Since 2022, our flagship festival, Shambala, has eliminated disposable cardboard hot drinks cups – instead, our audience and our crew bring their own reusable mugs with them.

The Brief

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 felt it was time to make a change.

The Shambala audience have been bringing their own water bottles for years, since the launch of our Bring A Bottle campaign, way back in 2013 – so we hoped they’d be up for bringing their own mugs as well!

The Process

Disposable hot drink cups are sneaky things. They look all earthy and cardboard and biodegradable, but they’re not – in fact, they are a nightmare to recycle properly, due to a sneaky polymer lining. In fact, there are only a few recycling plants in the country that are set up to recycle them at all.

We knew that if we just banned them outright and told everybody to bring their own, we’d end up with heaps of people forgetting, and being denied a brew, with our traders unable to make sales as they’d have nothing to serve it in. So, a staged, step by step process seemed wise, to really ingrain this behaviour change in our audience’s minds.

In year 1 of our Bring A Mug campaign, we advised our audience and our crew to bring their own reusables, but still offered disposable coffee cups. We charged a 25p levy, per disposable cup.

In year 2, we did the same, but increased the disposable cup levy to 50p her disposable cup.

And finally, in year 3, we got rid of them altogether, made sure we shouted about it, and told our audience repeatedly throughout the year (and repeatedly in the weeks leading up to the show) to bring their own mugs.

We continue to push the Bring a Mug message each year (to both audience and crew) to ensure anybody joining us for the first time doesn’t get caught short.



The Result

Each year, we’re removing about 30,000 hot drink cups from our waste streams and festival ecosystem – it also means our site is even tidier, with even less litter.

Our audience and crew are on board and engaged – with around 90% of our audience remembering their mugs each year. The campaign was positively received, without any backlash or grumbles.

This initiative can also feed into creating additional merchandise/revenue streams, as we offer our own, branded, affordable enamel mugs for sale on site (and on our online Shambala merch store)