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Shambala is committed to being single-use plastic free and, at this point, we’re pretty much there!

No drinks are sold in disposable plastics, we have only reusable bar cups across the festival and there are no plastic straws. No food is served in plastic and you won’t find single sachet sauces. We encourage Shambalans to bring their own reusable hot cups, and charge a 50p levy per drink for disposable hot cups – which goes towards getting them properly recycled. We do not sell or encourage plastic glitter, and we are now even using reusable cable ties. Find out about the initiatives that have helped us to achieve this below, and if you want to dive into the plastic issue click HERE to find out the facts, why and how we are doing this, and how successful we have been so far.


Rather than focusing on trying to recycle more plastics, which isn’t really a solution for a number of reasons, we are designing them out of the festival ecosystem through three key initiatives.


Since 2014, we have had a site-wide ban on the sale of drinks in plastic bottles, instead asking our audiences to bring a reusable bottle. We have put in additional water points, offer free chilled filtered water at the bars and work with Frank Water who have a mobile hydration unit.

We also have our own beautiful, Shambala-branded stainless steel bottles available, with donations from each on site sale going to either FRANK Water or the Bansang Hospital Appeal. Our bottles are manufactured by RAW Foundation, an organisation who do incredible work tackling the single use plastic problem. These bottles can also be ordered in advance of the festival and picked up on arrival. Order yours HERE.


Rather than disposable plastic or paper cups, we operate a reusable bar cup system. People pay a one-off £1 levy when they buy their first drink and then get a fresh cup when they return their cup (or a token) to the bar. After the festival all the dirty cups are taken to an industrial washing facility to be cleaned and reused for other events. Many lifecycle analyses find that reusable plastic bar cups used 3 times have a lesser environmental impact than a typical single-use cup despite the transportation and washing impacts.


Research suggests 5 billion cardboard cups are used once and not recycled in the UK each year, equating to over half a million trees worth of source materials. Your brown, cardboard cup may look all earthy and recyclable, but it reality it isn’t, due to the polymer lining. With an estimated 30,000 cardboard cups used at Shambala alone, we started out own mini-revolution in 2017. If you purchase a hot beverage on site at Shambala, you’ve got two options:

1. Bring your own reusable cup or mug from home – plastic, bamboo or metal (no ceramic or glass for safety reasons please!)

2. Buy a beautiful Shambala Bamboo Ecoffeee cup in advance to pick up on arrival (or onsite from any cafe serving hot drinks while stocks last). You can pre-order yours now, under ‘Additional Items’ on our ticket page HERE.


Those that use choose to pay the levy and use a disposable coffee cup are charged a levy on each cup, and use the dedicated bins, so we can capture the disposable cups and get them properly recycled* at one of the few plants in the country that offer this service. Cups that go in the wrong bin are not able to be recycled properly – so we were very pleased to capture 12,000 cups from the dedicated bins this year – an increase of over 50% on last year.

(* most recycling plants are not able to recycle cardboard coffee cups, due to a sneaky polymer lining). 

Read more about why we’re doing this, HERE.

Plastic Free – to bring or not to bring

With Shambala now mostly being a disposable plastic free zone, we’re left looking at how to tackle the last fiddly and awkward bits: menstrual products, glitter and cable ties. In reverse order.

Can we build a festival without traditional cable ties? We’re going to try.

Finally – the last frontier in our quest to become entirely plastic free, is working with you lovely lot, to try and get you not bringing any plastic onto the festival site. We know it’s tricky, but please have a go – see if you can avoid bringing any plastic with you, or at least reduce wherever you can. Check out the Plastic Free Festival Guide HERE.


A festival without glitter?  Sorry glitter junkies, we have to accept that microplastics on our land or in waterways is a problem. And the jury is out on biodegradable glitters too, as there’s no evidence that these are much better, yet. If you’re dead set on facial decoration, we recommend cracking out the face paints or  or even making a mask. If you must use glitter, please use make up remover and a cotton pad (not a wet wipe – but that’s a whole different conversation) to wipe it off, and put it in a ‘general waste’ bin, so it doesn’t contaminate recyclable materials.


We’ve put a lot of effort into eradicating pointless plastics and waste at Shambala. One of the last frontiers for us is looking at the sustainability of the (amazing) carnival costumes you lot put together. This year, we’re challenging everybody – ourselves included – to create their costumes using second hand/recycled/reusable materials – and to avoid buying plastic tat that is worn once and chucked in the bin. We really hope you all take us up on this challenge, and can’t wait to see what epic creations you have up your sleeves. You can read our blog on cutting the crap out of costumes, HERE.


Let’s talk menstrual products. Whilst we are aware that some will think a festival has no right to instruct people on what menstrual products they choose to use, we can’t be fully disposable plastic-free without at least starting a conversation about this. Hundreds of people have their periods while at the festival. In 2018, we encouraged all those who have periods to, if possible, choose plastic free menstrual products. They’re better for the planet, and better for your health. Download a free information sheet about the various plastic-free products on the market, HERE.

Being on your period at a festival isn’t fun – we’re trying to ease the discomfort with our dedicated venue (The Red Sea Travel Agency – on hand to help you with your monthly trip!) Puns aside, this is a calm and comfy chill out space with dedicated toilets, hot water for your moon cup and hot water bottles for those that need them. This is also an information hub for those that want to find out more about ditching plastics from their periods.