‘They are one of the worst things to try and recycle’: Tents left behind at Reading Festival spark environmental concerns

·2-min read

Thousands of tents have been left at Reading Festival, resulting in concerns among environmentalists who have pointed out how difficult it is to recycle tents.

It was revealed that many of the event’s 90,000 attendees had left their tents after aerial footage of Little John’s Farm, where the festival took place, showed many tents and other discarded items had been left in the camping area.

Lily Robbins, Reading Festival’s sustainability manager, told the BBC that while many people believe their left-behind tents will go to charity, this is often not the case.

“Unfortunately, tents are one of the worst things to try and recycle,” she said.

“We take off as much as we can but unfortunately the rest does have to be taken off site to a recycling plant,” she said. “That involves an incredibly lengthy process.”

Despite some festivals advertising that leftover tents will always go to charity, up to 90 per cent of tents that get left end up in landfill or the incinerator, said Matt Wedge, director of Festival Waste Reclamation & Distribution.

“A lot of the tents are very cheap supermarket tents marketed as ‘festival tents’, which as far as I can tell just means ‘disposable tent’,” he previously told The Independent.

“People can’t really be bothered to take their tent away with them on the Monday morning when they’re hungover and tired and since they have very little financial incentive to do so they don’t bother.”

Tents left behind at this year’s Reading Festival. (PA)
Tents left behind at this year’s Reading Festival. (PA)

Additionally, research carried out in 2013 by Teresa Moore, director at A Greener Festival, reveals that 60 per cent of tents get left behind because they are broken, which poses a number of environmental issues given that they are typically made from synthetic fabrics.

In 2019, the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) launched the Take Your Tent Home initiative, calling on attendees not to leave their tents on festival campsites.

The organisation claims that around 250,000 tents are left at music festivals across the UK each year, with the average tent being the equivalent in plastic to 250 pint cups.

The initiative also calls for supermarkets and retailers to stop advertising the tents as ‘single-use’ items, claiming this leads to approximately 900 tonnes of plastic waste per year.

The Independent has contacted Festival Republic, which organises Reading Festival, for comment.

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