Last weekend I volunteered at a local festival and found myself sorting through other people’s rubbish….
The Cock & Bull Festival is run by the charity Jamie’s Farm and held on a small farm in Wiltshire. If you haven’t heard of Jamie’s Farm before it’s a great organisation. It works with vulnerable children, and those with challenging behaviour, from urban schools. The children come to stay on the farm and learn important skills that help them when they return to the classroom.
The Cock & Bull Festival has been running for five years. It’s a very small-scale event with 500 festival goers and many volunteers. In return for a free ticket I did three shifts: setting up, food prep, and (early on a wet Sunday morning) the rubbish shift.
The latter was probably one of the least glamorous things I have ever done. In the rain we had to collect rubbish and recycling bags and sort through them so they went into the correct containers to be taken away. Landfill rubbish costs the festival a lot of money every year so, as well as the environmental aspect, it makes financial sense to reduce their garbage footprint as much as possible. This could have been such a depressing shift yet, working alongside the very committed and knowledgable Jenny who had volunteered to run the recycling for the entire weekend, I learnt some valuable lessons:
– signs, signs and more signs! There were lots of notices around the festival site (and on the website here) labelling what rubbish could go where. This really helped when sorting through the trash. But I think you need even more concise labelling- and more containers – to make sure nothing gets contaminated and to avoid confusion ie plastic disposable coffee cup lids, plastic straws, coloured paper napkins, wooden cutlery etc.
–re-usable plastic cups are good. I already had my husband’s re-usable pint glass from Glastonbury but also bought this one (below). When buying your first drink from the bar you had to pay extra to get the re-usable glass, which (in theory) you used all weekend.
– festival fancy dress can be a REAL pain to recycle. On the Saturday night of the Cock & Bull Festival there is a procession. This year’s them was ‘Insecticider’ so there were lots of homemade (and shop bought) costumes that, by Sunday morning, had been consigned to the rubbish bins. It was good to see so many costumes made from the Wiltshire Scrapstore supplies that were contained within the festival’s craft tent. However, not so great to untangle and try to sort for recycling. (My own costume was an old green jumpsuit with cardboard legs attached and homemade green antennae, ie a grasshopper!)
– it really is true that one person’s trash is another’s treasure! While I try to avoid taking home things for the sake of it (I passed on a Jamie’s Farm t-shirt as I wasn’t sure I would wear it again) the bunting and mason jar (below) will come in very handy for decorating my daughter’s birthday party next week:
We also found three pairs of brand new marigold gloves that had been part of a bee costume. These were turned to good use as we wore them to sort through more rubbish. And I must also confess to finding a few bottles of unopened booze which made their way home…
– as I suspected, Cafe Bars generate the most waste. I work in a cafe and I know that, when we offer the disposable option, this is the least environmentally friendly option. At the festival only half of the disposable cardboard cups could be recycled and, of course, the pesky plastic lids couldn’t be recycled at all. I took my trusty Lakeland thermos with me for all my lattes but, of course, this doesn’t fit underneath the coffee machine so they had to use a disposable cup to make the coffee in the first place! This is something I am more than aware of (at my work I use china cups for the coffee shots) – I need to figure this one out when ordering takeaways in the flask.
Overall I was really impressed with the effort the Cock & Bull Festival had made to reduce rubbish. Festival goers, too, seemed very willing to take part in recycling and reducing as well. Interestingly I think this was more prevalent on the main site where there were lots of signs and everyone was doing the same thing. On the campsites there was definitely more landfill and unnecessarily dumped food and drink.
On a personal point I really enjoyed volunteering and have come home a little evangelised having sorted through so much rubbish. Maybe everyone who attends a festival should experience this shift. It’s made me realise more than ever that there really is no such thing as ‘away’ when you throw things away.