Shambala makes strides towards becoming disposables free by 2020

Photo credit: Dan Farrell

UK: Shambala festival, taking place from August 23 – 26, is launching a first of its kind reusable plate service as part of its ambition to be completely disposables free by 2020. One of the first festivals to ban plastic bottles in 2014 and reduce coffee cups in 2017, the reusable plate is the next step in the festival’s drive towards sustainability.

The pioneering plate service, entitled ‘Less Mess’ is being provided by Unpackaged and the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) as a pilot project, before being offered to all festivals next year. Behind the scenes, all crew catering will also be using reusable plates this year.

Industry reports suggest that less than a third of festival waste is recycled and the recent shift towards ‘biodegradable’ materials is not helping; the UK waste infrastructure struggles to properly process compostable products and they end up in landfill or incinerated. Single use materials are wasteful and in most cases reuse is the best option for reducing waste and environmental impact.

Reusing plates has been trialled in 2018 by smaller events in the UK such as the Fire in the Mountain festival, reportedly with great success. Shambala is the first significant event to trial the approach with a deposit return system and to conduct a proper comparative analysis of its impact – due to be published in September.

At Shambala, festival-goers will be able to select a reusable plate or bowl with their meal for a £2 deposit and then, once finished, drop it off at the Less Mess tent where it will be washed and their deposit returned. With this system the target is to prove that up to 10,000 disposable plates (approximately 1 tonne of waste) can be avoided.

Chris Johnson, Shambala Co-Founder, said: “We are always questioning how we can radically reduce our use of resources and waste. Recycling isn’t the ultimate answer – not using it in the first place is. In a bid to be disposables free by 2020, all roads lead to reuse.”

Catherine Conway of Unpackaged said: “We’re so pleased to have brought our reuse expertise to create Less Mess with the SRA – we think this will be a game-changer for the festival industry as reuse becomes the new normal following our trial at this year’s Shambala.”

Simon Heppner, founder of the SRA, said: “Attending festivals is one of the highlights of many people’s summer, but it’s clear to most that the waste generated by a ‘disposables’ culture is at odds with their values. Festival-goers are ready for more reuse solutions and we’re excited about helping to deliver a better, cleaner, less mess festival.”