Soda cans, disposable bottles, plastic packaging and cups. “The life of a sports club and the organisation of sports competitions generate a significant amount of waste,” states the website of VALTOM. Especially as there are 2.5 million sporting events in France every year.

To reduce the production of avoidable waste within sports clubs, VALTOM, the public authority responsible for the recovery and treatment of household waste in the Puy-de-Dôme and the northern Haute-Loire regions, launched a new scheme last year.

In partnership with France’s environment and energy management agency known as ADEME together with the local authorities in charge of waste collection, VALTOM is currently supporting seven sports clubs in an initiative called “Mon club de sport zéro déchet, zéro gaspillage” (My sports club with zero rubbish, zero waste).

The project is part of a long-term approach labelled “Territoire Zéro Déchet Zéro Gaspillage” (territory zero rubbish zero waste) by France’s environment ministry in 2015. VALTOM has since committed itself to a circular economy approach.

VALTOM has for the first time launched a call for projects for sports clubs in the autumn of 2019, following the rise in so-called “eco-protests”. Of the seven clubs supported since then, two are football clubs: C.S. Pont-du-Château and Dômes Sancy Foot.

“We need to raise children’s awareness”

“We wanted to take part in this project as part of our Jeunes Espoir FFF label,” explained Yves Mazet, a sports educator at the C.S. Pont-du-Château and project manager for his club.

The label includes the deployment of an educational programme in which the environment is one of the main themes. “We need to raise awareness among children because they are the main drivers of these themes in the future,” said Mazet.

The same logic applies to Dômes Sancy Foot, which is also in the process of obtaining the FFF label. “The football club is the third place where children learn things, after the family home and school,” according to Thomas Soubre, youth and project manager at the football club.

VALTOM also offers awareness-raising activities about waste sorting, which complements the environmental theme in the clubs’ educational programme quite nicely.

Sorting, bottles, local products

More generally, the “My zero-waste sports club” project operates in two stages.

“First, we carried out a practical waste diagnosis to see what generates waste within the clubs and in what quantity. This then enables us to define the courses of action”, explained VALTOM project manager Emmanuelle Pannetier.

With her colleagues, Pannetier then proposes several actions, including the installation of sorting bins, in cooperation with local authorities in charge of waste management, which comes with a series of visual instructions and an awareness-raising period regarding sorting waste coordinated by VALTOM staff.

For the second stage, VALTOM hopes to encourage the use of water bottles instead of disposable bottles and cups. “It’s a flagship project that is very much in demand by most clubs”, according to Pannetier. The two football clubs have indeed planned to equip all their licensees with water bottles.

Another major step is to reduce waste at refreshment stands, explained Pannetier. Replacing plastic cups with eco-cups or, better still, washable glasses, for example. Other ways to reduce waste, according to Pannetier, is to serve g drinks from large bottles and not cans or favour local products that are both returnable and affordable.

“We’re also working on gift packs at tournaments. […]We’re trying to get the clubs to switch to dematerialised gifts, such as cinema subscriptions, for example, or zero waste gifts such as water bottles or local and, if possible, organic food products,” said Pannetier.

Action plans on stand-by since spring

While the programme appears to be solid and ambitious, efforts suddenly came to a halt because of the COVID-19 health crisis. VALTOM has therefore decided to extend its support to the football clubs for another year, beyond the original end in June 2020.

“We had started to implement our action plan”, said Yves Mazet, with, in particular, a first awareness-raising event for children about sorting waste during the winter holidays. But since then, there has been nothing.

“It’s a painful break for us, the dynamic has stopped,” regretted Mazet. “The project has not been forgotten, everything is ready for us, but to restart the machine after each lockdown is painful,” he added.

Football players eager to see project develop

At the C.S. Pont-du-Château, the main aim is to equip each child with a water bottle, buy eco-cups for the refreshment bar and redistribute rubbish bins. “And we also plan to work with equipment suppliers to reduce over-packaging,” explained Mazet.

As for Sancy Foot Domes, they also plan to buy water bottles for all the players.

“We would like to set up a clothing swap and raise the awareness of visitors as much as possible during tournaments and animations at the club”, said Thomas Soubre. “And we’re going to do 100% sorting [waste],” he added.

The zero-waste project also appears to have been well received by the licensees. “Many are delighted with the project that has been put in place,” said Soubre. “We’re starting to have questions about sorting, we feel that there’s always a willingness to do well among people,” he added.

This kind of willingness is also felt at VALTOM. “We sent a questionnaire to all club members to inform them of the process and to ask their opinion,” said Pannetier. “It showed that there are a lot of members who support these initiatives. And that they have been waiting for them for a long time,” he added.

For the moment, however, both educators and players are mainly looking forward to one thing: getting back on the pitch.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]