Waste-Free Festivals

About the project Waste-Free Festivals

All festivals need to take responsibility and work actively to reduce waste and littering. Gothenburg Culture Festival has worked for many years to improve the recycling of waste and increasing re-use and in recent years we have taken great steps towards preventing that waste occurs at all.

Waste-Free Festivals is a collaborative project with the City of Gothenburg’s Recycling and Water Department, partly funded by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket) and The Swedish Waste Management Association (Avfall Sverige). With Gothenburg Cultural Festival as a base, different methods are being tested to raise awareness and reduce waste.

GCF is a good platform for inspiring other actors, citizens and visitors to more sustainable choices. The short-term goal is for the Cultural Festival to be a zero waste festival in 2021, the long-term goal is to encourage a sustainable behavior change in our society and our city.

All investments have a strong connection to Gothenburg City’s political target of reducing the city’s household waste with 30 per cent by 2030 (compared to a baseline level from 2010).

In the timeline below you can see the different investments made each year.


  • No bottled water is sold, instead public water taps are installed everywhere at the festival area and visitors are encourage to bring their own bottle
  • Visitors are encouraged to bring their own cups and food containers to buy drinks and food.


  • Extension of the numbers of public water taps
  • Food vendors agree to avoid and reduce their use of disposable items
  • The festival area Green Corner is turned into a zero-waste area. Second-hand porcelain is used for food and beverage, and they are washed in a mobile dishwasher. Six food vendors are engaged. The whole program in Green Corner is carried out without disposable items
  • Beer and drinks are served in reusable glasses in the festival area Kungstorget


  • The zero-waste area in Green Corner is extended
  • Another mobile dishwasher is put in use for the festival area Basargatan
  • Test of a return system for food containers
  • All bars at the festival serve drinks in reusable glasses


  • Festival cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic


  • The target for 2021: The whole festival is waste-free
  • A large-scale return system for plates and cutlery is introduced


So far the project has attracted a lot of attention from other actors and polls show that visitors are generally very positive about the changes. In 2019, Gothenburg Cultural Festival was nominated at the Swedish Recycling Gala (Återvinningsgalan) as the finalist in the category Waste Preventer of the Year, and in 2020 the festival won the prize as Recycler of the Year at the gala.

2018: 6,500 waste-free meals and 3,000 waste-free drinks

2019: 12,153 waste-free meals and 14,000 disposable beverages

2021: The target is set to serve 40,000 waste-free meals