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Beef Of The Week #419: Tents v Sense

By | Published on Friday 31 August 2018


The issue of people leaving their tents behind at the end of festivals has been growing for many years now. This week, it gained public attention again after pictures of thousands of dumped tents at the Reading and Leeds festivals made their way around the internet.

Back in 2014, the Love Your Tent campaign surveyed 1200 festival-goers, 60% of whom admitted to buying dirt cheap tents to use once and leave behind at events. Most admitted that they knew that clearing up dumped tents was a big issue for festivals and that there were ecological implications stemming from their actions. But a third said they’d carry on doing it anyway, despite all that.

Those were unenlightend times though. Four years ago? We were fools back then. Surely now everyone is waking up every morning ready to fight for the future of the planet. But there’s a new problem now, see, which is that age old nemesis of all that is good: charity.

According to The Telegraph, the problem today is that everyone thinks that if they leave their tent where they pegged it on day one of a music festival, it’ll just be scooped up by organisers and given to a tent-hungry refugee. There is, it has to be said, a very small chance that this might happen. But it’s not the case most of the time.

“There is a common misconception that leaving your tent is like making a donation”, says Matt Wedge, director of Festival Waste Reclamation & Distribution, a charity which does collect up tents and give them to refugees. “It’s simply not the case. We co-ordinate local volunteers and charity groups and take as much as we can for the homeless and refugees in Calais and Dunkirk, but realistically up to 90% gets left behind”.

A Greener Festival’s Teresa Moore confirmed this misconception, saying that the charity’s own research shows that a growing number of people believe that they’re doing a good thing by leaving their tent behind after them. This happened after a couple of smaller festivals advertised tent donation schemes, leading people to believe it was routine across the industry. “It backfired and since then”, she told the Telegraph. “Most festivals have rowed back from that, urging people to take them with them. But in a way, it is too late”.

The extent to which tents were dumped at the Leeds Festival was shown in an aeriel photograph shared on Twitter this week. Surely no one walking through all that could possibly think that every tent there, not to mention every tent at every other festival in the country, would be re-used by some charity somewhere.

But I suppose there is another consideration. Which kind of goes back to the 2014 research. While a proportion of the tent-dumpers no doubt do assume that the tent they are dumping will be given to someone more needy, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that many people are just fucking arseholes.

Sophie Cottis-Allan of LE Solidarity – another group which takes items, including discarded festival tents, to refugees in locations around the world – posted pictures of the Leeds clean up operation to Facebook.

“A long, sometimes gross, constantly frustrating day, but we have a van packed to bursting with pop up tents, sleeping bags, roll mats and a few folding chairs”, she wrote. However, while that does mean some of the tent-dumpers were helping, most of the dumped tents are still heading for landfill. Plus plenty of said tents clearly weren’t re-usable anyway.

“I am still so shocked at the level of waste”, Cottis-Allan added. “We didn’t make a dent and so much was slashed, burnt or generally wrecked on purpose”. To hammer home the point that many tent-dumpers were dumping trashed tents, she also shared video footage of the site, estimating that as much as 90% of the tents they found were unusable.

So, a quick rule of thumb: If you set fire to something and then leave it in a field, chances are nothing good is going to come of it. Come back next week for another big surprise revelation: Hitting yourself in the face with a big stick isn’t much fun.