New survey reveals recycling habits at UK music festivals

More festival attendees decide against abandoning tents while one in ten still litter cigarette butts and disposable cups, brand-new research suggests.

Better Waste Solutions, a waste management company, surveyed the British public about their recycling habits at music festivals — which reportedly cause 25,800 tonnes of waste annually in the UK.

In the survey, 81% of respondents claim to take their tents home to reuse after a festival, while only 5% said they leave them on the grounds. These findings follow reports that this year’s Glastonbury revellers left the site better than ever before.

Stephen Wilce, the founder of Better Waste Solutions, said: “Tents have long been one of the biggest waste concerns at festivals, with many believing that they were donated or recycled. Unfortunately, most abandoned tents aren’t recyclable or fit for reuse and are sent to landfill.

“Attendees are now encouraged to purchase durable tents likely to survive the weekend so they can be reused instead of buying throwaway, single-use options.”

Unfortunately, disposable cups still appear problematic, with a tenth admitting to dropping them on the floor at festivals. Yet, 18% choose to bring their own reusable cups and bottles.

To minimise waste, many festivals implement a deposit scheme — charging customers a small fee refunded when the cup is returned. Less than 1% return their cups but 26% give them to thrifty attendees collecting cups for a financial reward.

Stephen Wilce added: “Deposit schemes are a great way to discourage littering but it needs to be convenient otherwise people won’t partake. Festivalgoers also need clear instructions on which bins to place their cups which isn’t always available. However, attendees can take control by bringing their own reusable items.”

Although 67% of respondents said they don’t smoke at festivals, cigarette butts are still the most littered item in Britain. Of those surveyed, 21% admitted to dropping them on the floor.

Stephen Wilce said: “While small, cigarette butts can have deadly effects on the oceans, pollute the air and cause health problems for unsuspecting people. Other than not smoking, the best way to lessen this damage is to place them in general waste bins.”

The decline in smokers might partly be due to the rise in e-cigarette users. In 2022, Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) stated that 8.3% of adult Brits vaped — an all-time high.

When not recycled correctly, vapes can seep dangerous metals, battery acid, and nicotine into the environment. Despite this, around 1.3 million single-use vapes are reportedly thrown away each week in the UK. While vapes are often prevalent at festivals, this year Glastonbury asked attendees not to bring e-cigarettes.

Most festivals also advise against bringing wet wipes but this product doesn’t seem to be disappearing, with only 13% saying they don’t use them at festivals. This could change, though, as the government considers banning plastic wet wipes in the near future.

Overall, the survey results are encouraging as it suggests more people are choosing against littering and bringing harmful items that have long been associated with festivals.

You can view the full analysis, including further information on fast fashion and damaging plastic glitter use at festivals, here: