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Cleaning up After a Music Festival.

Andy Robertson

Music festivals continue to have a poor reputation when it comes to the environmental footprint left after any sizable event. Despite initiatives like ‘Leave No Trace’ the challenges for festival organisers in cleaning up after an event remain. What steps can organisers take to minimise damage and leave a festival site relatively undamaged.

The ’Leave No Trace’ has its origins several decades ago and has a generally accepted framework for music festival organisers which is freely available in the public domain. The original seven principles of ‘Leave No Trace are:  

  • Planning Ahead.
  • Travel and Camping.
  • Waste Disposal.
  • Leave What You Find.
  • Minimising Campfire Impacts.
  • Respecting Wildlife.
  • Considerate of Other Visitors.  

    Challenges to Implementing Leave No Trace. 
    Applying the ‘Leave No Trace’ principles to a music festival presents challenges to organisers particularly if the event attracts large numbers of visitors. Large crowds can generate enormous volumes of general waste and wastewater. The construction of temporary structures can present challenges when being de-constructed and removed from the site. High volumes of contractor and festival-goer traffic can cause significant damage to a site exasperated by adverse weather conditions making it difficult for organisers to return wide open spaces back to their original state. 

    The key to managing site waste and clean up after an event is the planning for staff resources, communication and waste disposal. A good contractor with expertise in waste management can help with putting in place suitable processes for collection and appropriate disposal of general and water waste. Recruiting a suitable number of volunteers to manage waste collection and sorting forms part of the planning process when assigning duties over the festival duration. Organisers can stipulate the obligations of vendors and sponsors with regards to managing their own waste management whilst on site. An effective communication campaign prior to the festival aimed at festival-goers can help to emphasise how every individual who attends is expected to contribute. 

    On-site Cleaning. 
    If the event planning has been thorough the cleaning and waste collection during the festival should be straightforward and efficient. Volunteers are usually assigned cleaning duties at some point during their festival experience, and this is an essential part of keeping the site clean and hygienic. Organisers should constantly monitor the waste situation and allocate additional staff for cleaning duties; it is not uncommon for volunteers to skip their allocated cleaning duties. 

    Post Festival Clean-up. 
    Assuming that the waste planning and implementation during the event has been well executed the work required post event should be minimised. Assigned clean up teams may take several days to thoroughly collect and sort waste and needs to be coordinated with waste management contractors who will be working to pre agreed collection schedules. Once the clean-up operation has been completed a thorough site inspection needs to be conducted and this may be done together with the landowners, local authorities and environmental protection groups. 

    Additional Factors. 
    For any sizable music festival, it is essential that organisers clearly announce to festival-goers how they can contribute to leaving no trace on the festival site. This can include the banning of single use plastics and asking festival-goers to take their waste home including any tents they have brought onto the site. Organisers can support the education of site visitors on waste management by partnering with relevant not for profit organisations by offering them zero cost pitches for their own promotional booth. 

    For festival organisers planning their events using a software management platform like Festival Pro gives them all the functionality they need manage every aspect of their event logistics. The guys who are responsible for this software have been in the front line of event management for many years and the features are built from that experience and are performance artists themselves. The Festival Pro platform is easy to use and has comprehensive features with specific modules for managing artists, contractors, venues/stages, vendors, volunteers, sponsors, guestlists, ticketing, cashless payments and contactless ordering.

    Image by TheDigitalArtist via Pixabay

    Andy Robertson
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