At first glance, it could be the aftermath of a devastating natural disaster – a swathe of detritus washed up by a tsunami or scattered by a hurricane.
In fact, these colossal heaps of garbage are the remains of tens of thousands of cheap, discarded tents, strewn alongside mountains of camping gear and litter from festival-goers who simply couldn’t be bothered to take anything home.
At Reading, at least 60,000 tents worth about £1 million were abandoned after the three-day festival ended last Sunday. Many are only big enough for two people and targeted at festival-goers. They are so cheap they are probably never intended to be used more than once.
At Reading, at least 60,000 tents worth about £1 million were abandoned after the three-day festival ended last Sunday
Yesterday, ‘festival tents’ were on sale at Argos for £14.99 and Decathlon. Amazon was offering them for £19.99.
Festival-goers may think their tents are reused by homeless charities but the truth is that the flimsier, cheaper models are unsuitable and are likely to end up in landfill.
Rock star Ricky Wilson, a former judge on television talent show The Voice, is backing efforts to persuade fans to take their tents home or recycle them. A spokesman for the Kaiser Chiefs singer said: ‘Ricky gets cross about this and thinks something needs to be done. He would urge fans to think twice before dumping tents. It’s bad for the environment.’
The aerial photo from Leeds Festival, above, where about 85,000 revellers saw Kings Of Leon last weekend, was taken from a hot-air balloon and tweeted by a festival worker who blamed ‘millennials’ for discarding the cheap tents. But others pointed out that the average festival-goer at Leeds is actually in their late 30s.
An environmental audit on the 2017 festivals at Leeds and Reading showed that more than 320 tons of waste went to landfill.
Allison Ogden-Newton, chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said the issue was one of personal responsibility: ‘These images sum up just how far we have gone down the road of being a single-use, throw-away society and we need to change direction now. It’s time to start taking a long, hard look at the way we treat our planet and the amount of waste we create.’
Angry: Rock star Ricky Wilson urges fans to take their tents home
Glastonbury Festival founder and organiser Michael Eavis said that in years when his event was hit by bad weather, up to half the tents were left behind, dropping to about a fifth when it was dry. ‘We try to encourage them to take their stuff away, but you can’t force them. It’s a shame,’ he said.
‘We now run a site where we provide the tents and that’s getting bigger and bigger. We store and reuse the tents each year.
‘It’s a much better way to do it. It saves people having to cart the tent with them and I think that’s the only solution.