Glastonbury Festival is the world’s biggest green-field music festival. The farmland that it occupies is turned back into green fields after the event. But as 135,000 revellers leave the camp sites, exhausted from a weekend of partying, they leave behind hundreds of tonnes of waste. Amongst the beer cans, food packaging, wet wipes, used condoms and other detritus that you would expect from a full-on festival of this type, there are hundreds of perfectly usable tents, many bought only for this festival and left where they were pitched just five days previous. The list of perfect serviceable items that are abandoned also includes wellies, camping chairs, air-beds, sleeping bags, duvets and pillows.

The problem is not limited to Glastonbury Festival, it affects most large commercial festivals and, apart from the environmental impact, the cost to the festivals for dealing with the waste is considerable.

The Glastonbury Festival waste mountain has not been ignored by organisers. The event has been making efforts to reduce the environmental impact of the event over recent years and announced their ‘Love the farm, leave no trace’ initiative in 2008, aimed at making the event greener. In that year, five tonnes of abandoned wellies that had been collected in previous years were sent to Africa for farm workers to wear. A considerable effort to recycle has been made since, with a purpose-built recycling centre where the festival’s waste is sorted. Glastonbury Festival’s official web site puts the recycling rate in previous years at 49% which, based on national averages, is reasonably good, but hardly close to being able to claim the event as ‘green’.

Workers, still on site after the public leave, collect up some of the abandoned goods in a tradition known on the festival scene as ‘tatting’ but this only makes a small dent in the waste mountain.

It’s some years since the festival launched its ‘Leave no trace’ campaign – are they doing enough and why is the message not getting through to festival-goers?