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Melinda Nagy
Melinda Nagy

The Future Of Festivals: Sustainable Paper Products Are Taking Centre Stage

It’s festival season! As thousands of people head out on long weekends of music, dancing and mosh-pits, this year’s headliner is sustainability.

You might be curious about how sustainable large-scale events like this can be. Research body, Think Tank estimates that each year, there are around 23,500 tonnes of waste from festivals alone. Sustainability has never been more relevant and is a #trending topic on everyone’s minds. As a result of this, performers, as well as venues, are looking for ways to reduce their impacts, and paper is supporting them in their sustainable journey.

How Can You Party With Paper This Festival Season?

Cardboard Coolers

Several companies have developed biodegradable paper-based coolers to carry food and drinks to concerts, festivals, and picnics. Providing a sustainable alternative to the disposable, foam cartons that will become landfill, these eco-friendly cardboard coolers made by Brrr Box and Igloo are easy to buy online and in selected shops. These boxes are sturdier than you might think and can hold enough ice to keep your drinks cool for several hours. Some can even keep water for several days without leaking! Once you have finished with them, they can be popped into the recycling bin or composted.

Paper Food Boxes, Cups and Cartons

The current recycling rate in Europe is 82% for paper packaging, so for events to use paper containers at food and drink stands will give the venue options of recycling or composting everything once the event is over. In fact, two of the largest festivals in the UK (Reading & Leeds and Festival Republic) reported gathering 475,000 paper cups for recycling after events in 2017!

Cardboard Recycling Bins

Locations having recycling bins goes without saying in the movement towards a more sustainable festival season. A lot of venues and events are opting for the bin itself to be made from cardboard. Not only do they stand out more than plastic or metal containers, but you can also recycle the actual bin itself as well as its contents.

Cardboard Tents

There are slowly more and more innovative ideas being showcased at large events, and cardboard weatherproof tents are one of them. The latest cardboard tent has been designed and made by a Dutch company, KarTent. These come as two-person tents and, if available, can often be purchased through the festival/concert venue you are attending. They have a small back window and additional rain flaps to keep your feet dry if it rains during the night. Another cardboard alternative are Dan Dan Domes which are slightly bigger than a 2-man tent and aim to promote sustainable living.

Are There Many Sustainable Festivals In Europe?

The answer is a resounding YES! We have compiled a list of 8 of the most sustainable festivals and events that have happened or are still yet to come later this year.

1. Isle Of White Festival UK
The Isle of White festival ran from 15-18 June, and starred acts such as Pulp, George Ezra, and the Chemical Brothers. It took place on a local firm that supplies biogas, using turf from the festival site to help generate up to 950,000kWh of electricity. This is equivalent to more than 300 households’ annual usage! This initiate goes alongside a zero-waste pledge, including the use of compostable and paper-based cutlery and food packaging. As well as this, water pipes used during the festival are being donated to local farms for agricultural use after the event.

2. We Love Green – Paris
Phoenix, Bon Iver and rapper Orelsan were the headliners at We Love Green this summer (2-4 June). Held in the Bois de Vincennes Park in Paris, this sustainability pioneer has operated on renewable energy for more than a decade. No single-use materials were seen on site, and all organic food is sourced locally. Artists also were expected and greatly encouraged to arrive in an eco-friendly fashion i.e. minimal use of private transport.

3. Hebridean Celtic festival – Outer Hebrides
Taking place from 12-15 July and starring Celtic-fusion band Talisk and traditional rock faves Skerryvore, it’s an event with a very green soul. Carbon neutral alternatives are being used over generators – saving the equivalent of 27 return car journeys to Edinburgh! As well as this, equipment haulage is minimised and there’s been no single-use plastic since 2018. The Proclaimers will be concluding the 2023 festival, on the island of Lewis.

4. Øya festival – Oslo
As the Tøyenparken site is so close to central Oslo, over 98% of visitors come to Øyafestivalen on foot, by bike or by public transport. This year’s event runs from 8-12 August and is due to feature Blur, Grammy-nominated Wizkid and Norwegian singer-songwriter Sigrid. Øya has no fossil-fuel generators and uses the city’s power grid instead. There is no need for any plastic seating, thanks to its amphitheatre-like hillside location. Rubbish is hand-sorted into 15 categories, and all artists travel in reduced-emissions cars.

5. Shambala – Northampton
According to the Association of Independent Festivals, an estimated 250,000 tents are abandoned at UK music festivals annually – with most of them being non-recyclable. None were left at last year’s Shambala, however. People have been seen to use cardboard tents which are 100% recyclable. Other sustainability innovations taken on during this event include meat, fish and dairy milk all being outlawed and a variety of car-free transport schemes are being implemented. The acts for this year’s Shambala (24-27 August) have just been announced and you can find out who will be performing here!

6. Terraforma – Milan
Terraforma often takes place in a wooded estate about 10 miles north of Milan and features mostly experimental musicians. This took place from 9-11 June but the key aspect to note from this event was sustainability. From wooden stages to recycling stations, biodegradable paper crockery, electric fleets, and low-impact solar-powered lighting. They had everything covered for the perfect sustainable party.

7. Pohoda festival, Slovakia
The long running Pohoda festival (est. 1997), has long been green-hearted. Among current initiatives are water-saving vacuum toilets, a mobile solar-power station, and 17 waste-separation points. This year it is running from 6-8 July, with Jamie xx, Central Cee and Suzanne Vega representing an ever-eclectic policy that showcases everything from electropunk to chamber music.

8. Reading and Leeds, UK
As a result of the Show Must Go On Report 2020, Reading festival took on the Vision 2025 pledge and is working towards a 50% reduction in event greenhouse gas emissions as well as general waste and use of single-use materials. All cups used on site are paper, with a deposit scheme put in place since 2007. This works by heading over to the campsite Recycling Points to collect green recycling bags. Simply fill the bag  up with cans and bottles, bring them back and you are in with a chance of winning prizes!

As well as the Recycling Scheme, as part of their commitment to increase recycling, all plastic bottles sold at the Co-op campsite supermarket will have a refundable deposit added to the price. Campers will be able to return the bottles to the reverse vending machine in exchange for a voucher to spend at the Co-op on-site shop. All the bottles collected will go on to be recycled in order to create bottles for the Co-op’s own brand bottled water.

You can enjoy festivals and concerts this year with peace of mind, knowing that there are sustainable festival products to buy and venues to attend.