Contrary to what many people believe, they're not going to charity – just straight to landfill.
Music festivals are notorious for the sea of plastic waste that gets left behind when tired, hungover festival-goers head home after a weekend of partying. But as environmental awareness increases, this negligence is of greater concern. The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has gotten 60 UK-based festivals on board to eliminate single-use plastics by 2021 – items like disposable cups, drink bottles, straws, glitter, toiletries, cable ties, and shopping bags that are often strewn about the fields.
But one area that the anti-plastic movement has largely neglected up until now is tents. It is common practice for festival-goers to purchase cheap camping gear and use it for a single festival, then leave it behind. An estimated 250,000 tents are abandoned in the United Kingdom every year after festivals and most are made of plastic.There is a misconception that the tents are collected and donated to charity, but this is not accurate. While that happens in a few cases, the vast majority go to landfill – and each is the equivalent of 8,750 straws or 250 pint cups, so we're talking some serious plastic waste here.
The AIF has launched a campaign today called 'Take Your Tent Home.' Not only does it put pressure on people to gather up their tents post-festival, but it also asks retailers such as Argos and Tesco to stop marketing camping gear as single-use. It's not done explicitly, but the super-low prices and seasonal marketing make it seem disposable. From a press release:
"Research by Comp-A-Tent, who have been researching festival waste and testing solutions since 2015, suggests that as many as 36 percent of tents left at festivals are bought from either Argos or Tesco. As part of its 'Festival Season' range, Argos offers a four-man tent for £29.99, a sleeping bag for £9.99, an airbed for £14.99 and camping chair for £7.99 – a total of £62.96 (US$82). Amazon also offers two-man tents for festivals for as little as £19.99 (US$26)."
With prices that low, it's not surprising that people view the gear as essentially disposable, but that's horribly wasteful. Habits can and need to change, which is why AIF will be screening the following video on festival screens and at campsite entrances throughout the 2019 season.
From personal experience, it's never fun to pack up a tent after a weekend of camping (and, ahem, partying), but the good news is you don't have to deal with it immediately. Just roll it up, mud and all, and take it home. The next day (once the hangover has subsided), spread it out on a lawn or driveway and spray it inside and out with the garden hose. Hang it on a laundry line or over a deck railing to dry thoroughly.
Alternatively, look into buying a cardboard tent, like the recyclable KarTent (shown below) that's been making headlines. Despite being paper, it's said to be water-resistant – and it stays dark on those bright mornings when you'd like to catch a few extra winks.