Bottles, straws, food containers, bags, supporter paraphernalia…. When thousands of people get together in a stadium, litter is almost inevitable. Single-use plastics are a big part of that waste, and 50% of it ends up in the oceans, according to UN data.

With the ‘Sky Ocean Rescue’ initiative, Sky News and the Premier League are trying to fight it.

The aim of the initiative is to help British clubs phase out single-use plastics in their stadiums, as well as raising awareness among the thousands of supporters who attend the matches or watch them on TV.

“As an organisation with a global audience we and our clubs are able to encourage people around the world to think and take positive action to reduce their use of plastic,” Richard Scudamore, the Premier League’s executive chairman, said in a statement.

Four clubs out of twenty in the Premier League – Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham and West Ham United – are taking part in the initiative. The project is still in a trial phase, but the introduction of the reusable cups to substitute other plastic containers is only part of the plan.

Raising awareness

The ‘Sky Ocean Rescue’ initiative was launched a year ago and aims at raising awareness about waste management in stadiums. And football clubs provide a perfect platform for visibility.

Since then, a group of advisers have been working with clubs to support them as they look for ways to phase out single-use plastics from their stadiums and operations.

Although there is still no data on how well the project is working, several football teams have been developing their own initiatives with the objective of making their operations more environmentally friendly.

For instance, Tottenham Hotspur, a London Premier League club, has committed to eliminate the use of plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery and all disposable plastic packaging that accompanies these items in its new stadium. Any contract with a tender will also include a clause on reducing single-use plastics.

Beyond raising awareness in stadiums, the Premier League has also launched its Primary Stars programme, an initiative that reaches 15,000 primary schools in England and Wales, to educate children on how to reduce their usage of single-use plastics.

Single-use plastic ban

The ‘Sky Ocean Rescue’ initiative was announced in May 2018, only a few weeks before the European Commission announced its intention to put an end to single-use plastics in Europe.

In March this year, EU co-legislators – the European Parliament and the Council – confirmed their agreement on the new directive.

The new EU legislation bans a group of selected single-use products made of plastic, encourages the reduction of consumption, ensures better selective collection and makes businesses take their share of responsibility.

The objective of the legislation is to guarantee that all plastic packaging placed on the EU market are reusable or recyclable by 2030. However, this legislation might not apply to the UK, which is set to leave the Union in October 2019. Hence the importance of the Premier League’s commitment, at least in football stadiums.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]