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Independent festivals commit to ban single-use plastics by 2021

By | Published on Thursday 19 April 2018


Over 60 events affiliated to the Association Of Independent Festivals have committed to stop the use of single-use plastic on their sites by 2021, including bar cups and drink bottles. As a first step, they will all ban plastic straws from their events this year.

“It is encouraging and inspiring that so many AIF members have taken this initiative and pledged on-board without hesitation and are taking a collective stand against single-use plastic”, says AIF CEO Paul Reed. “This is one of the most critical issues facing our businesses and wider society. By working together as an industry and taking affirmative action, we can make a tangible difference”.

The commitment is part of the ‘Final Straw’ campaign, which was launched by Bestival in January. Bestival began providing biodegradable paper straws with drinks last year, banning plastic straws from its site.

“Unless you’ve been living on the moon, you’ll know the plastic problem is not going away”, says Bestival and AIF co-founder Rob Da Bank. “I’m very proud that the organisation we started with five members ten years ago now boasts over 60 who have all signed up to eradicate single-use plastic in the next couple of years. This is exactly the sort of work the AIF needs to be doing – leading the global charge against essentially unnecessary plastic at all our festivals”.

It is estimated that around 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown away in the UK alone each year, adding further to the 150 million tonnes of plastic waste current floating around the Earth’s oceans. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation predicts that by 2050 there will be more plastic items in the world’s oceans than fish. Already each year around one million birds and 100,000 sea mammals die due to eating or becoming entangled in plastic waste.

Shortly before the AIF’s announcement this morning, the British government announced plans to ban the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds in England entirely. The final decision on if and when to implement this plan will follow a consultation to be launched later this year.

The ban would be part of the government’s 25 year plan to eliminate avoidable plastic waste, and follows the mandatory 5p charge placed on single-use carrier bags in shops and a ban on plastic microbeads.

“Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world”, says Prime Minister Theresa May. “The UK government is a world leader on this issue, and the British public have shown passion and energy embracing our plastic bag charge and microbead ban”.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove acknowledged moves by some UK businesses to reduce plastic waste, such as Bestival’s existing ban on straws, saying: “We’ve already seen a number of retailers, bars and restaurants stepping up to the plate and cutting plastic use. However, it’s only through government, businesses and the public working together that we will protect our environment for the next generation – we all have a role to play in turning the tide on plastic”.

With the consultation process still to begin – and an ‘adjustment period’ possibly lasting years likely to be part of any government-instigated ban – music festivals are getting the jump on the politicians.

Earlier this year, Emily Eavis announced plans to ban plastic bottles from Glastonbury Festival when it returns next year. People in the UK use 38.5 million plastic bottles per day, 91% of which are not recycled.

When Bestival announced the ‘Final Straw’ campaign in January, Kendal Calling and Bluedot were already on board. Director of both festivals, Ben Robinson, said at the time: “Festival culture has always been inspired by the search for alternative experiences and radical action. Making the psychological change to not accepting single-use plastics as ‘normal’ or acceptable is something we can support in the fields and take home to our everyday lives”.

“Small changes that make a difference every day are what will drive the global movement to save our planet and our oceans from the current hammering they are getting with the waste created from day to day convenience items in our society”, he continued. “We can all survive without straws pretty easily”.

Meanwhile Chris Johnson, co-founder of Shambala Festival, which along with Glastonbury has already begun working with the RAW Foundation to reduce plastic use, adds: “There’s loads that festivals can do to design out disposable plastics such adopting re-usable cups, banning drinks sales in plastic and encouraging festival goers to bring re-fillable water bottles. Festivals inspire change in people, so we just need to take the steps collectively and create the new normal – a better normal”.

As part of the ‘Final Straw’ campaign, festivals involved in the plastic ban – including Bestival, Boomtown Fair, Shambala and others – will have their websites “wrapped in plastic” for Earth Day on 22 Apr. Visitors to the websites will be presented with various facts on plastic, as well as the opportunity to purchase reusable metal water bottles.

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