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28th July 1997 - Jazz World Stage, Glastonbury Festival, England

It was very muddy.

Recycling : After the party

Richard Nelsson on Glastonbury's big clean-up

Wednesday July 23, 1997
The Guardian

For one wet and very muddy weekend in June, some 100,000 people ate, drank and partied around the tented city that was the Glastonbury Festival. In four days they created more than 360 tonnes of rubbish, much of it trampled into the thick mud, while great canal-like ruts were created as vehicles were dragged out of the mire.
The music fans are long gone from the site at Worthy Farm in Somerset, some with E-coli infections believed to be from the mud. Four weeks on and the land is only just becoming clean enough for the farm's 270 organically-reared Friesians to be allowed back on.

Some fields have a post-apocalyptic look, with bonfire smoke drifting over chairs and crates embedded in the ground. John Fletcher, a neighbour of the farm, claimed in the Guardian letters page that the site is in 'ecological ruin', silent of birdsong. But Michael Eavis, who has organised the festival for 27 years and farmed Worthy Farm for the last 40 , laughs off any such doomsday scenario: 'Of course there was a huge amount of rubbish. And because it was mixed in with the mud, it has taken longer to pick up. It usually takes a month, then we re-levelling and re-seed.' Driving around the farm - stopping to point out hawks and badgers' setts - Eavis says the clean-up begins during the festival. Greenpeace organises a recycling programme that includes sending paper to a pulping centre to be returned for next year's festival as toilet paper. The week after, things start in earnest, with 600 (down to 300 now) litter-pickers scouring the fields in a pounds 100,000 operation. The rubbish is taken to a local reclamation facility, while a small amount is burned on the site.

Despite the cleanup, surely the land suffers? Eavis just smiles and heads for the field that was the jazz stage but has now been dubbed 'World War 3' because of the mess. He enthuses about how, despite thousands of people shuffling around to the likes of Massive Attack, the ancient drainage system survives. 'The field is a classic example of the medieval ridge and furrow system. They're very rare and if damaged we reinstate them.' In another field it is hard to tell that a single reveller ever crossed it. Here a tractor pulls the 'metal-sweeper' - a set of magnets - over the grass. In the end, Eavis admits, the bulk of the rubbish has to be picked up by hand. This task falls mainly to a dreadlocked army of travellers who get pounds 20, three meals and a daily hot shower. They 'nit-pick' everything on the 800-acre site down to the last cigarette butt. It is hard, dirty work. 'The worst aspect is picking up bags of human shit and maggot-infested meat,' says Sarah, 23. 'The best bit is 'tatting' - finding tents, money and lumps of dope the punters leave behind.' Some of the litter-pickers are disappointed that there isn't more recycling. Jools, a veteran of several clean-ups, says: 'This year has been a nightmare. Because everything was covered in mud, the recyclers wouldn't accept it.' Concern over burning plastics on the site had led to them getting this halted.

The problem for Eavis is balancing calls to recycle everything and the need to get his cows back on to the land. As farm smells begin to replace those of the rubbish tip, Eavis jokes about inviting his critics to a party on September 1, the day the process will be finished: 'We'll let the people decide.'