Glastonbury Festival to Ban All Plastic Bottles on Site

CC BY 2.0. Nick Rice

The war on plastic just reached Britain's premier music festival.

As a teenager, I once got a free ticket to Glastonbury Festival by volunteering to work on the litter/recycling crews. Needless to say, cleaning up after 175,000 revelers—many of them drunk and/or otherwise under the influence—in a muddy field is challenging to say the least. Nevertheless, from composting toilets to serious solar power, Glastonbury has alway had a strong green streak.

Now it's applying those values to its mountains of rubbish, taking a step beyond recycling by actually banning all plastic bottles from being brought on-site when the festival reopens in 2019. (2018 is a "fallow year" which gives the farmland an opportunity to recover.) According to reports in The Guardian and elsewhere, the relatively firm option of a ban comes on the heels of previous efforts which appealed more to festival goers' own better natures -- asking them to leave no trace, limit their litter, and not abandon their tents -- all of which resulted in the longest cleanup in the festival's history.

The festival organizers themselves say somewhere around a million plastic bottles are used on site during a typical five day Glastonbury weekend—much of it, I suspect, in the form of West Country hard cider. So this is no small feat that the organization is attempting. But infrastructure has been put in place in previous years, including the installation of refill stations for water bottles, and the introduction of reusable stainless steel canisters which can be rented from the organizers.

Having experienced Glastonbury many, many times and seen how much stuff gets brought on site, I would say it's unrealistic to expect that there'll be no more plastic bottles anywhere on Worthy Farm—but that's hardly the point. By sending this message, and by working with vendors, Glastonbury organizers are joining the likes of the BBC, Eurostar and even the Queen in moving the conversation beyond appeals to personal virtue, and into the realms of what we'll accept as our cultural and societal norms.

And for that, I am very, very grateful.