Single-use ‘tent trash’ looms over festival season

As Glastonbury festival gets underway, our new research reveals that 70% of people who have bought a tent admit they have used it just once. Looking ahead, over half (52%) admit they are likely to buy a tent and use it for just one event, such as a festival, suggesting that polyester tents are the single-use plastic everyone is overlooking. 

According to estimates, about 250,000 tents made of polymer-based nylon or polyester are abandoned annually, leading to the creation of 'tent trash' fields and contributing to 900 tonnes of waste. This ultimately results in the generation of more single-use plastic. Our research revealed that 18% of adults consider tents as the worst single-use plastic item for the environment. Despite this, 19% of tent owners have never thought about the environmental impact of tents. 

We have worked with EnviroTent, a company that designs cardboard tents, to address this pressing issue. Together, we have created a 100% recyclable cardboard tent, which could be a game-changer in the fight against 'tent trash'. Tayla Evans, the founder of EnviroTent, is urging festival organisers to consider using cardboard camping to help end 'tent trash.'  

The UK festival scene is an annual source of single-use plastic pollution. That is something people feel uncomfortable about. It should be guilt-free and fun. I would love festival organisers to think about how we can help festival goers avoid tent trash.

Tayla Evans
Managing Director and Founder of EnviroTent

Contrary to common assumptions about cardboard, the EnviroTent is resilient – shown by withstanding four weeks outside in the winter. It is also warmer when it is cold and cooler when it is hot – thanks to the corrugated cardboard insulation. It also blocks out light and is quieter than polyester tents. 

The image shows a tent made out of cardboard. It is being used for events. There is a woman inside the cardboard tent, opening the doors and looking outside.

When an EnviroTent reaches the end of its life and the festival clean-up begins, the tents are collated and recycled into something new, such as boxes. 

Festivals are at the heart of British summertime. We've all seen the shocking images of the aftermath: abandoned polyester tents. Most people may not know that the tents are very hard to recycle and can lurk in the ground for up to 200 years.

Paul Clarke
Managing Director for the UK & Ireland Packaging Division at DS Smith

"We are used to replacing plastic from supermarket shelves, but in creating cardboard tents, we're talking about something completely different – we shifted the way we thought about design in order to protect a person, not a product. When we met Tayla, we knew that cardboard could have a different and really important role to play in replacing plastic and reducing tent trash, and we are really excited for the difference we can make together so people can create less waste and have a guilt-free festival."