The music festival season has arrived here in Byron Shire with the Byron Bay Bluesfest starting in just a few days - where tens of thousands of music revellers will gather from all over the country. Down the line in a few months we will have Splendour in the Grass with another 30,000 attending over three days.
Since the beginning of civilisation, festivals have been meeting places where people escape every-day-life, dancing, singing, playing, learning and sharing ideas. Today, the unique festival experience offers organisers the opportunity to make a positive change in our society in a way that many other organisations can only dream of.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you would have seen the recent videos on social media of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Our oceans bear the burden of five continent sized mass accumulations of plastic, and unless our ravenous consumption of it changes, scientists predict there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050.
Australia’s biggest export is tourism through our beaches, yet our government is doing very little to protect our surrounding ocean from the damage of plastic pollution.
In the temporary nomadic cities of music & arts festivals, these cities are built and dismantled leaving behind an island of mostly plastic rubbish.
Where we use plastics as festival goers is fairly obvious. Eating & drinking tends to be the most prominent; beer cups, water & drink bottles, cutlery & plates. Most of this disposal plastic ends up chucked on the grounds at festivals.
Glastonbury Festival in the UK is planning on banning all plastic bottles in 2019. Currently the festival encourages refillable water bottles and the festival prohibits food vendors from handing out any plastic food containers or utensils.
In the meantime our local festivals continue to sell bottled water and use vendors that use single disposable plastics.
We should be leading the way here in our shire with our elected Greens local council imposing regulations on festivals banning plastic bottles and all disposable single use plastic servers including plates, bowls, cups, cutlery, stirrers and straws. We should be demanding our festivals use serve-ware that is compostable and made from paper, board or wooden compostables.
How about seeing Bluesfest and Splendour charging a levy for the return of cups, bottles and cans. At many European & UK festivals it is practise for festival goers to pay a deposit on drinks to ensure the re-usable cup or can is returned and a cash reward paid on their return. This type of program also helps keep the festival site clean and promotes recycling. The site of volunteers picking up after our discarded rubbish at our local music festivals is a sad indictment of our disposal, hedonistic, don’t give-a-fuck consumerism.
How can we as festival goers make a difference? You can bring your own water bottle and refill it at the water stations dotted around the festival site. Fingers crossed the Bluesfest will follow in Splendour in the Grass footsteps and provide free water filling stations. Only buy food from vendors and food stalls that use compostable serve-ware, including cutlery.
An important reminder for us all is that most festival goers over this Easter long weekend will be taking a dip in the ocean to clear their heads. Just imagine all that plastic garbage you step over as you make your way out of the festival ending up in our bay.
So if you’re heading to to Bluesfest this weekend, plan your journey, get lost in the music and don’t forget to bring your refillable water bottle and reusable cup.