Getting Wasted – Our attitude to littering at music festivals and events needs to change

Khainz has been putting his unique stamp on dance music for nearly 20 years. But the easy-going DJ and producer is the first to admit this wasn’t part of a master plan. Electronic music was a foreign sound in the small Swiss town where he grew up. When his older brother first brought home decks and vinyl Simon wasn’t sure what to make of it. “I was sceptical,” he said with a smile. Nevertheless, he was fascinated with the craft of DJing and wanted to prove he could mix two records seamlessly. Khainz discovered a knack for the mechanics of mixing and has since gone onto showcasing his distinctive style and groove to dancefloors across the globe. During the week he can be found in the studio, adding to his ever-growing list of releases. As a prolific producer, he has released two albums ‘Module8’ and ‘Simple As That’ and more than 150 tracks via labels like Yoshitoshi, Katermukke or Great Stuff Recordings.

Everything he does reflects his passion for electronic music and respect for the craft. “Technology changes constantly, who knows what it will be in five years,” he says. “What matters is the music. That doesn’t change.” Now let’s focus on that last word “change” for a moment. Simon expressed an interest in talking to me for Decoded Magazine as he’s an activist when it comes to the topic of littering at Dance Music events which is an ever-occurring topic of late and a very important subject within the music and entertainment industry in general. Although there is already an awareness of this problem there is still more which needs to be done and if we all slightly “change” our viewpoints towards this problem a detrimental change can be made on the positive impact festival & event organisers and attendees can have on our environment.

The world of festivals will most likely soon face a lot of major changes with the awaited introductions of new EU laws.

Already, 61 independent festivals in the UK alone have pledged to ban the use of single use plastics by the end of 2021 which aims to eliminate plastic drinks bottles, straws, glitter, food trays, cable ties and toiletry bottles from festival sites. Simon has a very well developed opinion about this and a lot of details about possible solutions and ways to control littering to move us into a more sustainable direction. “Littering is leaving trash behind in public places instead of disposing it causing a constantly growing problem to the environment, pollution and in particular a bad reputation of festivals and its visitors” Simon explained. The world of festivals will most likely soon face a lot of major changes with the awaited introductions of new EU laws. Simon spoke about what might be changing and how it will affect both festival promoters as well as the fans. “A ban of single use plastic items such as cutlery, cups and straws for example. Promoters will face a big impact as they won’t be allowed to sell drinks in plastic cups or bottles and food in plastic containers or trays. For Fans, it will not change too much as they still will get their food and drinks, just in a different container which will hopefully be biodegradable. Some Festivals are very well prepared for such changes however, others are still far behind.” But is this enough or only a starting point at minimum?

Shambala Festival public campsite taken on Monday after festival. Credit: Ru-Slack

Let’s start with where we believe are the major problems with festivals? Is it fair to say the festival goers and organisers share blame? “It’s both promoters and goers” says Simon.

“Promoters are not giving enough opportunities to throw away or collect the rubbish and the goers are too lazy to make 10 steps to the next bin or to bring their rubbish (specially from campsites) to the next bin, or even take it home.”

You can see from the photo above of Shambala Festival in the UK their ‘leave no trace’ policy is remarkable compared to others which will be highlighted later on. Simon continued “I’ve been to Noisily Festival in the UK and they don’t sell anything plastic. You had to bring your own bottle and they had taps with free water to refill it! It’s a very good starting point in my opinion and far ahead of many other festivals. Fusion Festival in Germany have a 10 euro up price on the tickets and you are given a trash bag at the entrance. If you bring your rubbish back after the festival to the designated points you will get the 10 euros refunded.” Furthermore, Shambala Festival in the UK are actively petitioning to move the date forward for the ban of single use plastics to 2020. They have also turned their attention onto micro-plastics. In January, the UK Government banned micro-beads in cosmetics, and while micro-beads in glitter are still legal Shambala campaign to only use biodegradable glitter for their face and body art. Advertising ‘Glitter Not Litter’.

Shambala Festival – Glitter Not Litter. Credit: Leanne & Kev Harper

The Street Parade in Zurich was founded in 1992 by some pioneers within the Electronic Music scene who got infected by the blasting Love Parade in Berlin. Since then, the Street Parade gained more and more attraction and became the most colourful, peaceful and biggest outdoor techno and house event in the world. They kindly provided me a statement explaining the measures they take to ensure littering is kept to a minimum. “The Street Parade is free of charge and is mainly financed by the sale of drinks. As a non-profit association it is a major concern of the organisers to offer the best possible service to the visitors while also protecting the environment and supporting the neighbours. Therefore, the association uses one franc of every drink sold for the health of visitors and for environmental protection. Without increasing the drink prices, the organisers support a responsible approach to nature and the environment. Among other things, the waste is separated into valuable materials such as glass, aluminium and PET and returned to the recycling cycle. Around 2500 toilet facilities and glass collection teams ensure greater well-being for visitors and residents. The Street Parade draws green electricity for all stages and food stalls to which they pay many thanks to All of the Love Mobiles are also “climate-neutral”.

