We come together to enjoy outdoor music festivals from spring to fall equinox, hopefully getting outside without rain to enjoy open air music and other acts, and the company of great friends. There are music festivals for all genres and some that mix the genres to have as many party goers as possible, which of course means more of the all mighty Dollar or Euro for the promoters and hopefully some for the acts. These affairs can be small at county fairgrounds or at massive historical estates, with camping and mayhem. Or the hugely successful and amazingly well organized chaos, like America’s Burning Man, that started over twenty years ago as a nomadic gathering, and has now become a massive commercial venue.
Images of Sicily’s Fantasy Festival have hit the news. It’s the end of the line coming up for Europe’s large music festivals over the next few months. In the US, Electric Zoo just finished up with some festivals continuing into the late Fall. No matter our age, we still flock to these music festivals, sometimes with whole families going. It’s a right of passage of youth, university and since humans were once nomadic tribes, just is natural. From the first stadium madness gigs in the US and those very lucky to be in Europe and live amongst castles or sacred places like Glastonbury, can attend some amazing music and revelry. There are many private estates with a castle and battlements where the cash poor landed gentry are happy to take money, put up stages, and bring in the bands. You can listen to some of your favorite music, meet friends, hopefully survive the three to five days if not just day tripping, and come out fairly unscathed. Then leave a trail of devastation behind you. That’s right, people can lay waste.
Music festivals have become great venues to showcase new and upcoming bands, to old favorite bands playing for decades, as well as political and Eco causes. Because they are so future friendly, you will see vast rows of sorting bins for your refuse, that rival the rows of portable toilets. Not to mention science exhibits and save the world booths. At the garbage collecting sites, you read the international signs for food, paper, plastics, and all other disposables. You may have helpful people there directing and correcting you, and some of them militant Neo Hippies berating you if you get it in the wrong bin. The intentions are good. But why is it there is still so much human debris left behind on the grounds similar to a mass migration? The situation is getting more and more dire as more festivals pop up every year. Yes, the music festival can really line someone’s pockets, but the cleanup becomes quite questionable. Do you trust them to dispose of the waste in a correct and safe manner once you leave even if you think you got it in the right bin?
What I hear of mostly in complaints on Twitter is the disappointment in this festival or that one for the bands being really bad, or the sound system not working, or the biggest gripe, not being able to get out of the car park for three hours. No one really looks back at the trash that’s been left behind. Have you read any of the articles that come out each year, talking trash about the trash? Our past three years we have raised consciousness about plastics getting into the oceans, our great Pacific Garbage Patch. This years cause Celeb is the plastic straw. Did they all get in the plastics bin, if they are allowed due to their recycling emblem. Wait, do they put that on there?
What makes thousands of people who probably recycle like fiends at home, suddenly forget how to do it? Is it some mass hive-mind mentality of abandonment? Some of these events can go on for more than 3 days, some events go for a week. If you were camping in the woods, would you leave your tent behind? In some instances yes. Some revelers mistakenly thought that the tents they left behind at the Reading Festival this past August in the UK, were destined for charities. Commonly, a rumor gets started or a mass assumption occurs, it’s like a massive pass day at school where you are forgiven a homework assignment happens. You don’t have to take what you brought in back out, the magic butler robot will take care of it. Festival clean up crews call many local homeless shelters and charities after they look at the fields, but much of the sleeping bags, tents, cookers and any other camp gear gets hauled off to landfill sites if not shipped around the world on endless barge runs like the rest of the waste on the planet.
And in some cases, many attendees really thought they were doing what they were told. In some festivals, organizers have told revelers to leave behind tents or bags, they were being collected for a refugee crisis. Then the festival didn’t follow through. Later attendees find out and realize they contributed to a serious problem. To be on the safe side, always take your stuff with you. You can donate it yourself on the way home with a charity. Maybe take that extra step and do some research before you go and if anyone talks to you at the event not sure what to do, set an example and tell them what you plan to do and why. You can start a new trend.
So Why is it Always Someone Else’s Problem?
So, do you think it’s great for the planet to trash a music festival, even if it’s on private space where the rich landed gentry live because maybe you feel a little ripped off? Did the band you love have a gripe with the festival? Whatever the convoluted reason, do you really think it’s fair to protest by leaving a squalid mess behind? Really, think about it. If festival goers keep being this badly behaved, what do you think the chances are that more music festivals will happen? It’s true, there are greedy promoter types who make loads of money. You may even think that the bands are getting serious bank. Really though, depending on the venue and contracts, many of your favorite bands barely break even going to a gig like this. Some of them donate time if it’s a charity event. And if it’s a charity event, they still have to pay for cleanup, so that money is not going to the charitable cause.
Contact a festival before you attend it, have your friends do the same. Get a campaign going. Ask them how they are going to manage disposing of the collected trash. Organize others around you. Take it back with you, donate if you don’t need the sleepers or tents. Take that time to look up homeless centers on your route home. Have a garage sale when you get back.
So what is the answer, the one that is so obvious? I think it’s really hypocritical to have an Eco Spectacular Save the World Festival and leave thousands of tents, sleeping bags and piles of trash behind. I guess maybe someone in your favorite punk band will stand up at the end and say. “Hey, you! Don’t forget to take your trash out of the park!” They really shouldn’t have to, shouldn’t you set an example? Go on, take it back.