Every year after Greenbelt we see pictures of people proudly wearing their festival wristbands to work, school and play. But what lots of you wouldn’t have realised was that woven in with the fabric was plastic thread.
As you’ll know, we’re on a mission to rid Greenbelt of all single-use plastic by 2020, and as part of that journey, we’re delighted to say that this year, for the very first time, we will have plastic-free wristbands. They are made of bamboo, so they’re both strong and soft to the touch and when you’re finally ready to cut them off – be it days, weeks or months later – they can be recycled.
Seems such a simple idea, doesn’t it? And yet we’ve spent years trying to find them, finally tracking down a Finnish company who could help us. That’s the thing about challenging the status quo, it isn’t always quick or easy.
Last year we banned plastic bottles from being sold at the festival. Putting in more taps and supplying re-suable water bottles for artists and crew wasn’t cheap, but it was the right thing to do. In the weeks before the festival, I found myself on the radio being accused of being a ‘bottle-ist’ – someone removing freedom of choice. Yet on site everyone was happy, caterers sold all the usual drinks just in cans and we didn’t get a single complaint about the absence of plastic.
We believe in looking after our planet, in taking responsibility for our choices and how they impact others. We know that most plastics are not recycled in the UK because the infrastructure doesn’t exist. Instead our plastics get sent abroad, often to countries even less able to deal with them. It makes those working on rubbish dumps or burning it ill, it pollutes water courses and it ends up in the sea. That is why we’re trying so hard to remove it from Greenbelt – the joy found at our festival shouldn’t lead to misery for others.
We’ve already achieved a lot. There is no plastic in any of the food and drinks packaging or cutlery provided by our caterers and our bars have re-usable cups. Plastic bottles are gone, and we have eco-glitter to bring the sparkle, made from cellulose. Where once we used plastic tape to mark out areas of the site, now we use coloured ropes. Signs that were single use are now made of metal and designed to last. Tea bags, that quintessentially English thing, come from Clipper and Tea Pigs and are plastic free.
We have a list of plastics still to replace and we’re working on it. We know we can now get bamboo lanyards and we’re looking at alternatives for volunteer team IDs. The hardest thing? Cable ties and gaffa tape, both long-time staples of building a festival site. But we will persist, using our passion for the planet and its people as motivation to keep looking for solutions. Lots of companies told us that plastic-free wristbands could not be done – this August we will all prove them wrong.