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Glastonbury festival returns with a cleaner act

By ANGUS McNEICE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-06-29 10:27

Environmental activist Greta Thunberg delivers a speech from the iconic Pyramid Stage in Glastonbury on Saturday. Photo provided to China Daily

Rock stars piled into private-hire cars and thousands of weary revelers stood in snaking queues to catch coaches away from the Glastonbury Festival on Monday, following four days of hard partying headlined by Beatles legend Paul McCartney and rapper Kendrick Lamar.

But the real work had just begun for some 1,300 volunteers left to clear the detritus strewn across the festival site at Worthy Farm in Somerset.

In previous years, Britain's most iconic music festival has drawn criticism for dystopian scenes of discarded tents, thousands of tons of garbage, and polluted waterways, all stains on the festival's reputation for sustainability and green initiatives.

But this year clean-up volunteers were far less demoralized, thanks to a ban on single-use plastic and a rising tide of environmentalism in the United Kingdom.

The plastic ban saved an estimated 1 million bottles from disposal on the site this year, which was attended by more than 200,000 people.

It was once common for up to 20,000 tents to be left behind, but organizers say that people are now beginning to take seriously the campaign slogan "Love the farm, leave no trace". At the pre-pandemic event in 2019, a record 99.3 percent of people took their tents home, and while official figures are yet to be released it appears that 2022 followed that trend.

"A huge thanks to everyone who's been making such an effort to pack everything away and leave no trace," organizers tweeted on Tuesday, along with pictures of cleared fields.

Rising star Griff performed on the John Peel stage at the Glastonbury festival. Photo provided to China Daily

Poor sanitation has had a serious effect at past events. In 2016 the festival was fined 31,000 pounds ($37,900) after a sewage leak polluted streams and killed fish, and a 2019 study found that public urination led to dangerous levels of recreational drugs being found in nearby waterways.

This year, hundreds of signs could be seen around the festival encouraging people to use the toilets provided in order to reduce contamination of the site, which is a functioning dairy farm.

"I've noticed that people are being way more responsible about litter and not dumping their stuff," Georgina Hayes, a 31-year-old attending the festival for the fourth time, told China Daily.

A 2021 Deloitte survey showed that Britons are becoming increasingly eco-friendly, with 85 percent of consumers adopting at least one sustainable lifestyle change over the previous year, up 17 percentage points from before the pandemic.

The trend has been linked to popular environmental documentaries including the BBC series Blue Planet, as well as widespread media coverage of youth activism.

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg gave a speech from the festival's Pyramid Stage on Saturday, with the 19-year-old telling the crowd that the Earth's "biosphere is not just changing, it is destabilizing, it is breaking down".

The day before, British Chinese singer Griff made her Glastonbury debut before an audience of tens of thousands of people gathered at the John Peel stage, which is reserved for up-and-coming acts tipped for breakout stardom.

"Glastonbury is definitely a big highlight," Griff told China Daily. "Everything about Glastonbury is so iconic and I feel very grateful to have been a small part of it this year. I know I'm going to look back at this moment for the rest of my career."

The singer, whose mother is Chinese, released her debut single in 2019, and was named Rising Star at the Brit Awards last year.

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