Farewell, Glastonbury’s plastic portable toilets: organic loos offer sweet relief

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Festival organisers promise more fragrant alternative after phasing out old-style toilets

Farewell, Glastonbury’s plastic portable toilets: organic loos offer sweet relief
The new compost toilets at Worthy Farm, Glastonbury. Photograph: Guy Bell/Rex/Shutterstock

For decades they have been the worst part of Glastonbury, and an inevitable talking point among the traumatised revellers who dare to enter them. But no more. The plastic portable toilet is on the way out at this year’s festival, which starts on Wednesday, after organisers decided it was causing too much anguish.

The portable toilets – last year there were 3,000 on site – have been replaced almost entirely by organic compost toilets designed to minimise smells. These are supplemented by open-air “long drop” toilets.

The festival management team felt the plastic “Tardis-like” toilet had passed its sell-by date. There was particular concern at how the toilets filled up too quickly and frequently overflowed.

Jane Healy, Glastonbury’s sanitation manager, said: “The old plastic Tardis style is gone. Toilets have always been a massive talking point, and no one ever talks about toilets in everyone’s day-to-day life, but as soon as they get to a festival that’s all they want to talk about.

“The horror stories around the portable toilets often involved the ‘pyramid of poo’. When you went in, you had this pile of poo. They filled up so quickly that they become unusable. You don’t get that with the compost toilets because of the nature of the bins.”

Healy said the inspiration for the replacement of the portable toilets with 1,300 compost toilets and 2,500 long drops came from a trip to a massive festival at Indore, India, where the organisers have to provide 40,000 toilets to deal with 50 million visitors over a month. “We wanted to see similarities between the two and how they coped. It would be the equivalent of the entire population of England coming to Glastonbury for a month.”

She said feedback about the compost toilets at other festivals had been universally positive. “People comment on the change, how they don’t smell, how they don’t have that horrible toilet experience which is so connected to not just Glastonbury but most outdoor events.”

To sweeten their appeal, the toilets will be adorned with street art and graffiti to reflect each location within the Glastonbury site. But the upgrade in sanitation has led to calls for revellers to resist urinating outside the toilets.

Early weather reports for next weekend predict only light rain showers interspersed with sunshine. On Thursday full details of Glastonbury’s plans to commemorate David Bowie, Prince and Lemmy were revealed, including sculptures in honour of each of them, a 50-piece orchestral performance and a DJ set offering the 177,000 crowd a chance to both mourn and celebrate the three stars, who all died in the last six months.

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