In 2001, the South West generated 2.6 million tonnes of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) and 5.1 million tonnes of Commercial & Industrial (C&I) waste (Environment Agency, 2000). Waste generated by tourists would be included in both of these waste streams. Data currently available does not allow for the identification of waste generated by tourists. For this study, an estimate on the quantities of waste generated by tourists was derived, based on the assumption that an average tourist in Europe generates approximately 1.2 kg of waste per bednight (CREM, 2000). By multiplying this figure by the number of bednights spent by tourists in the South West, it was estimated that tourists generated 119,977 tonnes of waste in 2001. South West waste management proportions were applied to tourist waste, giving us the base case for tourist waste generated in 2001 (see Table 2).

Table 2
Base case waste generated by tourists in the South West, by management type, in 2001
Waste management type Total waste (tonnes) % of total tourist waste
Total tourist accommodation waste 119,977 100%
of which …  
Landfilled 54,052 45%
Recycled 32,620 27%
Reused 5,783 5%
Composted 2,313 2%
Incinerated n/a n/a
Other* 25,232 21%
* Other includes unrecorded waste management such as fly tipping and illegal disposal. It could include some landfilled waste.
Note: Incinerated includes waste to energy.
Note: Totals may differ due to rounding.
Sources: CREM, 2000 and Environment Agency, 2000

The Glastonbury Festival

The Glastonbury Festival is the largest greenfield music and performing arts festival in the world. Every June, for three days, a crowd of 150,000 pack a 900 acre site near Pilton village in Somerset.

Effective waste management practices have become a part of the event, and in 2004, for the first time, 110 tonnes of organic waste was converted to compost and used on the local farm. Recycling has also been a key initiative, with the Festival's recycling centre increasing its collection of waste for recycling from 38 tonnes in 2002 to 410 tonnes in 2004. Plans are in place to reach a recycling target of 24% of all litter.

The Festival also promotes and uses sustainable disposable products, such as wood based cutlery which was turned into wood chip, and biodegradable rubbish bags, plates and drinks containers.

For further information on these initiatives, visit

Sources: Edie News, 2004 and Glastonbury Festival, 2004

Waste scenario 1: Recycling

What if 60% of all waste generated by tourists in the South West was recycled?

To derive this scenario, the following conditions were assumed:

  • Total tourist accommodation waste remains as base case (119,977 tonnes).
  • 60% recycling rate on all waste generated by the South West (University of Florida, undated).

Under these conditions, the volume of waste recycled would increase from 32,620 tonnes to 68,610 tonnes. The volume of waste sent to landfill would decrease from 54,050 tonnes to 18,060 tonnes.

Waste scenario 2: Recycling and waste minimisation

What if 60% of all waste generated by tourists in the South West was recycled, in conjunction with a waste minimisation campaign?

To derive this scenario, the following variables were assumed:

  • Total tourist accommodation waste reduces by 1.5% per year to 2020 (Thomas & Illes, 2004).
  • 60% recycling rate, and only 15% sent to landfill (as in Scenario 1).

By applying these assumptions, the volume of waste generated by tourists in the South West would decrease from 119,980 tonnes to 90,060 tonnes (25%), with 13,510 tonnes going to landfill.

Reduction of the ecological footprint

Figure 2 shows the tourism waste ecological footprint in the South West, for the 2001 base case and waste scenarios 1 and 2. Scenario 2 demonstrates the effectiveness of combining waste minimisation with increased recycling.

Figure 2
The tourism waste base case and scenario ecological footprints for the South West

fig 2