It is almost summer music festival season in Europe - the chance to get out of the house, camp with friends, enjoy music, the great outdoors and partying. The problem comes on those Monday mornings though. You might feel hungover, but the field fares even worse. Before we even get into the problem of litter and non-recyclable packaging, the biggest environmental challenge is all those tents. Many cheap ones simply get left behind. Why? Laziness perhaps, or maybe the tent is simply not fit for purpose and has failed to last the weekend, so campers choose to simply abandon it and buy a new one next time. This means the canvas, plastics and metal are discarded and become an ecological problem.
Now a Dutch startup reckons they have solved the problem. Kartent estimates 25% of tents are left behind at festivals, and that adds up to 25,000 per year in The Netherlands alone. The company, based on the outskirts of Amsterdam, has perfected a recyclable cardboard tent. It comes flat-packed and is erected at festivals and once finished can be turned into cardboard boxes. They claim it is waterproof and it can also be customised with felt tip pens, so you can recognise your temporary home when you're stumbling back through the campsite. Kartent's tents will be popping up at big European festivals like Garorock in France, Balaton Sound in Hungary and Rockfest in Finland. You can also shell out 54 EUR and have one delivered to your home for your next eco camping trip into the wilderness. Here, Kartent designer and CEO Jan Portheine talks to Euronews about this innovation.
Tell us why tents are bad for the environment.
“Tents are not bad, it's the poor quality ones which are. Some manufacturers and distributors distribute very cheap poor quality tents for young people which won't last three or more uses. This has developed into the very serious problem that we see now at music festivals with tents just left after the festival. People who attend and camp are blamed – everyone says they are lazy for ditching their tents but the product itself is the problem. The EU should ban the sales of cheap, poor quality tents.”
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And why are your tents good?
"We make our KarTents from locally sourced natural materials. They don't travel far before use and once used we cut them into new cardboard products ourselves in our warehouse. We try to offer them as a budget option with the luxury of being set up. So why choose a poor quality one when you have to set it up yourself?"
Are they mainly for music festivals? Which ones use them?
"Yes – our full list of partners includes Sziget and Melt, and here are the others. But we also use them for weddings, scouts' camps, regular camping, sport events etc."
How waterproof are cardboard tents really?
"The answer is at least nine days but it depends on extreme weather and usage."
Are they light enough to carry and transport?
"No, they are 13kg - but the package is 2.40x0.80x0.08m. That is why we offer them pre-pitched."
Could we make houses or other buildings from cardboard do you think?
"Yes! For my graduation I designed a cardboard beach house."
Is the environment important to your company?
"Yes, very much. Although we try to force people to choose to be 'for the environment' themselves by offering a better, more fun or cheaper option."
Words: Chris Beanland