The Green Side of the Isle of Wight Festival

Much was made this year of the greener aspects of the IW Festival, though this largely seemed to consist of advice that it was possible to hire a bike and cycle from the ferry to the site. With this in mind it would have been handy to identify on the festival map where bikes could be safely left for the duration.

I can’t comment on the camp site, but there was the usual bike rack tucked away at the festival’s Medina High School entrance. I was there early each day so never had a problem finding a free space, but late arrivals would have been pushed. And that always leads to the fear that someone is going to double up on the spaces and chain your bike to their own. In short, the festival needs more bike racks, more clearly identified, and more clearly promoted.

As posted earlier, I initially cycled from Freshwater where I live to friends at Wootton, some 15 miles. On festival days I cycled in along the old railway line that picks up from the Havenstreet steam railway, joins the footpath/cycle route at the crematorium, and then conflicts with pedestrians all along Racecourse to the festival site. It takes just under 15 minutes – walking last year late at night took the best part of an hour, so cycling makes sense.

None of the marshals had the faintest idea where the bike racks were, and there was even one sign pointing in the wrong direction. It wouldn’t have taken much to pass on this information in their pre-event briefing.

On site, paper cup recycling was very much in evidence, with the sensible 10p refund per cup returned to points by the bars. Not everyone, of course, could be bothered, and plenty of enterprising young children made minor fortunes over the weekend by scavenging the ground and bins. I thought there was definitely a cup shortage on the ground this year, so the initiative in part worked, and probably accounted for the bottle-only barrage during The Kooks’ set on Sunday. It’s at time like that you simply hope for the best that the resulting shower of liquid is only beer or water…

Purple bins were marked for plastic bottles; red for mixed recyclables: both were used indiscriminately. The best initiative would be to match the cup-collection plan by having a similar one for bottles.

I approved of the wooden cutlery in evidence at food stalls, and of Smooth Criminals’ plastic-free paper cups that were 100 per cent compostable. If the festival used the same compostable cups for beer and cider, rather than what appear to be the usual non-recyclable composite paper and plastic cups, then the cups wouldn’t have to go off to be burned.

The waste is largely off to the Island’s new waste-to-energy plant. This is laughably called recycling by the local authority, when what it actually means is that it minimises the impact of the materials on landfill. The waste-to-energy plant merely gets a second and final use out of materials that could otherwise be properly recycled by turning them into other items – such as turning PET bottles into fibre for weaving, for instance. Burning waste without first re-using it is not really recycling.

Finally, there was BT’s wind turbine for charging phones in its chill zone. If the blades turned all weekend, I’d be surprised. It was poorly sited on a low mast right next to trees on the river bank, whereas turbines actually need a clear site with as few objects as possible that create air turbulence. Solar energy using photovoltaic panels is a far better bet on the Island during the hours of light. I have both a turbine and PV panels at home, and I know which produces more usable energy in a built-up environment. A bank of solar panels would have been far more impressive.

Solo needs to take much of the above on board to make the festival truly green. However, the biggest battle will always be getting people who can’t be bothered to stick the right waste in the right bins. People who, filled with alcohol, can’t tell left from right and up from down…

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