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Are music Festivals Doing Enough to Combat Waste?

31st May 2024

With the festival season approaching, the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) has called for a complete ban on disposable vapes. Leading festivals such as Glastonbury, Leeds, and Reading took a stand last summer, setting a precedent for others.

The Growing Issue of Battery Fires

The BMRA’s concern stems from the rising incidents of fires caused by batteries in disposable vapes, posing significant safety risks for festivalgoers. If an outright ban is not feasible, the BMRA emphasises the need for proper recycling facilities to reduce fire hazards and ensure correct battery disposal. This recommendation follows data showing a 71% increase in battery fires in the UK since 2022, with lithium-ion batteries accounting for around 48% of waste fires.

Environmental Concerns in Vinyl Production

In other sectors of the music industry, environmental impact is also a pressing issue. Key Production, a leading broker in physical music production in the UK, conducted a survey revealing that many consumers are motivated by eco-friendly practices. According to the survey, 77% of regular vinyl buyers are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly alternatives.

However, the survey also highlighted that 83% of respondents were unaware or unsure that heavyweight vinyl, prized for its perceived value and richer audio quality, requires more energy for production and transportation.

Controversy Over Vinyl Record Production

This issue is further complicated by controversies such as Taylor Swift’s multiple vinyl editions of the same album, which led to the highest weekly vinyl sales in 30 years on 20 April 2024, coinciding with Record Store Day. Such practices have drawn criticism for being wasteful. Similarly, Billie Eilish has spoken out against unsustainable artist merchandise, opting for eco-friendly production for her latest album, “Hit Me Hard and Soft,” using reground or bio-attributed vinyl and recycled packaging.

The Music Industry’s Responsibility

These discussions about festival vapes and excessive vinyl production raise a critical question: is the music industry doing enough to mitigate waste? While waste management may not seem glamorous, Key Production’s survey suggests that fans are willing to support more sustainable practices.

In 2019, the alternative pop band The 1975 demonstrated a commitment to sustainability by reprinting excess t-shirts from previous tours instead of creating new ones, and encouraging fans to bring old clothing to be reprinted. This initiative shows that sustainable options can be both cost-effective and meaningful to fans.

Bridging Sustainability and Fan Connection

The desire for sustainability does not diminish fans’ connection to their favourite artists. In fact, as the cost of new merchandise and vinyl editions continues to rise, the appeal of sustainable options grows. Festivals like Glastonbury, Leeds, and Reading, which have already banned disposable vapes, serve as leading examples. Although these large events have more resources to enforce such bans, smaller festivals have more to lose if they experience a battery fire caused by a disposable vape.

By taking stronger actions on waste management, the music industry can meet the growing demand for sustainability without compromising the fan experience.

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