One of the most ubiquitous environment-related buzzwords at the moment is ‘single-use plastic’, but it is known for all the wrong reasons. The term is a relatively new one, assigned to any item made solely from plastic that is used only once before being sent to landfill or recycled. Items such as straws, food and product packaging, and plastic drinks bottles all fit into this category, with the dreaded carrier bag perhaps being the most talked-about of all. Over the last ten years, there has been a slow rumbling of discontent with the extensive use of single-use plastics, with the most recent five years seeing the murmurs become a fever pitch.
The saying ‘evolve or die’ has never been more apt, with all industries scrambling to align themselves with the newly environmentally-conscious UK public, at the threat of being called out or worse. Retail chain Marks & Spencer came under fire in 2018 due to a ‘cauliflower steak’ product which was being packaged in excess single-use plastic packaging. Both social media and the press called out the brand on their decision, and the product was rapidly removed from shelves. An important reminder that ‘getting it right’ has never been so important.
Single-Use Plastics at Events
When thinking of plastics at events, the immediate thought is music festivals, with Glastonbury being almost as famous for its waste as it is the music. However, last year’s event looked to be different, to break the mould of previous years and limit its single-use plastic consumption - by banning the selling of plastic bottles on-site, and encouraging visitors to only bring reusable bottles. This change meant that over the course of the festival, roughly one million bottles weren’t used. Adding to their previous ban of plastic cutlery and plates being provided by food vendors, Glastonbury has positioned itself as one of the leaders in the field.
However, despite being one of the more visible culprits, festivals are not the only ones responsible for using single-use items. Exhibitions and conferences, awards ceremonies, sports, charity and all other events are culpable too. Whether this is free samples, branded merch, food and drink items or entry wristbands, all of these items can fall into the single-use bracket.
Viable Alternatives for Events
With a slew of alternatives becoming available, and suppliers looking to incorporate environmentally friendly or plastic-free alternatives into their offering, it’s important that you know what to look out for when making these decisions. When planning your event, keep in mind the old adage of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’. Something that many of us were taught as children, or that our children have taught us. A simple, but flexible way to make your event that little bit more eco-friendly. But sometimes, there are things outside of this that can’t be addressed by the ‘three R’s’. How can you reduce the number of name tags without reducing the number of people? Or how can you reuse things that are, by nature, single-use, like tea bags?
Use Smartphone Capabilities
It is estimated that roughly 78% of the UK public own a smartphone, which increases to 95% when you look at just 16-24-year-olds. This is a staggering number of people walking around with mini computers in their pocket that each has the capability to reduce plastic at events. Electronic tickets (eTickets) have revolutionised various industries in the last few years, such as both rail and air transport, and sports, cinema and music events. The ability to have a ticket on a smartphone has both reduced the cost in printing, and in the cost of mailing. This could also be used once attendees have arrived at the event, allowing them to use their smartphone to enhance their event experience. Instead of having vouchers for food and drink, have the allocation linked to their phone. This could also eliminate the need for excessive printed materials, with electronic versions of booklets, catalogues and brochures all being sent to a person’s email address.
Food and Drink
Whether the venue will be using their own in-house catering team, or you’ll be bringing in food and drink suppliers, make sure to do your due diligence to find out their approach to plastic consumption. Their environmental attitudes will both reflect on you and your event, so it’s vital that these align with the message of your event. For multi-day events such as festivals or conferences, you could offer all attendees metal drinks bottles that can be reused and taken home with them afterwards, eliminating the need to the distribution of plastic cups or bottles. For just a couple pounds per head, this could make a large difference over the course of the event.
Similarly, instead of using paper plates and plastic cutlery, perhaps opt for reusable options which can be washed and reused throughout the event. It’ll be important to provide facilities for these items to be deposited as otherwise, they could cause more trouble than they are worth. Allocating dedicated facilities for this will mean that people can buy into the idea and support your intentions.
Stationery, Freebies and Miscellaneous Items
Often prevalent at business events such as awards, exhibitions, expos and conferences, these items are significant contributors to our use of plastic. Although some may not fall into the single-use bracket per se, such as branded pens, rulers or wristbands, how often after the event do we make use of them? If you’re dead set on producing some giveaways for your event or will be holding an event where these items may be distributed, why not place a ban on plastic giveaways? Or simply encourage those who bring with them eco-friendly alternatives by offering a small discount to their ticket cost?
We hope you’ve found some inspiration for your next event, whether attending or organising. These ideas are just the beginning, and we’d love to hear your thoughts on how the events industry can change its ways! Get in touch with us on Twitter or Facebook. Alternatively, if you’re looking to plan an event, why not get in touch with us to take care of all of your crewing requirements. We have skilled event crews in London, Bristol, Manchester and other major cities in the UK, find out more here!