We Are The (plastic free) Champions

I’ve borrowed this title from a Surfers Against Sewage post that highlights way in which teams and venues around the UK are reducing single use plastic in sport. There’s a surprising amount of single use plastic in the world of sport, but there are also fantastic opportunities: sports heroes make great ambassadors, so the changes they make (and demand) can be far-reaching. If you’d like your team, club or the place where you play to reduce its plastic footprint, here are some ways you might go about it.

Kit & equipment

A lot of modern sportswear is made from plastic-based textiles, which contribute to carbon emissions when they are made, and can also shed plastic microfibres when washed – those fibres can slip through filters and end up in our waterways and seas, causing harm to marine wildlife.

Natural fibres such as cotton and bamboo, even when organic, have their own environmental footprint (related to water and land use). If you can, consider a kit that uses reclaimed materials – our local team, Forest Green Rovers, has just launched a new kit made from coffee waste and recycled plastic bottles!

Packaging is important: ask your supplier to send kit unpackaged, or folded to minimise it. And unless you’re a League-topping team, there are other ways to maximise the useful life of your kit – arrange second hand sales, avoid dating or naming kit so that it can be passed on from person to person/between year groups. Collect unusable kit to be taken for textile recycling.

Prizes and merchandise

Whether you’re a top team with a range of merch, have a sponsor who likes giveaways, or are hosting the Christmas prize-giving for the Under 11s, try and keep plastic out of it. Reusable water bottles (ideally metal) make good prizes, as do metal pin badges, bamboo shin pads (as worn by FGR – “each pad weighs less than a medium sized carrot”!) – and if it’s chocolate or sweets, use a plastic free brand.

Catering plastics

Again, whether it’s VIP dining or a packet of crisps at half time, you can make a big difference by keeping it plastic free. For example: do players and spectators have access to free tap water, and are they encourage to bring bottles and refill? Are there plastic free snacks available – unwrapped or paper wrapped baked goods, fruit, loose snacks dispensed into reusable containers? Are fans encouraged to bring along reusable hot and cold drink cups (a nice branding opportunity perhaps)? Are food and drink suppliers encouraged to minimise plastic packaging, and are proper recycling facilities available on site? Are hand soaps and cleaning liquid containers refilled rather than bought new each time?

Extending your influence

Whether you’re a Premier League striker, the keeper for your school’s 1st Eleven, or a touchline mum or dad, everyone in the sporting community can do their bit. Have a plastic plan for your team or event, then spread the word, and stick to it. Involve families, fans, suppliers and sponsors. Tell everyone again – behavioural change takes time. Social media is a powerful tool for reinforcing the message: talk about your single use plastic sport wins and learn more using tags like #PassOnPlastic and #KickSingleUseOut.

Read more about reducing single use plastic in sport

Our plastic free questionnaire for teams, community groups and venues
Plastic Game Plan for Sport
Sport Positive 2020 Twitter Chat – single use plastics
Sustainability in Sport – Spotlight on Forest Green Rovers

Image credit: Jeffrey F Lin, Unsplash