Festivals take their toll on the environment. This much we know. For many years now we have made efforts to run our Werchter festivals with greater sustainability in mind. In the 2006/2007 season, when Yourope, the association of European festivals, launched their Green & Clean guidelines for greener festivals, Rock Werchter was among the first to claim the label. Greener enterprise is a must. Greener festivals are within the realms of possibility. We do our level best in the areas of water treatment, waste recycling and mobility. We go all out for green energy, and we've reduced our dependence on fossil fuels year on year. With every year, our festivals are getting greener.
Smart travel, green travel
In association with public transport companies SNCB and De Lijn, Rock Werchter offers a free train e-ticket for anyone who buys a ticket to the festival. A free return to the festival by train or bus. Festival goers can take the train to Leuven or Aarschot station. From there, De Lijn takes them by shuttle bus to Werchter. Our partners De Lijn are even going a step further in aid of the green cause. They lay on hybrid buses and buses with diesel filters. During Werchter Boutique and TW Classic, festival goers can make use of public transport for a small additional charge. NMBS provides night trains to ensure people get home once the one-day festivals have ended.
We encourage festival goers, crew and volunteers to come to Werchter by bicycle. Bikes can be safely parked free of charge in the bike stands close to the Festival Park. Another one of our smart solutions is the park & bike scheme operated at car parks within cycling distance of Werchter. Festival goers can use these car parks for free. They use (their own) bikes to complete the final leg of the trip to Werchter.
Reducing the mountain of waste
From paper and cups to plastic wrappers and food scraps, waste is collected selectively on the festival grounds. We aim to reduce the mountain of refuse and dispose of it efficiently. We are taking action. In tandem with SUEZ Environment, the sustainable waste management and recycling specialists, we operate a system of waste processing and recycling. We share a vision, in which our management of waste means more than just collecting and disposing of the festival's refuse. It is just as important to sort it on the festival site prior to recycling. The central tenet of the circular model is that waste be re-designated as a secondary raw material. In 2018, across all of our festivals, we collected a total of 6 tons of plastic film, 25 tons of beer cups, 16 tons of PMD (mostly PET bottles) and 26 tons of paper and cardboard. The PP cups, PET bottles, plastic film, paper and cardboard were recycled. The remainder was used to fuel (waste burning) power stations, which deliver electricity to many households.
At the Festivalpark there are many sorting islands, with recycling and waste bins at the disposal of the festivalgoers. Signage has been improved. Festivalgoers are asked to sort cups, bottles and landfill in the right bin. Our eco team helps keeping the Festivalpark clean.
We are working hard to rid our festivals of plastics. In the Festival Park, drinks are served in PP cups and PET bottles. Yes, those are plastics and no, this is not in itself a 'poor' solution. It is because we are so big on collection and recycling. The free drink voucher for every 20 cups or bottles is a low-threshold and extremely successful rule. The waste fractions we collect are high in purity. Along with our waste management partner and drinks suppliers we are setting a benchmark for sustainability and responsibility. Our caterers have moved away from single-use plastics: the plates are cardboard, the forks wooden, we have a zero-tolerance of plastic straws. Backstage and in our hospitality areas the drinks are served in glass. Crew, volunteers and artists have access to cool, fresh water on tap.
It is no secret. We would love our campsites to be clean and tidy on Monday morning. But, for the most part, that comes down to the festival goers. On arrival, campers are given one bag for refuse and one for PMD. When full, these bags can be left at the waste collection points, either during or after the festival. Campers can collect an extra bag if they need one. Tents are something of a sore point. Every year, hundreds are left behind. The average tent weighs 3.5 kg and is mostly made of ...plastic. Festival goers could take positive action here and reduce their ecological footprint by taking their tents home and reusing them. We've noticed that a lot of perfectly edible food is thrown away or left behind when the campsite is vacated, and here too we've decided to take action. We have invited the food banks to come in and set up collection points for leftover food in every comfort zone in The Hive.
Unique in the festival world: on-site water treatment plan
The sanitary facilities were upgraded in 2015. The Festivalpark is equipped with vacuum toilets. Festivalgoers are able to use the toilets in comfort. Vacuum toilets look like a normal toilet, complete with porcelain bowl. They are easy to keep clean. There is barely an unpleasant odour. It is possible to have good sanitary facilities in a festival environment. The sanitary blocks are also fitted with vacuum urinals. The vacuum toilets consume less than a litre of water per flush. The wastewater from the toilets is collected in buffer tanks and transported to Aquafin, where it is treated. The septic material from the - (still) chemical - toilets at The Hive is also taken to Aquafin. The local water treatment plant, which came into service in 2014, built in collaboration with Waterleau, continues to operate. The waste water from the kitchens and showers backstage and The Hive are collected in the holding basins and treated organically on site.
More reusable energy, fewer fossil fuels
The energy story deserves special attention. With the creation of the park, the Festivalpark recently acquired a power transformer. This allows us to use green energy on the mains network. Much of the backstage activities now rely on green energy from the first day of assembly. The diesel generators haven't gone away. But now we have fewer than ever before. And we’re smarter about how we use them. By combining them in power plants we need less in the way of energy. And that means lower fuel consumption. We save even more by fitting high output lighting. Areas which are more difficult to reach and do not require permanent power are equipped with hybrid solutions. With our partner, The Powershop, we are constantly looking for more sustainable resources.
Our approach is paying off. Compared to 2014, fuel consumption at our festivals has fallen by 19%. We use 0.26 litres of diesel per festivalgoer per day. A fantastic result. A study has shown that, on average, comparable European festivals consume 0.38 litres per festivalgoer per day.
A more sustainable purchase policy
We have also been looking at our purchasing policy. Wherever possible, we buy local. We always choose the sustainable option. When artists have special requests in their riders, we offer local and/or sustainable alternatives.
Go Green, Rock Werchter!
Are we doing well? Yes. Could we do better? Of course. Are we going for green, sustainable festivals? Absolutely. We are working on it. We are learning. We are looking into it. Our festivals must become more sustainable in (the near) future, and they will be. That's our promise. This year, we are paying special attention to awareness-raising. The ‘Go Green, Rock Werchter’ video gives a clear and quick overview of what we do and what we expect of our festival goers. In the run-up to the festivals, a series of short videos provides tips for a greener Werchter.