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Tuesday 3 October 2023 Dublin: 16°C
# sustainability
Steel cups and banning plastic cutlery: How music festivals are trying to combat waste
Litter is a big problem at many festivals.

PLASTIC WASTE IS something many people and companies are trying to reduce given the toll it’s having on the environment.

Some 500,000 tonnes of plastic waste from the European Union end up in the sea every year and the European Commission has proposed that single-use plastics be banned across the EU.

Ten single-use plastic products, such as drinks containers and straws, and fishing gear account for 70% of the marine litter in Europe. Across the world, plastics make up 85% of marine litter.

originalSource: European Commission/Twitter

The issue of litter and single-use plastics is an issue that's often raised in relation to music festivals.

Another Love Story is happening this weekend in Co Meath. The festival has teamed up with O’Hara’s Brewery to launch a sustainable steel cup.

Seamus O’Hara, founder and CEO of O'Hara's Brewery, said he was attracted to Another Love Story's "sustainable ethos".

"We have supported a number of festivals over the years but the issue of plastic pint cups has been a bugbear of mine for some time ... The cups will provide festival goers with an alternative to single-use plastic cups," he stated.

The steel cup costs €10 and includes a free pint at the bar.

What are other festivals doing? 

A number of other festivals have made efforts to be more environmentally-friendly in recent years.

A spokesperson for Body & Soul told us the music and arts festival aims to "minimise the environmental and social impact of the event".

Electric Picnic Music Festivals Laura Hutton / Rubbish is a familiar sight at many music festivals but organisers are trying to change this. Laura Hutton / /

Organisers banned plastic straws in 2014 and introduced reusable stainless steel water bottles (€5 each) the following year.

This year the festival recycled 40% of bar cups. Organisers are looking into reusable glassware options for bars in a move to ban all single-use plastics on site next year.

The festival also runs a cup deposit return scheme with Friends of the Earth, where customers pay an extra 20 cent when buying a drink in a 100% recyclable plastic cup. The money is redeemable and if five cups are returned the customer is given €1.

In 2014, the festival's recycling rate was 34% and it has improved each year since then. Last year, the recycling and recovery rate was 92%. Campers are also encouraged to take their tents home with them when leaving, with more people doing this year-on-year.

High environmental impact 

Green Party councillor Claire Byrne is Body & Soul's sustainability consultant.

She said the environmental impact of the events industry is "very high" - something the sector needs to address.

"It's important on a number of levels. We're basically having a party in someone's back garden and we're trying to get people to behave the same way they would at home.

Most people separate and recycle in their own house, we're trying to get them to do the same thing when at the festival.

She said events such as festivals are "a really good testing bed for different initiatives" and need to "lead by example and provide the right infrastructure" so people can be as environmentally-friendly as possible.

original (1) Friends of the Earth A volunteer handing out recycling bags at Electric Picnic Friends of the Earth

A spokesperson for Festival Republic, which organises Electric Picnic, said it is working with a number of organisations to increase recycling at the event.

They noted that the NiftyBins on site divide waste into five different sections: soft plastics, hard plastics, metal, paper and cardboard, and glass.

There will be 150 Friends of the Earth volunteers at next month's festival to encourage campers to recycle, with prizes on offer.

Organisers also run a cup and bottle deposit scheme which  collected 290,000 cups and bottles in 2017. They also encourage campers to bring their tents home.

Traders at the festival have been banned from using single-use plastic cutlery and containers since 2009, and only wooden or paper-based biodegradable products will be into the event this year.

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