Four UK music festivals are introducing reverse vending machines for plastics

Reading and Leeds, Download, and Latitude festivals will all launch a deposit and return scheme trial with Co-op

Festivals are going green this summer – and plastic is facing a battle to stay on the bill.

Supermarket Co-op is leading the way, becoming the first UK retailer to launch a deposit and return scheme trial with reverse vending machines at four of the UK’s biggest events.

Revellers will be able to buy plastic bottles with a mandatory discount at pop-up stores at Download, Latitude and Reading and Leeds festivals this summer, receiving a voucher to spend at on-site stores when they return them.

All the bottles returned in the landmark trial then be recycled and introduced back into creating Co-op’s own brand bottled water.

Co-op plastic vending machines
Could these vending machines change how plastic is used at the nation's favourite events?

Jo Whitfield, retail CEO, Co-op, said: “Reducing the amount of plastic that makes its way to landfill is really important to us and our members. I’m excited that, in partnership with Live Nation and Recycling Options, we have the opportunity to bring these machines to the UK only a few months after they were officially given the green light by the government.”

The move, in collaboration with Festival Republic, is the latest indication that plastic is on the way out after Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II documentary inspired the tide to turn against the material in order to save the oceans.

Theresa May has pledged a crackdown while the government has also turned to the Premier League to slash the number of single-use plastics used at major sporting events.


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The biggest festival in the country, Glastonbury, could be set to follow suit when it returns next year. Founder Michael Eavis will be able to see first-hand how to go about it when he speaks at arts, faith and justice weekender Greenbelt in August.

The Northamptonshire festival has worked hard to all kinds of single-use plastics and will this year will be offering alternatives to plastic bottles, beer cups, straws, food packaging and utensils (all of which will be fully compostable).

“We worked out that if everyone who comes to our festival this year stops using single-use plastic bottles by the next festival there were will be two million less plastic bottles in the UK, based on average usage of 150 plastic water bottles by a person in a year,” said Greenbelt event director Mary Corfield.

And she insists that the habits picked up at summer celebrations can make a real difference when revellers return home to face their everyday lives.

“As festivals we create an alternative reality for people for a few days,” she said.

“We think it’s important that that new reality is better than the one they’re already in. By exposing people to new ideas and concepts and new products we can have an impact on festivalgoers who are paying attention to what’s around them, whereas in their day-to-day lives they’re busy with work and looking after their children and maybe they don’t have time to stop and think about these choices that they’re making.

“It can affect them when they go home.”

Make sure you’re fully prepared for the summer’s festivities with The Big Issue Festival Special, available from The Big Issue Shop here.