With a concrete plan of action, Rock Werchter is once again taking steps towards more sustainable festival organisation this year. The challenges are great. The will, the enthusiasm and the determination to reduce the ecological impact of the festivals are even greater. In January, the Belgian 4-day festival Rock Werchter won the Green Operations Award at the European Festival Awards in Groningen (Netherlands). This prestigious annual award recognises festivals that have made a significant contribution towards more sustainable organisation. The jury, comprising a panel of experts who are not directly associated with any specific festival, showered Rock Werchter with kind words and praise, and we won the award for organising a sustainable festival on a very large scale. The team has been investing in more sustainable activities for many years. Greener festivals are achievable. Werchter rocks green in 2023 too. Existing measures are being fine-tuned while a number of new initiatives will contribute towards an even greener festival. Sustainability is a verb in Werchter. We work on the basis of eight themes.
The options for travelling to the Festivalpark with minimal impact are many and accessible. The NMBS/SNCB, De Lijn and Rock Werchter have been offering all-in tickets to festivalgoers since 2006 (!). Rock Werchter festivalgoers travel free on regular trains to/from Leuven or Aarschot. Shuttle buses provided by De Lijn ensure smooth and fast connections between the station and the festival. In addition to the regular service, special night trains at the end of every festivalday to destinations including Antwerp, Brussels and Ghent are provided at a reasonable price.
Festivalgoers can also take advantage of well-organised public transport during the one-day festivals Werchter Boutique and TW Classic. The NMBS provides night trains at the end of the festivals. De Lijn provides shuttle buses between the station and Werchter. Unlike with Rock Werchter, public transport is not included in the ticket price for the one-day festivals.
Visitors and workers from the local area are increasingly travelling by bike. There are free, supervised bicycle parking facilities in the vicinity of the Festivalpark. Those travelling from further afield can use the free park & bike parking facilities.
Cars are not banned, but neither are they encouraged. Those wishing to park at one of the festival parking sites must buy a parking ticket in advance. We recommend carpooling.
Producing less waste, collecting more waste. It’s a collective task. Suppliers, sponsors, volunteers, artists and crew: everyone joins in. We serve food on carton plates, while we did away with plastic straws years ago. We serve drinks in glasses at our Apero bars, hospitality spaces and backstage. All waste is collected and sorted in our on-site container park. Our eco-teams keep the Festivalpark and The Hive tidy. Follow their example!
Reusable cups, a legal requirement from 15 June, are coming to the Festivalpark. At TW Classic and Werchter Boutique, beers are served in reusable cups. They are also used on the Rock Werchter campsites, but not in the Festivalpark during Rock Werchter. We will, for the last time, serve beer in recycled rPET cups, having been granted exemption from the law by the Flemish government. We still have large stocks of rPET cups. It would be unreasonable, and of course not very green, not to use them. Furthermore, the market is not yet ready for a major multi-day festival to run entirely on reusable cups. There are not enough reusable cups available and there is a shortage of adequate external washing capacity. Whether the cups are reusable or made of rPET, we will collect as many of them as possible via the return and recycle points. In 2022, we collected more than 95% of the rPET cups.
A special focus lies on the campsites. Festivalgoers can take positive action and reduce their own ecological footprints by taking their tents home and reusing them. Campers at The Hive can donate surplus food to the Food Banks. A collection point is to be set up at every comfort zone.
When the landscaped park was created, the Festivalpark gained a high-voltage cabin. A large part of the backstage area, among others, runs on green energy from local generators from the first day of setup. We use green grid power as much as possible. However, we have not completely dispensed with diesel generators. There are fewer than ever. The diesel generators are also used more smartly, and where possible we opt for hybrid solutions.
The existing partnership with the Bolt energy platform is being scaled up. This summer, the North West Walls site will run almost entirely on local green energy. There are solar panels on the entrance structure at the Festivalpark. The energy generated is used immediately on site. Organic waste from our artists, crew and VIP kitchens is collected separately. This is processed in a biodigester at Ecowerf in Leuven. The energy generated is distributed to the grid using the Bolt network.
The sanitary facilities were renovated in 2015. The Festivalpark is equipped with vacuum toilets which use less than one litre of water per flush. That’s a lot less than a normal toilet, which uses 5 to 10 litres per flush. The sanitary waste water is stored in buffer tanks and transported to Aquafin where it is purified.
We like to offer local alternatives to artists in the case of special requirements on their riders. Our catering partners Bevers & Bevers work mainly with Belgian suppliers. Crew and volunteers are preferably served local products. We also opt for local suppliers where possible in the case of non-food purchases. Our merchandise is adorned with the fair wear label. Delicious local ingredients also come first in our Belgian pop-up kitchen, De Smaakfabriek. Using ingredients directly from local farmers and in partnership with Straffe Streek, curator Loïc Van Impe prepares the best recipes.
More than 10,000 volunteers from over 180 organisations work with us during the festivals. On the bars, in the eco-teams, at the parking facilities and in the campsites. The organisations are well-rewarded for this. Funds are invested in youth clubhouses, sprucing up schools, materials for sports clubs and more.
We invest in diversity and inclusion. We work hard together with Inter to make the festivals accessible for people with disabilities. We raise awareness of safe and healthy festivals via Feel Good, Rock Werchter; we are joint founders of We Care A Lot. Our festivals are places where everyone should be able to feel safe, welcome and comfortable. Places where no one is exposed to discrimination, criticism or intimidation.
We are planting a festival forest in partnership with the green payment app bonsai! Festival fans who use the bonsai app to pay leading up to and during Werchter Boutique, TW Classic or Rock Werchter, plant a tree for every ten transactions. Our festival forest will be planted with mangrove trees in the tropical climate of Madagascar. Thanks to its location, our festival forest will have a positive impact on the climate in the long term. And we support the NGO Join For Water. Those who don’t feel like taking their reusable cup to a recycle/return point at the end of a festival day can drop the cup in a container. The money raised by the cups that end up in the container goes to support a local project in Landen (Flemish-Brabant) and a project in the Andean region (Ecuador/Peru). The containers can be found at Werchter Boutique, TW Classic and at The Hive during Rock Werchter.
We raise awareness among our crew, suppliers, artists and festivalgoers. Our Werchter Rocks Green campaign is shared via mailings, social media, the mobile app and on site via screens and information signs. Together we can make a difference.
All data is collected in Calculus. We take any learnings on board and use them as the basis for future plans towards even greater sustainability.
Rock Werchter endorses Live Nation’s Green Nation charter. The main purpose of this charter is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030. We keep working. We learn. We research. Our festivals must and will become more sustainable in the (near) future. That is our commitment.
[publication date: May 2023]