Tent Waste

We talk to Dean Betts from Circular Camping about solutions to tent waste at events.

Tent WasteTell us about the tent waste problem at events as it stands today
Waste is inevitable at any event, and tent waste is only part of the wider picture. The reason for some camping equipment to be abandoned is simply that it is broken beyond repair, or it has reached the end of its natural lifespan.

This does not explain the reason behind the scale of the problem though, which lies mainly in the fact that much of the equipment being marketed to festivalgoers is simply not fit for purpose.

Substandard products are offered at seemingly bargain prices, but the user experience is so disappointing that many of these low end items are eventually left behind when the buyer realises that they are of no further use.

The causes of the problem
There has been a race to the bottom in terms of price and quality in the camping sector in previous years, with a wide range of discount retailers offering discounted seasonal products. Camping equipment needs to keep you warm, dry and comfortable. With such low quality production, the lifespan of these products is very short.

We have been running campsite salvage operations for over a decade now, and very rarely find equipment in good condition with a shelf price of over £100. Whilst nobody has ever had a wonderful night’s sleep in a single skin pop up tent, every year we have thousands of people going to their first festival, and learning these lessons the hard way.

Another aspect which influences the amount of waste abandoned at events, are practical considerations such as the size of the event and the distance from the car to the campsite. In simple terms, the further you have to walk, the more likely you are to abandon your equipment, especially in bad weather.

Add to this the fact that you are hungover, potentially wet and muddy, with people around you also abandoning their equipment, and you can see how the problem begins to spiral.

Changing attitudes
Some events, like Shambala, have an incredible waste policy which rewards customers for keeping the site tidy. There is a culture of ‘clean’ there. The key is to incentivise customers – free tickets and drinks always help.

Other events are approaching this retrospectively after years of negligence and have an uphill battle on their hands. Education is great, but it usually comes in the form of posters and tweets. More active, practical solutions are needed.

Tent WastePractical solutions
At Circular Camping we offer a full wrap-around service to help events drive down campsite waste, comprised of three main elements:

1. We provide pre-pitched tent hire, using salvaged and reconditioned equipment. Every tent that we hire out is potentially one less going to landfill
2. We run a sustainable camping shop which is focused on selling mainly salvaged equipment at affordable prices
3. We then stay on site to run the campsite salvage after the event, and accept donations from people who have no further use for their camping equipment.
Setting up donation/upcycling points and incentivising customers to use these areas is an easy win for events. It takes very little investment, but helps to segregate the waste so that it can easily be reused. Properly marketing and then incentivising customers to use these services is paramount.

In time, I believe that festivals will move towards a model which sees a much higher percentage of their audience staying in pre-pitched accommodation as a way of limiting the potential for abandoned tents. It is of course another valued revenue steam for event organisers.

Tent WasteTell us about some of the events you have helped
Download Festival this year was the cleanest that I have seen it in almost 10 years working at the event. The sustainability team are doing a great job of spreading the message and supporting our operation.

Our shop there was stocked with all of the equipment which we salvaged from Creamfields South, a festival which took place just a few days before. It is the perfect example of creating a circular economy within the festival industry, which is what we are here to do.

When we left Download Festival, two days after the event, I can confidently say that there was not a single piece of good quality/reusable camping equipment left behind, such was the success of our salvage operation.

Download is a huge festival, and that is a landmark achievement for us. With the support of the organisers we can do much more to further improve sustainability at that event and assist them in their net zero vision.

To offer another example, we were called in to operate the first ever campsite salvage at Lost Village festival in 2020. On the back of a successful first year, we pitched our tent-hire service to them, and after two years this has grown exponentially. The team that runs the event has been great in terms of supporting and helping to grow and advertise the service, and they are seeing some great results in terms of recycling figures and a reduction in carbon emissions. Everything salvaged from Download will be sold in our shop there.

Tent Waste

Dean Betts formed Circular Camping in 2013, looking for a niche within the camping industry. He is motivated to find practical, professional solutions to drive down camping waste. As the business continues to expand, he is looking forward to working with more like-minded people within the industry who want to take sustainability at their events to the next level. www.circularcamping.com

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