Splendour in the Grass 2022: Byron locals want festival cancelled over littering

Residents of Byron Bay and eco-conscious Splendour in the Grass patrons have criticised the amount of leftover rubbish left by festivalgoers, with calls for the event to be cancelled.

Over the weekend a total of 50,000 attendees (a 15,000 increase from the previous festival) descended on the Northern Byron Parklands for the three-day music event, while campers were homed at the Byron Events Farm.

However, as the thousands packed up and went home, one video shared to an unofficial event Facebook group showed the breadth of waste left by the festival campers.

Panning across the grounds, the field was littered with deflated tents, abandoned mattresses and other miscellaneous possessions groups had left behind.

“You guys are coming back to pick this up right?” they captioned the six-second video.

In the comments, people criticised the irresponsible attendees.

“Grubs,” one wrote.

Another commenter said the amount of rubbish left behind was an recurring issue.

“Every year there’s entire tents, Eskys, chairs and all sorts of perfectly usable equipment just dumped because grubs lack the brain cells to know how to pack it up or take it to the donation spots,” the comment read.

“I wish there was some sort of way to avoid this.”

The environmental backlash has led to some locals residents calling for the entire festival to be axed.

Comments in one Byron Bay community group called the event the “most unsustainable and unorganised festival ever”.

“In these times they shouldn’t be able to run it without some strict environmental guidelines.

But it’s all about the money … as usual,” the commenter claimed.

Another local said the festival rubbish had even made its way into Byron Bay’s town centre, 25km from the festival site.

“I notice there’s a trail of muddy shoes and gumboots around town this morning where people have ditched them in the gutters and on footpaths,” they wrote.

Responding to a photo of a pair of abandoned boots, they continued: “I saw a pair on the side of the road near the arts factory that looked like that.”

In another post, Northern Rivers farmer, Greens politician and environmental lawyer Sue Higginson said the community had fought against holding the festival at the North Byron Parklands, however the decision was overruled by the state government at the time.

“The land is the home of endangered ecological communities, 28 threatened species and is the site of significant aboriginal cultural heritage,” she wrote.

“The site of Splendour in the Grass is part of the most easterly significant wildlife corridor in Australia. It is the only intact corridor that connects the Gondwana Wollumbin ancient deep time forests to the unique subtropical coastal lowlands.

“Splendour in the Grass at North Byron is not a story of culture and art (while no doubt that has happened at times for some over the years). At its heart it is actually a story of mega money, environmental destruction and local community pain and suffering.”

This year’s Splendour in the Grass was marred by inclement weather, flooded and muddied festival grounds, and the cancellation of the event’s first day.

Campers leaving the festival on Monday, were also met with mass delays. One woman took to TikTok to document her escape after staff prevented her and her friend of leaving the campsite.

“We tried for like five hours yesterday and last night to get out of here … they’re just not letting us leave,” Hannah Patterson said.

“We paid to be here and it has been really horrible and we just want to leave but they’re not actually letting us go.”

In the aftermath of the event, the Byron Shire Mayor Michael Lyon said the wet weather was “somewhat predictable” given the recurrent flooding experienced in the region. He also criticised the state government decision to expand the festival’s capacity by 43 per cent.

“I was never really in favour of the increase, but it has nothing to do with us,” Mr Lyon told the ABC.

“Those approvals are run through the independent planning authority from the state government point of view.”

According to the festival’s website, organisers encourage punters to ride share and exercise sustainable environmental practices like only bringing essential equipment, separating their rubbish between compostable, recyclable and general waste bins and using reusable cups and BYO bottles.

The festival also donates all non-damaged camping goods and gear to Social Futures and Momentum Collective, which redistributes the items to disadvantaged people in the area.

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