Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - Green initiatives at Glastonbury

The Glastonbury organisers pride themselves on doing as much possible to reduce their impact - not just on the farm itself, but on a global scale. Lucy Brooking-Clark coordinates...
01 August 2010

Interview with 

Lucy Brooking-Clark, Green Initiatives Coordinator, Glastonbury


Leave No Trace, a bench at Glastonbury


Ben -   The Glastonbury organisers pride themselves on doing as much possible to reduce their impact,  not just on the farm itself, but on a global scale.  Lucy Brooking Clark coordinates the festival's green initiatives.

Leave No Trace, a bench at GlastonburyLucy -   One of the biggest ones is Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  We give that message across in all the people that work for the festival, all the area organisers and all of the people that attend, the festival goers.

Ben -   This applies to, of course, everything;  to water, to the actual materials that you use, the rubbish it creates.  How can you keep a lid on this with such a dense population of people for such a short period of time?

Lucy -   Well, yes, that is our ongoing challenge - through educating people, I think, because people come down and they don't realise the infrastructure that is setup for the festival, like the recycling operation that goes on.  We're really trying to get the message to people not to bring unnecessary items to the festival because things are so cheap that they buy them then they think, "I don't need this anymore."  And they just leave it on the farm and therefore, that makes a huge impact on the volume of rubbish that's collected afterwards, and to what the festival looks like.  So through educating people that this is the same as being at home - in a sense that your rubbish has to be dealt with,  it doesn't kind of get magicked away and go to some other place.  It all has to be processed and just because you can recycle an item doesn't mean to say you should use lots of them.  The idea here is to reuse first, reduce what you use and recycle at the end of the line.

Ben -   Do you find that you have a lot of things that really should've been taken home that get left here at the end of the festival?

Lucy -   Yes - lots and lots.  Because the camping equipment is so cheap, you can pick up a tent, a roll mat, and a sleeping bag all for under 40 pounds.  And when it comes to the Monday, when people are so spent of all their energy and they've partied hard for the last 5 days.  They look at the things that they're going to prioritise and a tent just doesn't seem to have the value that it would have done 10 years ago or if you borrowed it from your Mum and Dad and you would have thought, "I've got return it."  And people live in flats and their circumstances are different. They find an excuse not to take it and just go, "I'm going to leave it".

Ben -   So what does happen to the things that people leave behind, either the things that can be used again or the real proper rubbish?

Lucy -   Well it depends on what it is.  It's amazing what we do find a use for. We have a problem with the chairs - a lot of chairs get left, the camping chairs. Whereas all the plastic gets stripped off those and the metal gets weighed in, so that does get recycled, the tents are a real problem because we can't find anything to do with the material.  You can't melt it down, you can't reuse it.  No one wants to take it.  So that is something that unfortunately has to go to landfill.  But everything else, all the  surplus wood: that gets chipped up, either reused or chipped up for wood chippings, and then used across the site.  The cans: they get weighed in.  And the plastic: that gets recycled.

Ben -   Is this all sorted on-site or do you have to ship it out somewhere?

Lucy -   It's initially sorted on-site, so it's separated and then it gets taken and weighed in.

Ben -   That brings me to another point about sustainability, which is transport.  Lots of things have to be - lots of things and lots of people - have to be moved to and from the festival site.  What are you doing to try and make that aspect more sustainable?

Lucy -   Well we're trying to make us, as a festival, sustainable.  So for instance the water - we used to truck the water on because we couldn't have it coming in through a maze, whereas now, we've got two reservoirs, each with a million litres of water.  That means we've reduced truck movement there by not having that coming on and off.  The sewage - we're going to process a lot more locally than we've had to before, which has gone  40 miles away.  So it's looking at ways in which we can do away with vehicle movement.  Transport of audiences is another big emissions factor to put on an event. We have a Greenbelt area and you've got a train station 15 minutes away, but we've got buses that come to the doorstep really, so we need to encourage people to come by public transport.

Ben -   All of these things are put in place to try and make the festival more sustainable.  Do you find that there's some overspill?  Can you use the same things to make the farm itself more sustainable and even the area around the festival?

Lucy -   Yeah.  I think it has a very big impact on everything around.  You have an impact on the people that come, making them think about it, and the farm. We're looking into an anaerobic digester which would mean that from all the produce that we have of slurry and grass cuttings, that could be used to create energy, and through solar panels on the roof of the cowshed.  So things like that.  It's looking at the resources around us and how we can get energy from them.

Ben -   What's your next big plan?  What your next big sustainability goal?

Lucy - We're hoping to get an anaerobic digester for the farm which takes the waste of the cows and the sewage from the cows, and the grass from the farm.  You put it into a sealed unit, and through time it gets heated up and then it has lots of little bugs inside that eat away at it.  And say you put a volume of waste of 100 litres in there,  it reduces the volume and it comes out at about 10 litres.  From that, you create heat as well so then you can get electricity from that as well.  So, that's a really big plan for us. Obviously, financially, it's a big outlay, but it would help for our festival waste and for our farm waste.

Ben -   So you'll be able to generate power throughout the year from the waste from the farm, as well as using the waste from the festival to add a bit more.  How much power do you think you're likely to generate?

Lucy -   We're being told it should be about a megawatt which is obviously a lot.  We've got to look into that because we're slightly sceptical that it wouldn't be as much as that, but if it would: happy days!

Ben -   Would you be able to sell the excess energy back to the grid in that case?

Lucy -   Yes, we would.  Yeah, we'd have excess energy, so we'd be able to run stuff, and we would have more to give back for them to buy.


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