Is Glastonbury Literally Crapping on the Environment?

(Glastonbury flooding, 2005)

Glastonbury bills itself as an eco-friendly, sustainable festival, an image that has resonated with music fans and artists alike.  But is it possible to preserve or sustain an environment — any environment — with nearly 200,000 are convening upon one location for several days?

And let’s face it, trampling, trashing, pissing and crapping on that spot, every single year?

According to critics of Glastonbury’s environmental record, the answer is no.  The Environment Agency has recently the festival of contaminating local waterways and severely damaging local, endangered brown trout populations, while pushing for a £300,000 ($427,830) fine for transgressions.

Glastonbury has pushed back on that demand, while downplaying the damage and pointing to slim profit margins.  Despite revenues of roughly £37 million ($52.8 million) last year, profits (before taxes) were a modest £84,000 ($120,000).

There are two major issues that have surfaced over the past two festivals, and both involve human excrement from attendees.  A major problem last year involved a large, leaky sewage tank, which dripped human wasted for 8 hours before being repaired.  That was described as a ‘freak accident’ by Glastonbury organizers, though the incident triggered contamination alerts created by the Environment Agency.  Levels of contaminants and ammonia sharply rose in the nearby Whitelake River, leading to a courtroom battle of exactly how much damage the issue caused.

A tank is a method for managing human waste, but that’s for people that are actually using waste facilities.  Perhaps the bigger issues is that large numbers of attendees are simply ‘springing a leak’ on the grounds, often while intoxicated.  That, according to organizer Emily Eavis, is the most serious threat the festival faces, with ‘Green Police’ being deployed to control the issue.  According to Eavis, uncontrolled urination may be the number one threat to the festival moving forward.

Then, there’s the endless problems caused by flooding and portable sanitation.  The images above, snapped by attendees at Glastonbury 2005, show constant threat of human waste mixing with the surrounding environment, especially waterways.

Meanwhile, Glastonbury is admitting some guilt and damage to the surrounding environment over the past two years, while downplaying the overall impact.  The festival has now offered this statement in response to the allegations:


“Throughout its long history, Glastonbury Festival has fully and publicly committed to sustaining and improving the environment where the Festival takes place, alongside a policy of reducing the impact of the Festival’s 200,000 attendees on the wider environment, particularly in regard to emissions, discharges, vehicle movements and noise pollution.

“The Festival has also worked closely with its major charity partners, Greenpeace, Oxfam and WaterAid, since the 1980s, to raise awareness of global environmental issues and highlight innovative and practical solutions.

“Regretfully however, during the last two Festivals (in 2014 and 2015) some pollution has unintentionally made it into the stream running through the site, due to issues including a faulty tank and through Festival goers urinating on the land.

“With the causes already identified and analysed, Glastonbury Festival continues to work with all stakeholders, including the Environment Agency, on ways to prevent and safeguard against any problems in the future.

“Substantial improvement work on the site’s infrastructure has already begun and will continue over the coming months.  At the same time, the Festival will again work rigorously with all of its contractors and staff to raise awareness of the environmental issues involved and the importance of preventing further incidents.

“Working alongside our charitable partners, these important messages about protecting the land will also be shared with the Festival’s ticket holders as we continue our work to reduce the Festival’s impact on the environment.”


Images (top to bottom):Rachel Docherty, Jay Gooby, and Mark Smith (CC by 2.0).

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