Glastonbury clean-up: are festival-goers increasingly concerned about the environment?

As revelers left Glastonbury Festival on Monday, the usual images of the site’s green fields littered with rubbish began to surface online.

But photos from the festival’s aftermath show the amount of debris left behind this year appeared to be down from previous years when the site looked like a scene from a dystopian movie set.

Although it’s too early to assess the overall picture, the rapid clearing of fields and images showing far less litter, abandoned tents and camping chairs on the ground than those captured in previous years suggest a promising picture.

However, it was not immediately clear whether this was due to festival-goers becoming more environmentally conscious or an increase in litter pick-up throughout the weekend. Glastonbury says more than a thousand recycling volunteers help clean up the site.

The full extent of waste left behind will only become clear after everyone leaves the site. The festival did not immediately respond to a request for The Independent but the organizers tweeted a photo on Monday showing a clean field in front of the Pyramid stage with the caption: “The waste pickers have done an amazing job already.”

The five-day music festival, which turns the fields of Somerset into a makeshift town of 200,000 people, typically produces more than 2,000 tonnes of waste.

Glastonbury has a long history of progressive environmental policies and encourages festival-goers to ‘Love the Farm: Leave No Trace’. But in recent years, it has stepped up its efforts to tackle its waste and carbon footprint.

Cleaning waste in front of the Pyramid stage in 2014 (left) and 2022 (right).  (Getty Pictures)

Cleaning waste in front of the Pyramid stage in 2014 (left) and 2022 (right). (Getty Pictures)

In 2019, it banned the sale of plastic bottles and now only allows compostable or reusable plates and cutlery – including straws.

About half of all waste created by Glastonbury Festival is reused or recycled, and the site is estimated to compost more food waste than the national average.

Festival-goers walk through rubbish as they begin to leave Glastonbury in 2011. (Getty Images)

Festival-goers walk through rubbish as they begin to leave Glastonbury in 2011. (Getty Images)

In the past, abandoned tents at music festivals were a real problem, partly because of a mistaken belief that they were donated to charity.

Festival-goers participate in the clean-up.  (AFP via Getty Images)

Festival-goers participate in the clean-up. (AFP via Getty Images)

But in 2019, the last time the Glastonbury Festival took place, the organizer Emily Eavis said 99.3% of all tents were brought homeindicating a change in behavior among the participants.

Tents and trash dumped at the start of the cleanup in 2009 (Getty Images)

Tents and trash dumped at the start of the cleanup in 2009 (Getty Images)

But there is always more to do.

Cleaning operation at the Pyramid Stage on Monday (Tom Wren/SWNS)

Cleaning operation at the Pyramid Stage on Monday (Tom Wren/SWNS)

In 2019, scientists have discovered that high levels of illegal drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy had been detected in a river that runs through the site, endangering fish and other wildlife.

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