This weekend I was at the Exmouth Festival, a week long celebration of local music and culture. From what I saw it is a brilliant mix of local amateur groups, local professional bands and community activities. With the sunshine warming the air everyone had smiles on their faces and the park venue was covered with happy picnicking families all afternoon and well into the night.
When I arrived early the next morning (some of us were working the bank holiday!) I was quite shocked to see the park absolutely covered in litter. I expected some rubbish but not the huge amount of plastic bags, beer bottles, plastic bottles and other debris strewn around on the grass. I was so shocked I took a picture.
It amazes me that even with many well placed bins around at the festival so many people had just dumped their litter. Especially because most visitors lived only streets away and could have easily taken their rubbish home. Local people who wanted to enjoy a quiet morning stroll or jog through their favourite park must have been disappointed and if it were my local green spot it would definitely put me off supporting another festival. Thankfully, a lovely group of festival volunteers quickly appear and with incredible speed and efficiency cleared away all the rubbish, replaced bin liners, tidied flower borders and checked the whole site was safe for another day's fun in the sun.
Three things struck me about the festival and it's rubbish. The first was how fantastic the volunteers were. Many had been at the festival the night before, with little sleep in between, and I doubt many were thanked by visitors as all the clearing up was done well before anyone else arrived. But they still turned up with smiles and cleaned up their park, and it was lovely to see the pride local people took in caring for their local area and the effort they go to in making this annual event a success.
The second thing I noticed was there were no recycling bins on site, only general waste ones. Since people didn't seem to manage to take their rubbish to any bin I don't know if recycling bins would have helped but I do hate the idea of so much rubbish just going to landfill. What I hope happened is that all the waste (mostly glass, plastic and cardboard) was sorted somewhere else, and will be recycled back into the system anyway. Having recycling bins might not have encouraged more people to dispose of their waste, but it would have been a good opportunity to raise awareness of recycling in the local community.
The last thing I noticed was that people seem to forget their normal habits when out and about. many families that visited the festival during the day took their rubbish home, perhaps people lots of people could see what they did and how they left the grass for other picnickers. But when it turned to evening people just didn't seem to bother. I would be amazed if all those festival goers just threw rubbish on the floor normally, in fact I bet most of them recycle, so why didn't they clean up after themselves at the festival? Maybe it's something to do with other people being in charge, and the assumption that other people will tidy up afterwards too. Whatever the reason it makes me sad that so many local people are happy to just dump their rubbish for someone else to deal with in their lovely local park.
I'm going to lots of festivals this summer, and I'll be interested to see whether people clear up after themselves, if there is recycling and what the atmosphere is like. It also means that my blog might be a little less regular than normal, but I hope you'll keep reading and enjoying them when they appear!