Zurich Street Parade peak of day. Credit: Florian Amann

Like Street Parade there are many festivals around the world who already promote being eco-friendly their primary focus. Envision in Costa Rica for example is the world’s largest eco festival and have been reforesting the site of the event for six years and counting from the deforested cattle farm it once was. All single use plastic is expressly forbidden, and all the foods sold are organic and grown by farmers in the area, while all the clothing products sold in the market are fashioned by locals with a net positive impact on the environment. In tandem with a commitment to building only with materials harvested from the jungle and composting initiatives throughout the venue. Envision upholds an ethos of regenerative celebration that continues to grow year after year. Although essentially this is not addressing littering it’s a huge step in preserving our environment which all festivals could learn from.

Envision Festival Costa Rica. Credit: JB Photo

After the shocking footage of all the tents left at Leeds Festival in the UK this year which are reportedly going to landfill Simon was utterly shocked at how low disregard the festival attendees had for the environment. He said:

“It has a lot to do with people’s perception, if the mindset of the people is not changing it will be very difficult to prevent this in the future. That’s why we need to make people aware of the problem. We unfortunately live in a throw away generation, people buy cheap tents which they use maybe twice a year and at the end of a festival they’re too lazy to pack it up and re-use it.”

He further added “Also, often they see their neighbours tent still on the venue and think why shouldn’t I leave my tent here if they do it as well. It has a lot to do with the collective awareness. So, people who are aware of this problem should be good role models and show to others how it should be done. Also, promoters should enlighten their attendees and inform people about the problem.”

Simon mentioned to me he has seen festivals which could not take place anymore due to guests who litter the area. I was shocked when he explained; “People threw beer cans into the farmers land so when the farmers cut the grass, they shredded the cans into the hey for the cows. So, the cows were eating shredded cans which is very dangerous! Actually, the farmer was so nice and offered his land again but unfortunately the promoters didn’t want the event to happen again as they were very disappointed and don’t want to have any repetition of such things.”

Blond:ish have recently taken action on the sands of Playa d’en Bossa in Ibiza heading their Ibiza Beach Clean to take action against the plastic pollution in Ibiza. Each year Ibiza attracts thousands of excited tourists and ravers to its vibrant music scene and tranquil shores. However, every day on the beautiful island beaches the sun sets on a shocking amount of abandoned litter. It’s estimated that plastic could outweigh the fish in our oceans by 2050 (Ellen MacArther Foundation), and with an estimated 1.4 billion pounds of rubbish ending up in the sea every year (4Ocean), “change” is more crucial than ever.

Viv spoke out about the issue in a panel discussion at IMS Ibiza this summer. For the past few years they have spearheaded the sustainable raving movement, spurred on by some stark realisations when on tour. “We were playing in the main room at Warung Brazil at sunrise, in this beautiful moment, but when at 8am everybody left, they left behind them this mountain of plastic bottles. This vision devastated us. A beautiful sunrise in front of thousands of discarded water bottles. That’s why the sustainable rave movement is so important; we need to realise what’s happening in the world and that every decision that we make will affect our surroundings.”

Blond:ish Ibiza Beach Clean August 21st. Credit: Bianca Sardi

In light of this Simon went onto explain some of the most impressive scenes he has personally witnessed. “One of the most impressive was Boom Festival in Portugal, they have a very good trash system and recycling. People don’t throw any rubbish on the floor (30,000 people) I haven’t seen a festival that size with so little litter on the dancefloor. Even toilets were biological. I guess the more effort the promoters put into awareness of littering the more people will follow their suggestions.” We mentioned Leeds Festival earlier and even Glastonbury. Simon thought they both looked absolutely shocking from the pictures of all the waste, litter and tents which were left behind.

Credit: Festicket

So, where does this leave us with short-term and long-term solutions which can be easily implemented? “If promoters supply enough bins (even if it’s not the most beautiful sight to look at) then nature will indefinitely thank you in the long run. Hand out trash bags at the entrance. Some festivals do a system when you bring the bag filled up with trash to the exit you will get a free drink, some money or another surprise from the promoters. It works wonders! There are pocket ashtrays that you can order for free for personal use or in larger quantities which are very cheap to hand out for free at the gate. Don’t use single-use plastics and try to implement a recycling system – plastic, glass, metals & biodegradables. As for festival goers please leave no trace behind. The promoters, nature and the environment will thank you. Make other people aware of the problem as some people just don’t think as far as others so educate them. Buy good quality items that you will use for many years and take the 10 minutes to pack up your camp. These are a few suggestions which are probably the most important.” said Simon.

Feature Image Credit: Matt Cardy

About the author

Decoded Magazine Director and Operations Manager of Decoded Magazine Radio.