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Abandoned tents from UK festivals to be sent to refugees

Apparently eco-awareness goes out the window in the aftermath of a weekend festival. Luckily, charities are repurposing discarded camping gear for a greater cause.

While many can relate to the feeling of exhaustion from dancing and indulging in extracurricular activities all weekend, there’s no excuse for leaving festival locations in a complete mess.

This was the case when a combined total of 180,000 people attended Reading and Leeds Festival last weekend. After the dust settled, photos and videos exposing the state of both campsites emerged online, prompting criticism towards festivalgoers at the two events.

Both sites were described as looking like ‘war-zones’ as tens, if not hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of equipment in next-to-new condition was left behind.

Sure, our recent guide on how to be more carbon-conscious at festivals might offer up some novel tips for readers – but cleaning up after the fun is over should be the bare minimum. Fortunately, several charities have come up with a way to give the abandoned items a second purpose.

Festival organisers in Leeds and Reading began their two weeklong clean-up projects on the following Monday. A number of charities, including Herts for Refugees and Raise the Roof, were invited onsite to salvage any items which could be useful to their causes.

Amongst the rubbish, 2,300 tents and 500 sleeping bags were collected and will be sent to refugees in the north of France – specifically in Calais and Dunkirk – where camps have seen a shortage of supplies in recent years.

Regarding the situation at Leeds Fest, Raise the Roof’s Carl Simpson said, ‘what we saw was just mind-blowing. We scrimp and scrape to get everything we can, we don’t get any funding from anyone – we just rely on what we can get [amidst the] wastefulness.’

The CEO of Herts for Refugees, Angus Clark, called the retrieved items potentially ‘life-saving’ for those in need, especially as winter approaches. In the same breath, he expressed how more consideration on the environmental impact of this type of careless behaviour is needed.

Clark noted that most of the items will end up in landfill, saying that ‘we only have the capacity to take a small amount of what’s left behind.’

Despite young people being blamed for their environmental negligence in this circumstance, the issue of festival waste is not isolated to Leeds and Reading.

Each summer, an estimated 250,000 tents are left behind at festivals in the UK – with that number expected to grow in years to come. But it’s not impossible for organisers to enforce tighter rules on campsite after-care.

After urging attendees to be vigilant in their post-festival clean-up, organisers of Glastonbury 2019 were pleasantly surprised when 99.3% of tents were taken home, rather than left behind.

Other festivals have considered imposing ‘tent-taxes’ for attendees who refuse to do clear out accordingly, though enforcing this is expected to be too much of a logistical nightmare.

The bottom line is ‘tent-taxes’ shouldn’t be necessary. Clearing out campsites is a responsibility we all share (no matter how terribly tired we’re feeling) especially as organisers have been making substantial efforts to ensure festivals are as green as possible since 2018.

And although Herts for Refugees is already building a team of volunteers to collect discarded equipment from the upcoming Isle of Wight festival, charities have noted these types of positive initiatives ‘aren’t always guaranteed.’

Feeling a little guilty about your abandoned festival gear? There’s still time for redemption in the near future.

Click here to get involved with the charities helping relocate equipment to refugees in need.


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