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What a load of rubbish

Simon Maier takes out the trash

At the close of a London convention on a summery day, an agency CEO and I noticed the remaining plastic detritus – thousands of files, bottles, pens, folders, give-away bags and polystyrene cups. Plus one blue balloon that was stuck in the lighting rig. Then the get-out crew came in with their packaging, bubble wrap sheets and plastic covering for the set panels.

We know that making waste prevention part of any event’s plan can deliver savings. But an industry worth £36 billion could make significant savings by tackling plastic waste. 

And think of the music festivals, sports occasions, fairs, corporate events in every four star hotel every single day around the UK, never mind the world and… well you can picture it as well as can I. 

This year’s Virgin London Marathon welcomed over 40,000 runners with 750,000 bottles of water. The event produced 11,000 tonnes of waste – only four tonnes of which was recyclable. Crazy. The ambition must be to strip single-use plastics from every aspect of any event. 

More than 40 companies have agreed to cut plastic pollution over the next seven years. The firms, including Coca-Cola and Asda, have promised to eliminate single-use packaging. They’ve joined the government, trade associations and campaigners to form the UK Plastics Pact. 

In January 2018, The European Commission published a strategy which seeks cost-effective, reusable or recyclable plastic packaging by 2030 in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals agenda. What do you think? Too little too late? Better late than ever? And is our industry doing anything? 

At the end of Manchester United Football Club’s last match of the 2017/18 season, I waited until the crowds thinned. Coldplay was nicely loud and the sun was shining. I saw the plastic detritus – cups, wrappers, bottles, bags, stirrers, banners, trays, papers and cutlery... and one red balloon drifting up to a bright blue sky.