A sea of tents at Reading Festival… destined for landfill Leave a comment


This is the disgusting detritus-filled scene at Reading Festival today, where thousands of tents are destined for landfill after being abandoned by feckless and ‘self-indulgent’ partygoers treating them as a piece of single-use rubbish.

The plastic shelters left in the fields of Berkshire will be added to the tonnes of waste being cleared from the site, which includes vast quantities of beer cans, bottles, drugs paraphernalia as well as dirty underwear, used condoms and even broken false teeth. 

Hundreds of tents lined at least six fields from corner to corner yesterday after the three-day event came to a close on Sunday. In one patch seven tents appear to be laid out in a circle indicating a group had camped together and all decided to leave their gear. 

The youngsters who abandoned them, many of whom who may consider themselves green, have been branded ‘hypocrites’ because each abandoned tent contains the equivalent of 9,000 plastic straws and requires 25kg of CO2 to make – the same amount of pollution as a car driving 100 miles. 

Environmentalists say abandoned festival tents can add 875tonnes to landfill in the UK each year, and will take up to 10,000 years for them to fully decompose.

Reading Festival’s sustainability manager Lilly Robbins used the shocking images of the site to urge revellers to take home their belongings, warning that tents are likely to end up in landfill with experts estimating only one in ten are recycled or taken by charities. 

She told the BBC: ‘We take off as much as we can but unfortunately the rest does have to be taken off site to a recycling plant, That goes through an incredibly lengthy process. Unfortunately tents are one of the worst things to try and recycle’.

She added: ‘In some instances they do go to charity. The ultimate messaging is: take your tent home. It’s the best thing people can do. We do have salvagers come onto the sight each year, so for a few days after the festival finishes they take what they can for homeless charities and food banks’. 

Abandoned tents are seen at the Reading Festival campsite after the event ended yesterday after three days of partying

Abandoned tents are seen at the Reading Festival campsite after the event ended yesterday after three days of partying

Many of the tents were left in clusters, suggesting groups all decided to leave their gear

Many of the tents were left in clusters, suggesting groups all decided to leave their gear

The sea of abandoned tents at Reading Festival,  with the vast majority set to be dumped in Britain's landfill sites

The sea of abandoned tents at Reading Festival,  with the vast majority set to be dumped in Britain’s landfill sites

Salvagers will go around the festival site to see what can be used by charities, but tents are amongst the toughest things to recycle

Salvagers will go around the festival site to see what can be used by charities, but tents are amongst the toughest things to recycle

Tonnes of plastic including tents will take up to 10,000 years to break down, environmentalists have said

Tonnes of plastic including tents will take up to 10,000 years to break down, environmentalists have said

The Association of Independent Festivals estimates 250,000 tents are left behind at festivals across the UK, the majority of which end up in landfill

The Association of Independent Festivals estimates 250,000 tents are left behind at festivals across the UK, the majority of which end up in landfill

The rite-of-passage festival for students celebrating their final exams attracted tens of thousands this year with headliners including Stormzy, Post Malone and Liam Gallagher.    

The Association of Independent Festivals estimates 250,000 tents are left behind at festivals across the UK, the majority of which end up in landfill.

Clean Up Britain founder John Read said: ‘Leaving behind tents seems like self-indulgent, ‘first world’ and lazy behaviour.

‘All of us must become more aware of the need to protect and cherish the environment. Dumping perfectly good tents runs contrary to this.

‘Festival organisers need to get more socially responsible too, and insist on festival goers taking tents home with them. Some sort of Deposit Return Scheme is required, but they have been very slow to act on this.

‘In the meantime, what about sending the tents to the thousands of displaced migrants living in hell-holes around the world – notably, Afghans fleeing over the border into Pakistan.’ 

Melvin Benn, managing director of the Festival Republic group, which runs Reading Festival and its sister event Leeds Festival, previously told the PA new agency his aim had been to offer younger people a chance to live ‘freely’ for a weekend.

Speaking in Leeds, he added: ‘Just walking out in the arena today in Reading and earlier this evening in Leeds, I think what the really interesting thing about it is, is that they come into an environment where they actually just don’t have to think about Covid.

‘And actually it is one of the things I wanted to create, is a space where people can come and feel relaxed and comfortable and not looking over their shoulder really.

‘It is a feeling of absolute joy because they really have – I don’t know if ‘abandoned their fear’ is the right term – but they are living freely.’

Reading Festival is over and revellers left behind acres of garbage, from used condoms to abandoned tents.

Festival-goers finished off the weekend watching Post Malone on the main stage. But it was left to the staff the next morning to tidy up the mess, with security having to grab bin bags to work as the ‘litter-picking staff were nowhere to be found’, according to Berkshire Live.

A security staff member said: ‘You don’t even want to know what I’ve seen. 

‘We’ve had soiled underwear – always women’s underwear weirdly, never men’s – and condoms, used and unused.’

Other things reported to have been found include: false teeth, a ball gag, soiled underwear, used tampons, used condoms, nitrous oxide canisters, bags of drugs, iPhones, a passport and an inflatable penis.

Partied-out music lovers draped themselves in duvets and slung sleeping bags over their shoulders as they left Reading Festival yesterday morning following a weekend of fun. 

