF baled plastic

Image Credit: Sustainable Initiatives Fund Trust from Flickr

Efforts are definitely being made to curb the negative effects of waste and ensure items left at festivals are put to good use. Festival Waste Reclamation & Distribution (FWRD) is a charity set up to redirect leftover tents, sleeping bags and roll mats, in addition to other reusable items left at festivals. FWRD work with "many other charities who help to distribute the items to the homeless, refugees and anyone else who could use them". 

However, in August 2018, Director Matt Wedge said “There is a common misconception that leaving your tent is like making a donation [...] It’s simply not the case. We co-ordinate local volunteers and charity groups and take as much as we can for the homeless and refugees in Calais and Dunkirk but realistically, up to 90% gets left behind.”

This sentiment was echoed by Paul Reed, AIF’s chief executive, who said that “I think many people believe they'll go to charities and the reality is that most won't - they will go to landfill with no other option." Reed blames the marketing of these items which makes people think they should be used once and then disposed of.

Festival Aftermath

Image Credit: Gavin Lynn from Flickr

Speaking to the BBC, Argos have said: “We offer a variety of tents at a range of prices. They are all sold with a bag to encourage re-use".

As we approach the summer months, festivals have their own initiatives in place to ensure that attendees  take responsibility for their own waste. Boomtown will be operating a “near zero-tolerance policy on waste when it comes to abandoning tents”, while Boardmasters has historically championed sustainability through litter bonds, beach cleans and more.

With the dangers of plastic waste on everybody's lips, it is time for us to recognise our obligation to keep our campsites tidy. If you want to help FWRD collect tents and other useful ‘waste’ from festivals in 2019, you can sign up here.

Read more from the National Student about 'how plastic really affects the Environment'.

Lead Image Credit: Gavin Lynn from Flickr

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