Festivals across Europe have shown “significant areas of improvement” in their sustainability efforts, a new survey has discovered.

Non-profit A Greener Future (AGF) scrutinised data on mobility, food and drink, water and sanitation, power and fuel use, waste and recycling, and carbon emissions at more than 40 European festivals in 2023.

Particular highlights include an increase in bans on single-use plastic serveware (increasing from 54% in 2022 to 75% in 2023) and a reduction in average waste per person per day from 0.75 kg to 0.5 kg. More have also gone fully vegan or vegetarian.

It also found festivals that moved to a fully meat-free event reduced their food-related emissions by over 60% on average.

Water use increased at both urban and rural camping festivals, significantly at the latter, with an average of 26 ltrs pppd (per person per day), up from 19 ltrs pppd in 2022. 

It said the increase could be due to various factors, however, it does align with the hottest summer on record, recorded in summer 2023. 

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The survey also noted that while an increasing number of festivals are switching to renewable fuels such as HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil), it highlighted that, although considered renewable, these fuels still generate emissions and air pollution. 

Reducing overall fuel use and improving the availability and affordability of hybrid, battery, and grid systems remains a key opportunity to decarbonise the sector, it added.

Claire O’Neill, AGF CEO, said: “It’s good to see improved understanding, data, and performance from events. We are seeing progress, but more still needs to be done to now additionally adapt to changing and more extreme weather.

“There is a huge opportunity for collaboration with other sectors such as transport, energy, water and food who all have targets for net zero and protecting ecosystems. New ways of doing things need dynamic and attractive platforms to reach people, which is what festivals are. 

“While progress is good, the background is changing, adversely – We’re on a path to net zero but the path just got steeper, so we need to keep upping our game.”

Last year, the EU banned glitter, with the plans set to target glitter made from non-biodegradable and insoluble plastic.

Circular economyClimate crisisFood and farmingHospitalityMaterials and packagingNature and the environmentNet zeroNewsPeoplePolicy

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