Single Use Plastic. It has become three words that have made many stand up and listen once we take time to comprehend the pros and cons for its existence. Only when we take that time out to think do we truly understand the real lack of pros there are. The majority sit with the businesses that are able to dramatically lower costs and deliver products to the market easily, however, from a consumer perspective, it is purely convenience.
Single use plastic water bottles in stadiums can be easily replaced by more sturdier options whilst plastic merchandising can and should be reused. The convenience element of single use plastic is clear to see but what about the negatives that may not be as prominent.
Let’s be clear – plastic can take thousands of years to decompose. This causes an issue as we constantly ramp up the production of single use plastic items that have nowhere else to go. The pile is growing as the world has already produced billions of tons of plastic already for which Britain contributes an estimated 1.7 million tonnes of plastic annually.
In the sports world, the main single use targets are bottles, straws, food containers, bags and support paraphernalia created in and outside sporting arenas and events. With the majority of these types of plastics ending up in our oceans; causing the death of more than 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals every year.
“… It was everywhere, even when we launched our boats into the water, it was just full of plastic and waste…”
Big Plastic Pledge steps up to the challenge
We caught up with Hannah Mills, an Olympic Gold Medallist in Sailing for Team GB, about how she came across the problems caused by single use plastic. She explained how, during the Rio campaign, she gained a first hand realisation of the impact of plastic to the ocean and inevitably to the human race.
After her experience in the seas, she noticed how much single use plastic could be seen everywhere at sporting events. Everything that you are given, especially items that you don’t want or need is wrapped in single use plastic.
This led to Hannah creating the Big Plastic Pledge – an organisation dedicated to eradicating single use plastic in sports by uniting stars and fans to sign a pledge. The pledge consists of 9 palpable actions that everyone can take to help reduce the consumption in the sports world.
You can take a pledge and make an impact today here.
But what are the true innovations that have been introduced in the sports scene?
Two of the major innovations that Hannah pointed out have been:
- NetPlus by Bureo – A new material made of discarded fishing nets (a huge challenge in the plastic pollution crisis) called ‘Netplus’. The discarded nets are collected, separated by material type, cleaned, shredded and melted to form NetPlus recycled pellets. These can then be formed into products with end of life solutions in mind. This material is starting to be widely adopted by sporting brands such as Patagonia, Carver Skateboards and Future’s in their surfing fins.
- Ooho Seaweed Drink Capsules – Trialed in the 2019 London Marathon, produced over 30,000 biodegradable edible drink capsules made from seaweed and plants that disappear naturally.
However, we are also seeing a number of sportswear brands starting to adopt recycled plastic as a fabric for their apparel. The most common material is recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate, commonly known as rPET. Products made from PET are extremely common due to the plastic being transparent, durable, lightweight and affordable.
It is also a common victim to being made into single use plastic and ending up in our oceans. The biggest benefit for athletes when it comes to rPET is that there is no decrease in functional performance for sporting apparel.