Festivals urge shops to stop selling ‘single-use’ tents

Hundreds of thousands of tents are left in fields each summer, contributing to the UK's high level of plastic waste

Independent UK festivals are calling for shops to stop marketing “festival tents” as single-use items.

An estimated 250,000 tents are left abandoned in country fields over the summer, with festival-goers keen to depart weekend-long music events hassle-free. As many cannot be recycled, the tents end up in landfill – contributing to almost 900 tonnes of plastic waste every year.

As the season kicks off once again, 60 independent festivals are urging shops to re-think how they sell the camping gear. The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) say that some advertise the products as “festival tents”, which suggests to the consumer that they only need to use it once.

The collective, which includes festivals such as Bestival and Boomtown, also states that the average tent contains plastic levels equivalent to 8,700 straws or 250 pint cups.

The ‘Take Your Tent Home – Say No To Single Use’ campaign cites research by Comp-A-Tent, which claims that as many as 36% of tents left at festivals are bought from either Argos or Tesco. The former currently offers a ‘Festival Season’ range, featuring cheaper options for campers. Its four-man tent will set you back just £29.99.

“We call upon major retailers to stop marketing and selling tents and other camping items as essentially single-use, and profiting from disposable culture,” said CEO Paul Reed. “AIF launches this campaign to raise awareness and highlight abandoned tents as part of the single-use plastics problem.

“The message here is not to buy a more expensive tent – with a single tent carrying the same amount of plastic as more than 8,700 plastic straws, festival audiences can take positive action and reduce their carbon footprint simply by taking their tent home and reusing it, ensuring that it doesn’t become a single-use item this summer.”

In a statement issued to the BBC, Argos said: “We offer a variety of tents at a range of prices. They are all sold with a bag to encourage re-use.”

Boomtown’s Emily Ford spoke about the campaign on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show. “I think a lot of people do believe that [the tents] get collected by a charity and end up being used for good elsewhere,” she said, “which is a really damaging and dangerous myth…” See the full clip above.

Following festival season 2018, shocking footage emerged showing thousands of abandoned tents and rubbish left behind by Reading & Leeds attendees.