The UK is experiencing one of the hottest summers on record, and instead of hiding in the cool shade, us Brits are going headfirst into the rays to make the most of this glorious weather. That means that festivals are rammed with dancing guests, theme parks are full of screaming children on their school holidays, and the consumption of refreshing beverages in plastic bottles is on the rise.


In this article, we are going to look at some of the most brilliant examples of UK festivals and theme parks using their enormous human power to help recycle.



Somewhere in the British countryside, organisers are popping up tents, stocking up bars, and clearing fields to make them ready for camping, dancing, singing, drinking, smoking and all sorts of wonderful summer hedonism. But, what about all of that waste that gets created?



At Glastonbury, the UK’s biggest festival, there is a small army of 1,300 volunteers who stay behind to tackle the waste that festival-goers forgot to deal with. Some teams bag and collect the waste, with bin bags being thrown into a tractor trailer. Other teams manually sift and sort the waste with the help of 11 conveyor belts, making sure that anything that can be recycled, is recycled. During the festival itself, there are 440 waste pickers working every day to try and keep the site as clean as possible and adhere to the ‘Leave no trace’ policy that the festival encourages.


In 2018, more than 2,500 tonnes of waste were left behind at the festival, but the organisers were prepared. On the Monday before the festival started, the 11 conveyor belts were set up and connected to two articulated lorries that would take either recyclables or non-recyclables. A total of 160 labour hours of manual recycling takes place each day at the festival in this sorting room alone. Very impressive.


Drastic on Plastic

61 Independent festivals in the UK signed the ‘Drastic on Plastic’ pledge, which aims to tackle the 23,000 tonnes of waste estimated to be produced at festivals each year. They all state that by 2021, there will be no more single-use plastics on their festival grounds.


Paul Reed, chief executive of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), said: “Given the environmental footprint of the industry it was certainly time to take some collective affirmative action.”


“We’re not just talking about straws and bottles, once you start looking across a festival site, it’s wristbands, cable ties, glitter, it’s the pervasive nature of plastic.”


Reading and Leeds

Two of the biggest rock festivals in Europe, who are run by the same organisers, both disrupted the festival industry by giving a financial incentive to guests collect and recycle cups. For every ten disposable plastic cups returned, they were paid £1. It worked, as did their giant hybrid solar power generators, that in 2017 allowed them to power all tower and festoon lights on their sites.



As part of the efforts to tackle plastic waste, glitter has been put under the spotlight. This is great news for sustainability focused makeup companies who are already pushing out their bio-glitter plastic-free alternatives to the market, and it’s also great news for people who love glitter, face paints and dressing up! Check out Green Man Festival in Wales who have banned plastic glitter from their site.


Wilderness Festival

Making tents from natural materials like canvas and sustainably sourced wood, teaming up with Friends of the Earth, and setting up a flip-flop recycling station are all very interesting policies set up by the Oxfordshire festival.


What about theme parks?

The biggest theme park recycling news comes from the collaboration made between theme park operator Merlin and drinks giant Coca-Cola. “Reverse vending machines” are now installed outside the entrances of Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures, and Legoland. By depositing 500ml bottles in these machines, people will receive 50% discounted entry to any of the 30 Merlin attractions around the UK.


The promotion will run until October 19th 2018.



Who says that recycling and having fun don’t go hand in hand? From our perspective, it looks like festivals and theme parks are doing the right thing in encouraging people to actively recycle, and why shouldn’t they be rewarded for it? Good luck to everyone involved in making festival and theme parks for environmentally friendly and pro-recycling.

Author: Gary Watson
Published: July 31, 2018