Football Fans to Switch to Reusable Plastic Cups

Football supporters are partial to a pint or two - and although drinking in their seats while watching the match is banned, there's always a surge to the bar at half-time. Now fans are being urged to drink from reusable plastic cups at stadiums in the ongoing fight against plastic pollution.

Glasses made from plastic, rather than actual glass, have been traditionally used at football stadiums for safety reasons, but in a revolutionary move aimed at cutting down the amount of single-use plastics, English Premier League club Arsenal has introduced reusable cups instead.

Plastic cup for beers

© stock_alexfamous / Adobe Stock

Sky Ocean Rescue

The trial began at their match against Manchester United (which Arsenal won 2-0) at the Emirates Stadium at the end of the 2018/19 season. The match was dedicated to the Sky Ocean Rescue campaign.

The Premier League has partnered with Sky Ocean Rescue to raise awareness of the environmental problems that single-use plastic causes. It wasn't only plastic pint glasses that were replaced by reusable cups - the containers for all beverages purchased at the Emirates were reusable for the first time. Arsenal is the first Premier League football club to trial the new initiative.

Sky Ocean Rescue was launched by the broadcasting giant on 24th January 2017. Its goal is to put the spotlight on issues affecting the well-being of our oceans and marine life. It aims to find innovative solutions to help alleviate the problems of accumulating waste in the sea. The idea is that if everyone makes small, everyday changes, these will make a massive difference collectively.

Football clubs take action

Other football clubs are also working to find ways of reducing plastic within their stadiums, encouraging fans and the local community to support the cause. One such initiative is the Premier League Primary Stars programme.

Clubs are reaching out to their local communities and primary schools through educational and practical initiatives to advise people how they can cut down on single-use plastics.

It's not only UK clubs who are aiming to go green. Football clubs in Germany's Bundesliga have been challenged by an eco-group with the question, "How green is your soccer match beer cup?"

The Environmental Action Germany organisation recently rifled through the post-match rubbish at many of the Bundesliga's football grounds to find out just how much waste they were producing. The second division club, Union Berlin, was crowned top of the environmental stakes, while first division Borussia Dortmund was down in the relegation zone when it came to recycling.

Millions of waste cups

Thomas Fischer, founder of EAG, said the amount of rubbish left after a football match was "vast". Clubs had voluntarily signed up to be part of the study, which revealed that German football fans used around four million cups during the season. Many of these ended up scattered around the countryside, rather than in bins.

Finding a way to stop this damaging practice will benefit everyone. There will be less waste to affect the environment, it won't take the club staff as long to clean up the stadiums post-match and it will save on the costs of producing single-use plastic cups for supporters.

Christian Arbeit, spokesman for Union Berlin in Köpenick, said they were "surprised and amazed" to top the "green" league. The steps they took to support the environment were "self-evident", he added - such as selling snacks that didn't require plates or cutlery including fresh, unwrapped sausage sandwiches in bread rolls, so there was no waste.

Borussia Dortmund spokesman Daniel Stolpe said the club's efforts to protect the environment amounted to "much more than cups". The club fulfils its energy needs with green power, produced by a photovoltaic system containing 8,800 solar panels on the stadium's roof. It also prints letters on FSC-certified paper.

Encouraging fans

It's all well and good providing reusable cups, but how do football stadiums encourage fans to return them later, rather than dumping them on the ground?

In other walks of life, such as in some European bars, or at public events, measures are in place to encourage customers to bring back their bottles or reusable cups. Organisers charge a deposit of around one euro and customers get it back when they return their bottle.

However, the larger the crowd, the harder this system is to operate, especially in terms of the speed of service. If 80,000 people are in a football stadium and each one wants to buy a drink, the match would be over by the time they had all queued up to return their cup and get their deposit back.

At Borussia Dortmund, the club has now stepped up its effort to be more eco-friendly by installing 200 disposal tubes where fans can throw their cups, instead of leaving them on the floor. At Union Berlin, fans pay a deposit per cup, but must queue up to get it back. Some do, but others can't be bothered and take the cup home as a memento instead.

Manufacture of cups

According to the EAG report, some German clubs are using disposable cups made of a bioplastic that isn't as biodegradable as it should be. In order to be biodegradable, bioplastic needs a constant high temperature, combined with moisture, to break it down. The process doesn't release any nutrients, so it isn't like composting.

The EAG is also questioning the material's eco-footprint. For example, the organisation cites the use of corn from the US being used to manufacture bioplastics, so they are dependent on herbicides and pesticides.

The raw materials and the cups are being shipped across the world to be used by football fans in Germany, which isn't helping the environment when you look at the bigger picture.

Efforts by the EAG to persuade football clubs to be more eco-friendly have met with a backlash in some quarters. Club bosses say in an already difficult operating environment, where clubs are battling against a host of rules and regulations, the stadium is somewhere for fans to relax and enjoy a sporting event. They are questioning whether it's the club's place to try and change consumer habits on a wide scale.

Recycling plastic cups

However, for every club dragging its feet about going green, there's another club that's going the extra mile. In Russia, a football pitch has been made entirely from recycled cups! After the 2018 World Cup in Russia, many of the 3.2 million plastic cups were taken home as souvenirs by the fans.

A new football pitch, in the World Cup's host city, Sochi, was constructed using the 50,000 cups left behind after the event. They were melted down to create a unique coating for the turf at the new Budweiser ReCup Arena, constructed by the brewery ABInBev.

It's not the first time the footballing world has created something unusual from recycled plastic. The England women's team, The Lionesses, played in a kit made from recycled plastic bottles in the recent 2019 World Cup.

Some of the world's biggest league clubs, including Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, have all played in kits manufactured from recycled plastic too. The kits are said to be so similar to regular strips that you can't tell the difference.

Tottenham Hotspur is the latest Premier League club committed to phasing out single-use plastics. At its new stadium, there will be no plastic stirrers, straws, cutlery or disposable packaging.

Join Solent Plastics in supporting the recycling revolution and phasing out single-use plastics. We stock a selection of recycled plastic Euro containers made from recycled polypropylene.

We also stock recycling waste bins to help businesses and individuals with their own recycling initiatives.