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Most people who go to festivals get excited because their favourite band is playing or they are expecting to have a good time with their mates. Not us we get excited because there might be a spare sleeping bag or two to collect when everyone has gone home.

Agreeing to recycle useful things at Leeds festival, I thought that I might get a bag or two of sleeping bags if I was lucky, how wrong could I be. No one could have described to me the conflict I would have in my own mind seeing the aftermath of one hedonistic weekend in a field near Leeds. 

The festival site was empty of people but still looked full, thousands of abandoned tents, chairs, bonfires and odd shoes reminiscent of a scene from an apocalyptic film set. The excitement of been able to collect more than a couple of useful things balanced against the sheer amount of waste that would inevitably end up in landfill. Even with a swarm of eager volunteers the task was overwhelming and would not even clear a corner of the fields. 

Five hours we worked constantly to quickly grab the most useful reusable items, as much as possible before the bulldozers arrive. A large transit van full of sleeping bags, a second van full of tents, 7 cars and trailers filled to the roof and nowhere for anyone to sit. We were one of many groups collecting and yet the field looked the same as we left as when we first arrived. 

Talking to people who attended, they really believed that all the things left behind would go to charity but in reality it’s not possible to collect it all up. 

If you are going to a festival this year and want to leave and donate your tent or sleeping bag do us a favour: 

  • pack the tent down and put it in its bag so we don’t have to (it takes ages to do a van load) 
  • roll your sleeping bag up ideally in its original bag
  • if possible drop it at a charity point before you leave
  • any left-over tins and dry food, put it separate in a carrier bag rather than in the waste bag