How Roskilde’s guests control waste while getting wasted

Since the 1990s, Roskilde Festival has been focused on making the event as sustainable as possible, and this year is no different.

How Roskilde's guests control waste while getting wasted
Photo: Kristian Ridder-Nielsen

Roskilde Festival is a spectacle that must be seen to be believed. Some 130,000 people from all over the world descend upon a small town west of Copenhagen for eight days of unbridled festivities.

This mass influx turns a field into Denmark’s fourth largest city for a week. With those sheer numbers compressed into such a small space, Roskilde also brings with it serious challenges in the form of waste and sustainability.

For decades, Roskilde Festival has been striving to minimize its environmental impact. This year is no different, as the festival is aiming to improve its cleaning, recycling and sustainability efforts even more in 2016.

This year's edition improves upon a number of environmental issues, one of which is a target to reduce the CO2 emissions by up to 20 percent. To that end, organisers have turned to the sun, a somewhat infrequent guest during the festivities. With a generator system using solar cells to help power the party,  there is even more of a reason for festival-goers to appreciate the sun’s scattered appearances.

Feeding the huge volumes of people at Roskilde has been an area that organisers have tried to make as environmentally friendly as possible each year. The festival contains over 120 food stalls that help ply guests with over 200 tonnes of food. This year, the required percentage of organic ingredients has been increased from 45 to 75 percent. In 2017, that will be increased even further to 90 percent.

The 'Clean Out Loud' area capacity has been increased by 2000 more campers this year. Photo: Christopher Manion

One of the most successful initiatives at the festival has been the ‘Clean Out Loud’ camping area. The camp has been increased from 5,000 inhabitants to a staggering 7,600 this year, appealing to like-minded eco-conscious individuals who come together to promote sustainability as a communal effort.

This includes bringing a little bit of competition to the waste-management game, with the campers pitted against each other for the 'best bin'. 

Roskilde regular Maja from Odense is one of many campers staying in the 'Clean Out Loud' area. She enthusiastically told The Local that their camp's bin represents their stance on waste and the satisfaction in knowing she would be surrounded by like-minded people. 

“We made our special bin to represent how we feel about recycling, it's a big smiley face and that's how we feel when we help the environment by recycling: We love Mother Earth! We had to write an application to stay here, so we were happy to know we would be around people like us,” she said. 

29-year-old Morten from Copenhagen is here for the 12th year in a row and this is his first year in the 'Clean Out Loud' area. 

“We decided to stay in the 'Clean Out Loud' area because we feel a little too old for the mess and craziness of some camping sites in Roskilde. It's great here and we all appreciate the tidiness of this area”, Morten said. 

Trash Poll: Favourite position, doggy or missionary? Morten's camp sexing up waste disposal since 2016. Photo: Christopher Manion

Taking a walk around the area it is clear sustainability can take many wondrous forms, furthermore showcasing how it is not just the efforts made by organisers that make a difference, but also the efforts of individual attendees.

Roskilde has also introduced the ReAct campaign, 11 waste recycling stations where festival-goers can drop off everything from air mattresses and car batteries to cardboard with a clean conscious, knowing that the materials will be either recycled or 'upcycled' into new resources after the festival.

One of the ReAct waste centres. Photo: Kristian Ridder-Nielsen
One of the ReAct waste centres. Photo: Kristian Ridder-Nielsen

Those familiar with festivals will be fully aware that a fair amount of alcoholic beverages are consumed. With this comes the issue of thousands of empty bottles and cans scattered across the festival, quite an unsavoury sight.

While the hordes of deposit collectors are once again out in full force, there is also a new 'Super Refund Stall' initiative to help smooth out the process. The two 'super stalls' allow collectors to drop off more than 100 items a time and also accepts cans and bottles that are not part of the Danish deposit system. 

This allows a significant increase in recycling, especially when considering the sheer volume of drinks brought in from outside of Denmark, whether via the Danes' fondness for bulk-buying cheap beers on the German border or the thousands of guests arriving from other Nordic countries.


Denmark’s summer music festival hopes fade

The possibility of large-scale music festivals taking place in Denmark this summer has been described as “unrealistic” following the publication of expert recommendations for coronavirus-safe events.

Denmark’s summer music festival hopes fade
The Roskilde Festival during the glorious summer of 2018. Photo: Sofie Mathiassen/Ritzau Scanpix

Music events such as the Roskilde Festival, the largest of its kind in northern Europe, would not be able to take place as normal and must be without overnight guests under the recommendations, submitted in report form by an expert advisory group to the government on Friday.

The group, appointed as part of the national reopening plan, was tasked with looking at how festivals and other large events can take place this summer.

The recommendations will provide the basis political discussions which will form an agreement over large events which will be integrated into the reopening plan.

READ ALSO: Denmark enters new phase of reopening plan: Here’s what changed on April 21st

Seven various scenarios, including one for outdoors, standing events, were considered by the expert group in forming its recommendations. Two phases have been set down for eased restrictions on large events, which are currently banned due to the public assembly limit.

In the final phase of the restrictions towards the end of the summer, a maximum of 10,000 people would be permitted to attend an event. All attendees would be required to present a valid corona passport, and audiences would be split into sections of 2,000.

Although that could provide a framework for some events to take place, Roskilde Festival, which normally has a total of around 130,000 guests and volunteers including sprawling camping areas, appears to be impossible in anything resembling its usual format.

The festival was also cancelled in 2020.

Roskilde Festival CEO Signe Lopdrup, who was part of the expert group, said the festival was unlikely to go ahead should it be required to follow the recommendations.

“Based on the recommendations, we find it very difficult to believe it is realistic to organise festivals in Denmark before the end of the summer,” Lopdrup said in a written comment to broadcaster DR.

The restrictions would mean “that it is not possible to go ahead with the Roskilde Festival. That’s completely unbearable. But that’s where we’ve ended,” she added.

The news is potentially less bleak for other types of event with fewer participants, with cultural and sporting events as well as conferences also included in the recommendations submitted by the group.

Parliament has previously approved a compensation scheme for major events forced to cancel due to coronavirus measures this summer.