How Events Are Reducing Plastic Use

Most event organisers today want to look at how they can be eco-friendlier. When you think of the thousands of people that participate in events, the masses that come along to support friends and family and the other people that come along to see what all the fuss is about, then you can see why events want to try and be more sustainable.

This is where Bardeli Supplies Ltd comes in. In August 2018, we were given the opportunity to supply London’s Royal Parks Half Marathon. The organisers of the event, Limelight Sports, were championing sustainability and wanted to reduce the use of single-use plastics. They approached us for guidance in ways of how they could achieve this.

Today, there are many options available; it just depends on what course (mind the pun!) of action you wish to take. In the case of the Royal Parks Half, we started this process by sending a whole host of samples, all of which were plant based products that could be used at the event to avoid using plastic bottles as per previous years. The product that was decided upon, was an 8oz cup, and for anyone reading this who took part, you may remember a useful leaflet being given out regarding the best way to drink from the cup whilst running!

Following the event, the feedback was great and people really seemed to warm to the idea of cups made from plants, rather than plastic bottles. The event team also found that the clearing up was easier too, and safe for the runners when running through water stations: a paper cup will just flatten under your feet, whereas a plastic bottle can cause an injury to the ankle.

So, this was the start of our journey in supplying mass participation sporting events with plastic-free disposables, and advising organisers on ideas of how they can reduce waste and plastic use. We have also been on-hand to help with the marketing and promotion, informing the general public of the shift to being eco-friendlier.

The success of the Royal Parks Half and supplying in to London’s Santa Dash spurred us on to contact local events in Brighton to see what the thoughts of those event organisers were. This also fell in with the Mayor of Brighton banning single use plastics at events in the city from April 2019.

The next event on-board was the Brighton Half Marathon, an event held to help raise money for Sussex Beacon. This event fell in February 2019, which although was before the Brighton ban of single-use plastics the organisers wanted to showcase their commitment to reducing the use of plastic water bottles. With the aim of reducing plastic use, the event decided to use the same cups as Royal Parks coupled with the use of water bowsers to fill the cups, again a choice in reducing the amount of plastic used.

Following suit was Brighton Marathon in April 2019, where 253,000 cups were supplied. I had the privilege of popping down on the day, and noted that this event was very well organised with a great atmosphere. Many volunteers were present to pick up rubbish and cups as runners were dropping them and it seemed to just go effortlessly.

We have lots of events coming up this year who are also using Bardeli Supplies to make their event as plastic free as possible. The one thing I have noticed when events are trying to do the right thing is that there will also be people asking questions and critiquing what the events are trying to do, so I thought I would just refer to some frequently asked questions, or comments we see and provide information and education around the products we are supplying.

What is the difference between an event using a plastic bottle and paper cup for the environment?

A plastic bottle is made of plastic, it has been estimated 8 million tons of plastic enter our oceans every year. If you have not seen the David Attenborough shows regarding the affects we are having on our planet then you may want to watch it. A plastic bottle will take 450 years to break down in our ocean. If you use a cup made from plants NOT plastic then we are making a breakthrough in less plastic in the world. If we all reduced our plastic use then we can get more manufacturers to look at different packaging for these products and help in the battle of making the world a prettier place again.

You may say “well plastic bottles can be recycled” what happens to the cups?

I will start with the recycling, because everyone believes plastics are being recycled, which is not necessarily true. The UK exports 70% of its paper and 66% of its plastic for recycling, with no actual idea or proof that it is being recycled. China took a lot of exported UK recycling, but over the years discovered it isn’t good enough quality to recycle. Since January 2018, China has banned imports of household plastics, and only accepts cardboard and paper with less than 0.5% contamination. Other Asian countries are considering similar bans, to avoid becoming a dumping ground for unrecyclable waste. So, if they are not being recycled, they are being dumped into oceans, landfill, or burnt. This causes problems in our eco systems and our nature, and if they were to be burnt the most dangerous emissions can be caused by burning plastics containing oil-based substances like PVC. When such plastics are burned, harmful quantities of dioxins, a group of highly toxic chemicals are emitted. Dioxins are the most toxic chemicals to human organisms.

Now if we compare to the plastic free packaging, this is completely different, the aim is for the plastic free disposables to be composted with food waste, which some cities are doing and the rest of the worlds is catching up at the minute. If the products are composted then this means within 12 weeks in the right conditions then the packaging turns back to compost and feeds our UK soils. Cities that are not yet composting in mass, and therefore possibly burning this along with other waste means that if we were using more plastic free packaging then there would be less toxins filling up our air and if they did land into the sea by any chance then it would take an estimated time of 1 year to break down, however this is better than 450 years.

But surely the cost of my event going plastic free is more expensive?

It may be a little more expensive, however when you start looking at the bigger picture there are elements that may even this cost out. Some of our previous events have had water companies supplying the water in bowsers as a sponsor, reducing the cost of the water, enabling the cost of the cups to come in around the same as water bottles.

Logistical costs may be reduced as we get all the cups delivered to your event, one less thing for the logistics team to do.

Sponsors may be willing to pay more into the budget knowing you are using products made from plants not plastic and therefore more eyes on the event, more people talking about it, more marketing, and therefore your sponsor having more limelight.

More people are becoming eco-friendly and will be more inclined to take part in an event if they are being more sustainable. When we were working with Brighton Half Marathon, I had a conversation with the race director, who told me about a gentleman wanting to know that his conscience was at ease for taking part in the event knowing that they were doing all they could to be better for the environment.

What about the other vendors at the event, such as the event village, what can we do there?

Usually event organisers do not provide the disposables for the vendors that take stalls and pitches at the event villages, however they can advise on what their plan is. For example in Brighton, the aim is to be plastic free and most caterers stick to this. We supply all food packaging that again is plastic free and made from plants and sugarcane. We also supply PLA (plastic free) CE marked pint and half pint cups for bars, so everyone can be plastic free at the event.

If you want to be Plastic Free at your event then #TalktoBardeli