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Kicking Plastic Out of Sport during Plastic Free July

Everyone can play a part in Plastic Free July – a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution. It has inspired over 326 million participants in 177 countries. You can make a difference by joining the Environment Agency’s Plastic and Sustainability team and pledging to reduce the amount of avoidable plastic you, your club, event or venue use.

Plastic in sport

Watching my Mum run her first half marathon, aged 8, I was surprised to see everyone throwing their rubbish to the floor as they ran the course. At that age I had already been taught that littering was wrong. Why was it different when you ran a race? Attending rugby matches, aged 12, with my Dad, I was yet again surprised to see the amount of litter left behind in the stadium. Are we also not taught to take our litter away with us?

Sport can influence thousands of people that may otherwise not engage with environmental issues. Three billion people watched the Tokyo Olympic games 2020. That is a huge platform to showcase sustainability and make it the new norm for people taking part in and watching sport.

The plastic issue

Over the past few years there has been rising concern and awareness of the impacts of plastic pollution. It is estimated that 12 million tonnes of plastic enter our environment each year (Jambeck et al., 2015), that’s equivalent to a bin lorry load every minute. Of all the plastic produced 50% is for single-use plastic items (Garside 2019), things that are used for only a few moments and then thrown away. To me these are alarming statistics, but I also know I contribute to those statistics.

With a pressing need to tackle the climate emergency everybody has their part to play. Reducing avoidable plastic waste is a great stepping stone in the right direction. By minimising resource consumption, we are reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, directly reducing our carbon footprint.

leaflets on sports pitch

Kicking Plastic Out of Sport

While it may seem daunting at first to think about how you can reduce plastic across a whole venue, club or event, we must start somewhere. The good thing is we can all do something to reduce our plastic footprint. Think small and tackle items one at a time.

A great place to start is by making a pledge to reduce one item of avoidable plastic. This can give you focus and a timescale to work towards. The Environment Agency’s Plastics and Sustainability team have teamed up with the Big Plastic Pledge, run by Olympian Hannah Mills, to help everyone achieve their sustainability goals. Make your pledge here.

It is important to remember that everyone is on a sustainability journey, no one is doing it perfectly, but by trying and showing willing you can make a difference. Through sport you can encourage others to make a difference too.

As part of the Preventing Plastic Pollution project the Plastic and Sustainability team have created some great practical guidance including case studies to help venues, events and grassroot clubs take steps to reduce their avoidable plastic waste. You can download the guidance on the Preventing Plastic Pollution website.

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.” Nelson Mandela

So, when will you pledge to kick plastic out of sport?

Author: Hannah Amor – Environment Agency