Challenges

A venue-wide reuse system for bottles, containers, and cutlery

Last edited April 13, 2018

What is it and who is it for?

Setting up a deposit-based reuse system at the entire event-level in order to swap out all single-use plastic bottles, containers, and cutlery for reusable alternatives and cut down on the amount of plastic waste generated at events. 

This would be for both event organisers to design into their event and for one or more event suppliers to collaborate on setting up such a system.

How would it work?

  • (Branded?) reusable containers are supplied to the event organisers
  • Guests receive reusable water bottles at the entrance for a deposit fee that is factored into the ticket price. 
  • The deposit fees for all other reusable containers and cutlery are factored into the price of individual purchases
  • Guests get their deposit back once dirty containers are returned, or they can choose to keep the containers or donate them
  • All dirty containers go through a centralised washing station 
  • Containers are returned to the supplier for other event organisers to use 
  • Numbers or names are put on all recyclables to encourage attendees to enter a draw to win a prize when recycling

  • Free cup with admission to the event with discounts on drinks served in the cup

Reusable packaging options that already exist to support or inspire this solution:

Missing pieces:

The deposit fees

Are the penalty/deposit fees best paid by the event attendees or the event organisers? 

  • Would event organisers rather minimise cash transactions on the attendee?

The containers

+ Materials: The containers need to be made out of materials that are suitable for food and drink, sturdy enough to be reusable, and unlikely to cause an injury if thrown into the crowd (a common occurrence at music venues...). Current suggestions:

  • Copper?
    • Potentially poisonous when mixed with some types of liquids or foods
    • Beneficial properties (e.g. killing bacteria)
  • Clay?
  • Bio-degradable plastic?
    • Can contaminate plastic recycling streams when mixed
    • Do not compost in normal conditions
  • Alternative edible materials?
  • Carob sugar?

+ How can we ensure minimal damages to the containers? 

Ownership & maintenance

  • who should own and be responsible for these containers? The venue space? The suppliers? The attendees?
  • How can we ensure containers find their way back to the reuse system?

Attendees could receive numbered recyclables that correspond with their ticket so they have recycled and their number gets called they can claim their prize.

Going further:

  • How else can we create value through this system?

Provide a reusable water holder that operates public water fountains located throughout the city. The water holder can be very a simple low-tech jigsaw key rather than something that is battery operated.

  • What evidence is there to support the adoption of the solution?

Based on ideas by John Crawford, Abeer Pervaiz, Beth Massa, Jacqueline Bruce, Miguel Angel RodriguezErica BetzDaniel MacIntyreAlexandr ValeeGarry Bernsteincomments by Sarah Hargreaves, Benjamin Stewart, Marcius Benziger, Aimee Van Vliet, and Keely Malady, Graeme Brown and Globelet.

Comments (16)

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How can this be improved?
Keely Malady
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  • Understanding if the penalty - deposit fees etc are best paid by the event attendees or event organizers? I've only seen the latter in action, as events try to minimize cash transactions on the attendee. This might be different at events where entry is free

    How can this be improved?
    Keely Malady
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  • What evidence is there to support the adoption of the solution? Liquids - lots of evidence from around the world in different event types. Cutlery and serving plates/bowls less so - the focus seems to be on biodegradable servery as any leftover food is able to be composted along with the container, rather than relying on a cleaning process.

    I've been a part of or attended numerous events where BYO and supplied reusable container schemes have been successful for attendees and event organisers in reducing waste. This has included provision of liquids mostly; water, barista made coffee, regular coffee and tea.
    The solution was adopted by the event organizer in the interests of their customer (the attendee) who they know to be an environmentally conscious consumer - examples http://purpose.do/ https://www.bluesfest.com.au/ Just in the last few days I've come across large sports stadiums that are using resuable cups at drink vendors.

    How can this be improved?
    Marcius Benziger
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  • Use copper containers which are proven to not only kill all bacteria but also releases certain beneficial elements into the water or juice.

    Aimee Van Vliet
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  • Hi Marcius! I looked into copper a while ago and while it can be used with water and juice, it can be poisonous when combined with certain other foodstuffs. Milk, I think. So it couldn’t be used as an interchangeable container for all types of drinks or food.

    How can this be improved?
    Benjamin Stewart
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  • In India they sometimes use simple single use clay cups. After they are used they go back to the Earth.

    I’m sure a modern materials engineer could design some new shapes for different uses.

    How can this be improved?
    Tiarna Rowan
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  • Water fountains should be available at all event venues.
    Cupclub.com have developed a circular solution to disposable cups.
    Insist that all cold drinks must be sold in aluminium cans and provide can recycling bins.

    How can this be improved?
    Tiarna Rowan
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  • Disneyworld Florida Water Parks have had refillable drinks solutions for years. You purchase the vessel at the start of the day for a fixed price and the refills are included for the day. You keep the cup as a souvenier but you could easily work this with adeposit system.

    What can go wrong?
    Rebecca Ricketts - Challenge Initiator
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  • How do we create a container that is robust enough for reuse but unlikely to cause an injury if thrown into the crowd? (A regular occurrence at music venues)....

    How can this be improved?
    Sarah Hargreaves
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  • Reusable containers are often branded including the event name and date so can’t be reused for multiple events and reduces circularity. I’m not convinced this makes for a good sustainable solution. Yes some people collect them but what percentage? A more generic branding would likely be better.

    Someone mentioned clay cups in a comment here. As an anecdotal comment- I saw something similar at a chai stall at WOMAD a few years back. I paid my deposit and chose to keep mine. And its still in use where other reusable plastic festival reusable cups in our home suffered a shorter fate.

    What can go wrong?
    Sarah Hargreaves
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  • There’s been mention of biodegradability - biodegradable plastics are popular right now but are not necessarily a solution (Vegwate etc) for many reasons including: they do not compost in normal conditions and they can contaminate plastic recycling streams when mixed. Alternative edible materials may be a better solution but more research in this complex area is required.

    How can this be improved?
    Dylan Satin
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  • My company is working on a solution to this. We’re a compostable plastic manufacturer. What we’re proposing and currently piloting is recycling plant based compostable plastic. We’ll pick up your used plastics, process them and re-use them. When the materials can no longer be reused after 3-5 life cycles, we’ll compost it ourselves. The issue with composts now is that the rigid plastics take a bit longer to compost so they are not accepting them. This is our solution. And for us, we get free resin. For more information feel free to email me at dylan@pure.supply.

    How can this be improved?
    Pat Hermon
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  • Fired clay and any metal should be avoided. Very high global impact from fossil fuel burning

    How can this be improved?
    Beth Massa
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  • Regarding "throwable" packaging, algae based, bamboo and silicone are light weight.