Sustainable takeaway cups: Cutting down plastic waste at public events

Hayley Osbourne
July 21, 2023
An image of a PET takeaway cup, recyclable takeaway cup, PLA takeaway cup, in an article on Sustainable takeaway cups and cutting down plastic waste at public events

After the confines of several lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic, the public has fully embraced opportunities to socialise in large numbers. Public events are back in full swing, with tickets to music festivals such as Glastonbury and Coachella selling out.

That said, concerns about food packaging waste at such events have also come back into focus – particularly around plastic takeaway cups. A sports stadium can host up to 300 events a year. This means these spaces can use, on average, around 5.4 million single-use cups, which amounts to an estimated 63.75 tons of waste.

Several governments around the world have implemented strict bans on single-use plastics. Therefore, public event spaces, such as stadiums and concert halls, will have to invest in sustainable alternatives. 

For instance, replacing plastic takeaway cups with those made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or polylactic acid (PLA) can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of public events. 

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What are public venues doing to reduce plastic waste?

Recent research shows a typical US National Football League (NFL) game generates around 35 tons of waste. This can balloon by up to 50% for events such as the Super Bowl. As the demand for sustainable packaging continues to rise, stadium operators are now taking steps to tamp down their carbon footprints. 

Notably, the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, US, successfully phased out 99.4% of single-use plastics in 2020. Tom Garfinkel, vice chairman, president, and CEO of the Miami Dolphins and the stadium was supposedly taken aback by the amount of waste accumulating at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. He then devised a strategy to reduce the amount of waste used at the venue. 

These measures help the stadium eliminate 2.8 million plastic items annually. This includes takeaway cups, bottles, cutlery, stirrers and spoons, as well as all plastic disposable packaging accompanying these items. 

Some sports stadiums have won EPA awards for their waste reduction and recycling practices. For instance, in 2019, the Freedom Mortgage Pavilion in New Jersey was recognised for diverting almost 60% of its internal waste from landfill. 

When it comes to music festivals, events such as Coachella, Stagecoach, and Glastonbury can generate up to 100 tons of solid waste every day. Across the US, music festivals produced around 53,000 tons of waste in 2019 – roughly equivalent to 450 blue whales. 

Festival organisers have since banned plastic bottles from events, encouraging attendees to use reusable bottles and fill them from water taps on site. Other event organisers have set up reusable cup programmes that include collection bins and mobile cup washing stations. 

An image of plastic takeaway cups PLA takeaway cups, takeaway cups, single-use cups, sustainable PLA cups, in an article on Sustainable takeaway cups and cutting down plastic waste at public events

Single-use waste that is often found at public events

The most common forms of single-use waste found at stadiums and music festivals are plastic bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polystyrene food containers, and polypropylene (PP) plastic cups. 

While the materials used to create PP cups and PET water bottles are both recyclable, they often end up in landfills. Research shows only around 25% of PET water bottles are recycled in the US. More so, polystyrene plastics can risk human health by contaminating the food with styrene: a type of carcinogen that can migrate into food from the container. 

At the majority of public events, plastic cups are often favoured over those made of paper. This is because of several reasons. For instance, concertgoers are more likely to reuse a plastic cup throughout the event, as they can simply ask for refills. 

Additionally, most beverages at such events are served cold and will produce condensation. Unlined paper cups will absorb the water, which will weaken their structural integrity. This may cause the paper cup to feel unstable or even mushy in the consumer’s hands – effectively spoiling the drinking experience. 

An image of plastic takeaway cups at public events, PLA cups, PET cups takeaway cups, PET takeaway cups, PLA takeaway cups, in an article on Sustainable takeaway cups and cutting down plastic waste at public events

Sustainable alternatives: Which takeaway cup material is best for public events? 

Cups made from PET and polylactic acid (PLA) have become the most popular options for venues looking to reduce waste. PET is fully recyclable and known for its durability and affordability. Additionally, it will retain its structure in the face of condensation, as the material does not absorb water.

PLA is one of the most highly produced bioplastics in the world. It is toxin-free, which has made it popular in the food and beverage industry. PLA is made from the fermentation of carbohydrates from renewable resources such as maize, cornstarch, and sugarcane. The fermentation produces resin filaments that have similar characteristics to petroleum-based plastic. The filaments can then be shaped, moulded, and coloured to suit a range of needs.

Cups made from bamboo fibre are also increasing in popularity. Notably, the market for bamboo products is projected to be worth USD 12.4 billion by 2032. Lightweight, durable, and compostable, bamboo cups are the go-to option for many businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint. 

Overall, bamboo is considered one of the most effective alternatives to plastics. Notably, there is already a growing application of bamboo products, ranging from building materials and textiles to single-use items such as packaging, straws, cutlery, and cups.

Deciding on which cups are best for your business can be a daunting task. However, the team at MTPak Coffee is happy to guide you through the process. We offer businesses a range of disposable cups made from a variety of sustainable materials. Our range of sustainable takeaway coffee cups is made from recyclable materials such as bamboo fibre, PET, and PLA. 

Our takeaway cups are available in different sizes: 4 oz, 8 oz, 16 oz, 12 oz, and 24 oz. Beyond this, our cups are strong, waterproof, lightweight, and 100% compostable. They can also be custom-designed using innovative digital printing technology to feature your brand logo or recycling instructions. Our use of innovative digital printing allows us to offer our customers quick turnaround times on orders. Furthermore, we can offer low minimum order quantities (MOQs) of packaging, no matter what size or material.

For more information on sustainable takeaway cups for your business, contact our team. 

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