Thousands of tents abandoned at festivals around the UK after bank holiday weekend

‘Tents are one of the worst things to try and recycle,’ says festival sustainability manager

The festival season is sadly drawing to an end, climaxing this August bank holiday weekend when everyone and their mums seemed to be dancing in a field wishing they were slightly cleaner. But unfortunately, when festivals close their gates it’s the same old story: a shocking amount of tents and rubbish gets left behind and most of it will end up in landfill.

The likes of Leeds /Reading, Creamfields and Boardmasters have all seen an enormous quantity of tents abandoned by festival-goers eager to flee the campsite.

This is what Leeds Festival looked like yesterday:

Here’s what Boardmasters looked like after the Cornish festival came to an end last week:

And all these images have got people on Twitter wondering: what happens to the tents that get left behind at festivals?

Sustainability manager at Reading Festival Lilly Robbins revealed the true scale of the clean-up operation after a festival finishes, and exactly what happens to all the abandoned tents.

“In some instances they do go to charity,” Lilly told BBC Breakfast. “The ultimate messaging is: take your tent home. It’s the best thing people can do.

“We do have salvagers come onto the sight each year, so for a few days after the festival finishes they take what they can for homeless charities and food banks.”

One Leeds-based community group collected tents, camp chairs, air mattresses, gazebos, sleeping bags and roll mats from Leeds Festival.

But the vast majority of stuff left behind will end up on landfill sites. “We take off as much as we can but unfortunately the rest does have to be taken off site to a recycling plant,” Lilly Robbins said. “That goes through an incredibly lengthy process. Unfortunately tents are one of the worst things to try and recycle.”

This Twitter thread explains the true environmental impact of leaving your tent behind at a festival.

The manufacturing of a standard 3.5kg tent uses up around 25kg of carbon dioxide, the same amount of pollution caused by driving a car 100 miles. A standard tent also contains the equivalent of 9,000 plastic straws.

That means from festivals alone, we’re unnecessarily dumping 875 tonnes of plastic into landfill sites every year from the UK alone.

Related articles recommended by this writer:

• Ranked: This year’s big UK festival lineups with the fewest female acts

• ‘It was surreal’: What it was actually like to go to the first festivals since lockdown

• ‘I don’t regret it at all’: We spoke to students who caught Covid after going to Boardmasters