Reading & Leeds festivals pledge to go plastic-free

The organiser of large-scale UK music festivals Reading and Leeds has committed to making both events free from single-use plastics by 2021.

More than 160,000 revellers head to Reading & Leeds festivals every year. Image: Leeds Festival

More than 160,000 revellers head to Reading & Leeds festivals every year. Image: Leeds Festival

Live Nation, the organising body for the twin festivals, made the pledge shortly before doors opened on Thursday (22 August).

Under the commitment, vendors at both festival sites will be banned from distributing plastic straws and drinks stirrers at the 2021 events – in line with the Government’s upcoming national phase-out of these items.

They will also be barred from handing out plastic cutlery, plastic and Styrofoam food containers and single-use plastic cups. Instead, biodegradable, compostable or reusable alternatives will be on offer. In order to support this switch for water packaging, Live Nation will install more water fountains at both events.

The commitment will also extend to the artists taking part in the festival, with plastic water bottles banned from stages.

Once the plastics phase-out at Reading and Leeds is complete, Live Nation will work on a wider initiative aimed at removing single-use plastics from all its festivals and venues by 2030.

“Hosting over 35,000 concerts and festivals each year, Live Nation has the opportunity and responsibility to provide our artists and fans with a live music experience that protects our planet,” Live Nation’s president Michael Rapino said.

“The adverse effects of climate change are undeniable, and we want to use our place on the world stage to be part of the solution. Together, our concerts, venues, festivals and offices around the world are setting new sustainability standards for live events.”

The first flush of sustainability

Live Nation’s new plastics pledge comes shortly after it announced it has teamed up with Thames Water to recycle sewage from Reading festival into renewable energy.

Contractors A1 Group will transport toilet waste away from the festival site in 19,000-litre tankers to Reading’s Island Road sewage plant. There, its sludge component will be heated and processed in order to generate energy.

Over the course of the festival, more than 750,000 litres of toilet waste is expected to be collected for processing in this way. In order to ensure that the waste is ready to be processed as soon as it reaches Island Road, Thames Water is running a behaviour change communications campaign urging festivalgoers not to put anything other than the “Three P’s” into on-site toilets.

Quiz: How much do you know about sustainable festivals?

With festival season now in full swing, many of us will be either heading off for a long weekend of music or watching big-name artists longingly on catch-up TV.

But how much do you know about the environmental impacts of festivals? You can test your knowledge by taking our 10-question quick quiz

Sarah George



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