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Events pioneering in responsible plastic use

How to get started?

Being plastic smart starts with buying smart, according to the 3R principle:

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Reduce
Is the plastic product really needed or can you also do without it? For example: confetti, balloons, straws and giveaways.

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Reuse
Is the product replaceable for a reusable alternative? For example: reusable cups with a deposit scheme.

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Recycle
Can the used plastic be recycled in a sustainable way? For example: disposable cups with a separate collection scheme.

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Cups and bottles are the most commonly used plastic disposables. That’s why they are in the first spot in our plastic top 6.

Cups and bottles are the most commonly used plastic disposables. That’s why they are in the first spot in our plastic top 6.

We started investigating the answer to this question: What is the most sustainable cup for events? We consulted several research papers, such as the OVAM study. Our conclusion was that the reusable hardcup is the most sustainable option, but only if cups are reused at least eight times. To make this option work, an effective cup deposit scheme is a must. If reuse is not possible due to the nature of your event, then go for a system in which disposable cups (softcups) are recycled in the most sustainable way possible. The estimated impact on the environment is the same as with a reusable system, provided that at least 90% of these recyclable cups is successfully recycled. 

 

Whether you choose reuse or sustainable recycling, both are circular cup systems in which it is crucial that used cups are returned at the correct bin, bar or collection point.

 
 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Reusable cups

+ Is the use of reusable cups a sustainable option?

Yes, when the cup is reused at least eight times, it is a sustainable alternative for disposable cups.

+ What are the benefits of reusable cups?

  • A cleaner event, a better experience
  • Sustainable choice
  • More convenient to drink from
  • A boost for your image
  • Savings in costs for cleaning and waste disposal, more waste will end up in the bins

+ Which type of plastic should I go for?

Cups that are made out of Polypropylene (PP) are the most sustainable. This material looks like frosted glass and lasts longer because it is more resistant against damages.

+ How should I organise the collection of cups?

A reusable cup is the most sustainable option, but only if the cup gets reused at least eight times. That’s why a proper deposit scheme is a prerequisite for the successful adoption of reusable cups. The deposit needs to be high enough: at least one Euro or, at the most, the price of one drink. This covers the cost of a lost cup and gives the cup an extra value, so that visitors are more inclined to return the cup after use. Because the payment of the deposit is sometimes hard to organise and prone to fraud, many organisations opt for an alternative: a souvenir or a voucher. This alternative needs to carry enough value for the visitor. A sympathetic and sustainable option is placing bins in which visitors can donate their cup payment to a good cause.

Consider giving visitors their first cup for free by handing out a cup coin at the entrance. The visitors exchange this coin for a free cup when ordering their first drink.

Selling a cup without offering any form of return payment leads to an enormous loss of cups and is therefore not a sustainable option! To put plastic matters into perspective: the loss of one reusable cup has the same environmental impact as the loss of ten disposable cups. That’s why we suggest using the logos and key visuals of the ‘Never Give Up On Your Cup’ campaign in your communication towards the visitor. Download the media kit here. hier.

+ Instant washing onsite and/or industrial washing afterwards

Mobile cup washing stations are widely available. When you have access to power, water and sewage, it can pay off and cut costs to clean your cups onsite, because you’ll need less cups. Please note that you will need a backstage route behind the bars and extra personnel, for fast enough circulation of your cups between the bars and your central washing station.

According to Dutch health & safety regulation it is compulsory to industrially clean the cups after the event. Store your cups properly and dry, or they might get mouldy.

+ What does the chain look like for reusable cups (hardcups)?

View the PDF

Recyclable Cups

+ Recycled or recyclable?

There is a fundamental difference between recycled and recyclable materials. Many materials are recyclable, but without proper waste separation they will end up getting burnt at the waste facility anyway. So in practice, many of these recyclable materials are not getting recycled. On side of the process, there are cups and other products available that have been made out of recycled materials. Less fossil materials are used in their production, or none at all.

+ What is a mono-flow and why is it important?

Proper recycling is only possible if the waste collector delivers the waste to the recycling facility without contamination. What’s more, it’s important that the different types of plastic are collected separately. When the different types of plastic are properly and separately collected, it’s called a mono-flow.