Revellers looked a little worse for wear as they trudged out of the Berkshire venue after watching acts like Stormzy and Post Malone at the three-day event. Alongside sister event Leeds Festival, it was the first large-scale gig since Covid restrictions on mass gatherings eased earlier this year.  

Some festivalgoers were fortunate enough to be collected by family members this morning, with patient parents helping to load stacks of muddy camping equipment into cars. Others started on the walk to the train station. 

Tents and all manner of camping equipment are left after the Reading Festival today. The event finished last night on the 30th August 2021

Tents and all manner of camping equipment are left after the Reading Festival today. The event finished last night on the 30th August 2021

It was left to the staff the next morning to tidy up the mess, with security having to grab bin bags to work as the 'litter-picking staff were nowhere to be found',

It was left to the staff the next morning to tidy up the mess, with security having to grab bin bags to work as the ‘litter-picking staff were nowhere to be found’,

Other things reported to have been found include: false teeth, a ball gag, soiled underwear, used tampons, used condoms, nitrous oxide canisters, bags of drugs, iPhones, a passport and an inflatable penis

Other things reported to have been found include: false teeth, a ball gag, soiled underwear, used tampons, used condoms, nitrous oxide canisters, bags of drugs, iPhones, a passport and an inflatable penis

Festival goers walk past tents at the Reading Festival at Richfield Avenue. Partied-out music lovers draped themselves in duvets and slung sleeping bags over their shoulders as they left Reading Festival this morning following a weekend of fun

Festival goers walk past tents at the Reading Festival at Richfield Avenue. Partied-out music lovers draped themselves in duvets and slung sleeping bags over their shoulders as they left Reading Festival this morning following a weekend of fun

Long journey home: Partied-out music lovers draped themselves in duvets and slung sleeping bags over their shoulders as they left Reading Festival this morning following a weekend of fun

A woman leaving Reading Festival today

Long journey home: Partied-out music lovers draped themselves in duvets and slung sleeping bags over their shoulders as they left Reading Festival this morning following a weekend of fun. The event kicked off on Friday and ended last night

Waiting for a ride: Groups of friends waited on the wall of a petrol station forecourt as they made their way home

Waiting for a ride: Groups of friends waited on the wall of a petrol station forecourt as they made their way home

Bright lights: Several festivalgoers wore sunglasses as they made their way home from the event this morning

Bright lights: Several festivalgoers wore sunglasses as they made their way home from the event this morning 

Mass departure: The festivalgoers carried their camping equipment and clothes along the banks of the Thames

Mass departure: The festivalgoers carried their camping equipment and clothes along the banks of the Thames

Glamorous festival looks were replaced with practical hoodies, hats and shorts. Several sported sunglasses despite the clouds, suggesting there might be one or two sore heads this morning. 

Reading and Leeds Festivals run from Friday-Sunday of the August Bank Holiday weekend. Reading culminated in Stromzy’s headline performance last night and also saw Mabel and AJ Tracey take to the stage.   

Revellers were urged to test for Covid before they flock to the festivals and when they return, and not to visit older or more vulnerable loved ones in the days after the events amid another surge of the virus.  

There have been concerns about summer music festivals contributing to a spike after thousands of cases were suspected to be linked to the Boardmasters festival in Cornwall and hundreds to Latitude Festival in Suffolk.     

Yesterday festival organisers confirmed a 20-year-old woman had died after being taken ill at Reading. She died on Friday evening at Royal Berkshire Hospital. 

Snuggled up: One reveller wore sunglasses, a hoodie and a sleep pillow to maximise their comfort on the journey

Snuggled up: One reveller wore sunglasses, a hoodie and a sleep pillow to maximise their comfort on the journey

Heavy lifting: Festivalgoers laden with their weekend's worth of supplies left the venue in Berkshire on Monday morning

A woman leaving Reading Festival today

Heavy lifting: Festivalgoers laden with their weekend’s worth of supplies left the venue in Berkshire on Monday morning

Pick me up please! Some people were fortunate enough to be collected by kind friends and family members

Pick me up please! Some people were fortunate enough to be collected by kind friends and family members

Travelling by boat! The riverside venue meant that some opted to travel along the Thames by boat

Travelling by boat! The riverside venue meant that some opted to travel along the Thames by boat

It has been reported that the woman had a pre-existing condition and was with family members when she passed away.

Organisers said: ‘It is with deep sadness that Festival Republic confirms there has been a death at Royal Berkshire Hospital.

‘A 20-year-old festival-goer with a pre-existing condition tragically passed away on Friday evening.

‘Her family was with her when she died. We are in touch with her family and extend our sincerest sympathy to them and her friends.’

Rolling along: These prepared friends brought their own trailer to help make getting their stuff home a little easier

Rolling along: These prepared friends brought their own trailer to help make getting their stuff home a little easier

Waiting for the way back: Young revellers napped and played on their phones as they waited to make their way home

Waiting for the way back: Young revellers napped and played on their phones as they waited to make their way home

Last year’s incarnation of the three-day festival was cancelled due to the pandemic.

On Saturday, Festival Republic managing director Melvin Benn praised both Reading and Leeds festivals and said it had given young people a place where ‘they did not have to think about Covid’ and could ‘live freely’.

To attend the event, festival-goers either had to show proof of full vaccination, a negative lateral flow test or immunity with a PCR test. Volunteers at the site offered revellers the chance to get their jab. 



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