Yesterday a new city was created in Denmark. It has around 100.000 inhabitants and is the 4th largest city in the little Nordic Kingdom. Two days ago the city didn’t exist. All you could see was a plain field. Now the area has a population density higher than Singapore and Hong Kong, but instead of skyscrapers made of steel and glass, the area is full of colorfull tents. The existence of the temporary tent city is due to the Roskilde Festival, the largest music festival in Scandinavia. Every year it attracts more than 120.000 music loving visitors and most of these people camp on the festival area in the 8 days that the festival last. Many people bring speakers to their camp, so they can party in the four warmup days. But due to the lack of access to electricity, wireless speakers with rechargeable batteries are not well suited for the purpose, as there is nowhere to recharge the batteries. Instead people either do like the guy on the photo and bring a ghettoblaster that runs on disposable batteries or they make special home made festival speakers that run on car batteries.
Unfortunately people doesn’t always bring the speakers with them back home. An investigation made by students from the Technical University of Denmark in 2012 shows that a lot of electronic waste is created at Roskilde Festival. It is estimated that a total of 14 tons of electronic waste is created during the festival. Around 9,5 tons come from batteries and the rest is from different kinds of electronic equipment, mainly lamps and speakers. Only a minor fraction of the electronic waste is being sorted and handled in a appropriate way. The majority lays on the ground at the end of the festival and end up being incinerated.
The picture below is taken by me in 2011 on last day of Roskilde Festival and it shows how a young man who throws a ghettoblaster to the ground. Probably the man bought a cheap music player, because he knows that a festival is a though environment and there is a risk of theft and damage. Maybe the ghettoblaster was broken og else he just didn’t found that it was worth bringing the cheap equipment back home.
There is no reason to believe that Roskilde Festival should be fundamentally different than music festivals elsewhere in Europe. So in total there is a serious environmental problem. I estimate that around 250.000 people in Denmark go to music festivals with camping each year, which is around 4% of the total population. This is probably higher than the European average, but if we estimate that 2% of the population in average visit a music festival and the results from the Roskilde Festival is representative then 1400 tons electronic waste is created at music festivals in the European Union each year. And a large fraction of this is speakers and batteries from speakers. This number is based on a lot of assumptions, and has a high uncertainty, but even if the amount was only half of that, it clearly shows that there is a potential for designing a better and more circular solution for this problem.