Beer served at The Sinking Ships stall at the Roskilde festival in Denmark. Punters in 2017 could sup lager made with the help of urine from this year’s attendees. Photograph: Torben Christensen/EPA
Helen Russell in Aarhus
Under a cloudless sky, shirtless Vikings with plastic cups of beer in hand are queuing excitedly along a patch of sawdust-covered earth to urinate in a metal trough. Their “contributions” are being collected in specially designed storage tanks, which will then be transported to nearby fields to fertilise malting barley for brewing beer.
“From piss to pilsner” is a new initiative being launched at Roskilde – northern Europe’s largest music festival – in Zealand, Denmark, this week. Organisers hope to collect 25,000 litres of urine from more than 100,000 festivalgoers.
If everything goes to plan, guests at Roskilde 2017 will be served beer from barley fertilised by their own urine. “It’s about changing our approach to waste, from being a burden to being a valuable resource,” says Leif Nielsen from the Danish Agriculture & Food Council (DAFC), which is partnering with festival organisers to promote “beercycling”.
“The huge amount of urine produced at festivals was having a negative impact on the environment and the sewage system,” says Nielsen. “But beercycling will turn the urine into a resource.” He’s confident that the project will be a success. “I think most people can see the reason and the fun behind making a personal contribution to beer brewing, and the fact that rock music is involved will help us get our message across.”
Headline acts at this year’s festival include Florence and the Machine, Pharrell Williams and Sir Paul McCartney – big-name stars who organisers hope will contribute to the initiative. “We’ve got urinals right next to the stages where the acts will play, so we’re hoping to collect some rock star pee as well,” says Marie Grabow Westergaard from the DAFC.
Recycling bags stacked in front of a refund stand at the camping area of Roskilde. The festival already prides itself on its green culture. Photograph: Torben Christensen/AFP/Getty Images
Florence Welch won’t be left out either – “female performers and festivalgoers are being encouraged to join in with free cardboard ‘urine directors’ that we’re handing out next to the urinals,” adds Westergaard.
Under a vast hoarding that reads “Don’t waste your piss. Farmers can turn it into beer again”, festivalgoers are waiting their turn. “I think it’s a really cool idea,” says a reveller, Lasse Riisberg, 26. “It’s something that would just go to waste normally but this way, you can do your bit for the environment and have fun at the same time – you drink then you piss, simple!”
Rasmus Skobbo, 25, agrees: “It’s funny and it encourages you to use the urinals rather than just going in the grass or wherever you are. Roskilde festival has a reputation for being pretty green and clean but this is a whole other level.”
Other eco-friendly initiatives at Roskilde include a car-sharing campaign for festivalgoers, the sale of organic beers, spirits and mixers, and recycled plastic cups. “Everyone wants to be more environmentally friendly these days,” says Skobbo. “So this is a great way to feel like you’re doing something good for the planet – without much effort. We all have to piss, right?”