Opinion: Punters must be more accountable with festival sustainability

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Opinion: Punters must be more accountable with festival sustainability

Hopkins Creek
Words by Sam Howard

It's time we stepped up and made a difference.

Summer music festivals are undoubtedly the highlight on the calendar for electronic music fans. You can see a bunch of your favourite acts live while learning about killer ones you’ve never heard of, plus create a load of memories you won’t forget.

But one part of festivals that is easily forgotten is the sobering issue of campsite waste. Leaving a festival witnessing flapping tents and pop-up chairs where bums once were is a sight we’re all familiar with. Yet it seems bailing at the end is a logical decision to many after a multi-day bender, and this mindset is wreaking havoc on the environment.

Each year, thousands upon thousands of tents, camping chairs, gazebos, sleeping bags and other non-degradable items are being dashed behind. According to Coastal Waste Australia, only 30% of festival waste is recycled – the rest has nowhere to go but landfill. A report by Green Music Australia in March 2019 revealed that more than 50% of punters believed it wasn’t their responsibility to clean up after themselves. This statistic should be much closer to 0%.

Hazel Lee is a part of Good In-tent-ions – a collective who recycles leftover equipment at festivals and rehires them at the next festival on the cheap – fuelling the recycling ecosystem.

“The thing is, a lot of the stuff left behind is still usable, so we find what can be used again, or we repair what we can,” she says. But they barely leave a dint in what’s left behind.

Todd O’Brien is the managing director of Hopkins Creek Festival and says that while the huge shift from events trying to tackle waste problems has improved, ultimately education for attendees plays a vital role.

“It’s simply not viable for most multi-day events to tackle the problem internally. The pressure needs to be on the punter to do the right thing and a big part of that is building a community where attendees respect each other and the land they are partying on,” he says.

There are simple solutions to campsite wastage. Don’t buy shitty tents – they will break, and are usually constructed under harsh, slave-labour conditions. Think twice about what you bring – the blow-up donut might seem fun, but will you use it again?

Bring a reusable cup and cutlery, and a container to take your rubbish home with you. And make a good impression – it takes one messy campsite neighbour for others to follow suit.

Want to do more? Get creative with it. We all need to play our part in this. Check out Good In-tent-ions on Instagram at @goodintentionscamping for some inspiration and remember that no waste is the best solution of all.