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Festivals Go Green

A selectinon of compostable cutlery - knives and forks

With tickets sold out since early this year, Electric Picnic, Ireland’s answer to Glastonbury, is the biggest festival of the year.  The event, which takes place in Stradbally, Co. Laois, is a mecca for festival goers of all ages but most predominantly 18–24 year olds.  That said, it’s just one of many festivals on a busy calendar with the Rose of Tralee, Fleadh Cheoil, Longitude, Lisdoonvarna and The Galway Races all contending for the top 10 spots of Irish festivals.

Festivals and events are crucial for Irish tourism growth as they attract more than 200,000 overseas visitors and contribute €108m to the economy every year.  Fáilte Ireland announced, as part of their plans for this year, intentions to grow the festival sector further with a view to increasing that figure to 300,000 by 2022.    

There have been huge changes in how festivals are run in recent years, with a greater focus on sustainability being at the forefront.  Festivals such as All Together Now, Body & Soul and Bloom banned plastic bottles, plastic glasses, plastic food packaging and single use coffee cups at their festivals in recent years.  All bars and food units at the events used fully compostable food ware when serving food and beverages to consumers. They also encourage consumers to dispose of their waste correctly in bins provided throughout festival sites, but it has been reported that organisers still feel there can be confusion over what is recyclable and what is not.

As you can imagine, the waste generated by festivals is astounding.  It is estimated that the average festival produces in excess of 50 tonnes of waste.  However, thanks to the changes in organisers’ viewpoints on sustainability, the amount of waste being recycled greatly exceeds that going to landfill.  From a recent survey carried out by the Irish Times, Body & Soul reported that in 2014, they sent 59 tonnes of mixed municipal waste to landfill and recycled 17 tonnes. In 2018, they made vast improvements with 50.46 tonnes being recycled and only 3.5 tonnes going to landfill.

The new EU Directive banning certain single-use plastics from 2021 will also have an impact on festivals this year and for the future.  As part of the new legislation, commonplace single-use plastics such as straws, plastic cutlery, plastic glasses and takeaway food containers made from expanded polystyrene (foam) are due to be banned.  A more recent addition to the hit list is products made from oxo-biodegradable material which were once thought to be helpful to the environment as they include an additive that helps plastic biodegrade in the open environment in the same way as nature’s waste, only quicker.

As a result of this impending legislation, foodservice vendors will need to ensure they are only using 100% compostable products for serving food and beverages at events.  But this doesn’t come without a price, as compostable products tend to be more expensive than their generic plastic or foam variants. In most cases 25% more expensive, a cost which will likely be passed onto the consumer.

To further help combat issues around the disposal of single-use packaging, a leading Irish packaging supplier to the foodservice and wholesale sectors is continuously expanding its Eco-Friendly Range.  Catering Disposables offers an extensive range of 100% compostable products which is growing by the week. Sharon Dowling, one of the Company Directors, reported that they have seen a huge shift in requests for disposable cups and takeaway products over the last two years.  “Up to two years ago, the majority of customers and consumers didn’t think twice about the plastic pint glasses, takeaway cups and containers that were being used for serving food and drinks at events and festivals. However, since the end of 2017, there has been an accelerated focus on becoming more environmentally friendly and we feel that this will only heighten with the new EU Legislation on Single-Use Plastics.  We have seen increases as high as 1400% for Quarter 1 2018 versus Quarter 1 2019 for certain eco-friendly products with a particular emphasis on coffee cups.

“The majority of the big brands that we supply to have also made the switch to 100% compostable cups in the past year or are in the midst of doing so.  We expect other compostable products such as juice cups, soup containers and corrugated takeaway boxes will become popular during this year, all of which we have in stock now.”

Catering Disposables supplies an extensive range of disposable products including a 100% compostable range.  They are also specialists in branding and design collaboration. For a tailored quotation or to speak to one of their packaging experts, call 01 257 5250 or visit

Encircle 360 Ltd T/A Food for Thought -, 59 Merrion Square, Dublin 2, Ireland.

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