Earlier this week I stopped at a coffee shop to grab a drink and sat and watched how they were made; disposable cups were used to measure and make the drinks and then instantly thrown away. I quickly realised that for every takeaway drink bought, up to three cups were used which is quite staggering.
This highlights the bigger issue. The plastic problem is now on everyone’s radar (and rightly so) as the figures for plastic waste are shocking, but what about the culture of disposables in general? The real issue here is throwaway culture with everything from cups, straws and napkins getting used once and then thrown in a bin or on the ground. Do we really need to drink from plastic bottles and eat with plastic forks? The short answer is no, these items aren’t things we need; they’re things we’ve become accustomed to.
At the moment there is a huge focus on recycling and ways to deal with waste as it arises, but what if we didn’t have the waste in the first place? Let’s consider festivals - where I started my career and still do the majority of my work - so for me these are really special places. However, on average a 50,000 capacity festival will produce upwards of 200,000 single use disposable drinks cups, either made from plastic or plastic lined paperboard. Normally these end up in landfill or get incinerated at energy from waste plants.
A festival of this size could add several thousand pounds to its revenue by introducing reusable cups. The festival patrons cover the cost of the reusables with a deposit and many will end up taking these home as souvenirs.
But what about the crew? Single use plastic bottles can easily be replaced by giving each crew member a reusable bottle, which ultimately saves money and reduces on-site waste.
Festivals also have the cultural impact to shine a light on and lead the way when it comes to sustainability, and reduction of waste is a change many could implement. This should be the first focus yet it seems this is often forgotten or overlooked.
Although some people would argue the case for recycling disposable cups, many of the schemes that have been implemented at festivals have at best only managed to take 34% of the cups off-site to be recycled. Meaning there’s still hundreds of thousands of cups still ending up as waste.
However, there is a solution! Using reusable cups, whether this is plastic or metal, will reduce waste from bars by almost 100%. Better still, they can be used again and again, which brings big environmental benefits. Not only do reusable cups help reduce on-site waste, but the embodied CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) from the manufacturing process is shared with each reuse. Better still the CO2e from distribution and washing is still less than the CO2e from distribution and disposal of single use cups.
Studies indicate that after between two or three uses the CO2e impact of the reusable cup is better than disposable.
We’ve worked closely with event organisers to help them switch from using disposable cups to reusables, and it’s a simple and effective way for events to eradicate one of the biggest sources of single use disposable waste in an instant.
So what are the benefits? Not only is this hugely beneficial to the environment, but reducing single use waste mitigates the need for an army of litter pickers to clean up event areas on a daily basis. Even the economics are in favour of reusable cups, which can help generate revenue for events via cup deposit schemes.
Over the last few months we’ve seen more and more festival and event sites make the decision to go plastic- free, which is an incredible step in the right direction. Although there is a long way to go with the regards to educating people on the benefits of implementing these changes, we’re feeling positive about the future.
This is what Hope Solutions can help you do. We have practical solutions and can work with you to make these simple changes.