+ What is the most sustainable way to recycle?

If a cup gets recycled to a new cup, and not a kitchen cupboard or something else, then it’s called circular recycling. This is the most sustainable type of recycling. If you want to turn a used cup into a new transparent cup, as is possible with rPET, then do not use prints on the cup, because ink contaminates the mono-flow. Embossing is a fine alternative.

+ Which types of plastic cups are suitable for sustainable recycling?

At the time of writing, PET/rPET is the only material that is suitable for circular recycling. This means that you can make a new cup from an old cup without having to add new materials. The use of rPET (recycled PET) roughly cuts carbon emissions in half. If all cups really end up getting recycled, this material is the most sustainable choice for plastic disposable cups. The disadvantage of PET is that it is not suitable for warm drinks, contrary to PP. In many applications, Polypropylene (PP) is very suitable for recycling. But this is not the case with cups or (disposable) tableware. Recycling PP cups is therefore downcycling: the value diminishes and it is not a circular solution. However, for serving hot drinks in plastic cups, PP is advised.

PLA is a renewable kind of plastic, based on biological materials. The most important property of PLA and other bio-based disposables is that they’re made of renewable materials. By the way, this doesn’t mean that they they’re biodegradable. So they should still go into the bin and not onto the ground!

Currently there are no waste disposal facilities in The Netherlands that process and recycle PLA, but we’re closely following the current developments. As soon as PLA-cups become recyclable to a new usable material, they might emerge as a sustainable alternative for the events industry. But only if the used bio-based materials are sourced sustainably, in a way that doesn’t lead to deforestation or other environmental problems.

+ How should I organise the collection of cups?

For the sake of a clean mono-flow it’s important to have an effective deposit scheme. Give you cups some kind of value, so that visitors feel inclined to return them after use. Because the payment of the deposit is sometimes hard to organise and prone to fraud, many organisations opt for an alternative: a souvenir or a voucher. This alternative needs to carry enough value for the visitor. A sympathetic and sustainable option is placing bins in which visitors can donate their cup payment to a good cause. Consider giving visitors their first cup for free by handing out a cup coin at the entrance. The visitors exchange this coin for a free cup when ordering their first drink. Cups that end up on the ground or in the wrong waste bin, are no longer suitable for recycling. That’s why we suggest using the logos and key visuals of the ‘Never Give Up On Your Cup’ campaign in your communication towards the visitor. Download the media kit here.

+ How does the recycling process work?

The recycling process demands cooperation from the whole chain. So it’s important to involve all stakeholders in the process. Please consider:

  • The recycling company / the plastic producer: what are the terms for acceptation? How should the used cups (mono-flow) be delivered and how much ‘contamination’ is still workable?
  • Cup producer: what is the cup made of, which materials have been used and where are they sourced?
  • Cup supplier/drinks brands: what material is the cup made of? Are all cups made of the same materials (mono-flow)? Is there a print on the cup or can we do without printing (or use embossing instead)?
  • Bar crew & production staff: discuss how cups should be collected to guarantee a clean mono-flow.
  • Visitor: the visitor is a key player in keeping the mono-flow clean and recyclable. Cups that end up on the ground or in the wrong waste bin, are no longer suitable for recycling. That’s why we suggest using the logos and key visuals of the ‘Never Give Up On Your Cup’ campaign in your communication towards the visitor. Download the media kit here.
  • Cleaning company: Bar crew & production staff: discuss how cups should be collected to guarantee a clean mono-flow.
  • Waste collector: Bar crew & production staff: discuss how cups should be collected to guarantee a clean mono-flow and to which recycling company they need to be transported.

+ What does the chain look like for recyclable cups?

View the PDF

 

What’s the deal with disposables for food?

 

In practice, it turns out that disposable plastic plates and cutlery are not recyclable due to food leftovers and napkins that are usually thrown in the same bin. These contaminate the mono-flow too much, for a contamination rate of only 0-5% is workable. That’s why it’s advisable to use compostable disposables instead (which should be marked with the OK Compost or Kiemplant-logo) and to really compost these as well, if possible. In the near future, this may change due to innovation in the waste processing industry. Of course we’re keeping a close eye on the latest progress.


 
 
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