Up for the cup? Football clubs urged to move to returnable drinks containers

Press release
Football fans agree clubs should give single-use plastic the boot
  Published:  12 Sep 2019    |      3 minute read

• Football Clubs urged to adopt Plastic Pledge on single-use plastic

• Returnable cup schemes would prevent millions of single-use plastic cups being landfilled, incinerated or lost to the environment each season

Friends of the Earth is calling on football clubs to introduce a returnable cup scheme in their stadiums as part of a comprehensive set of measures for getting rid of unnecessary single-use plastic.

The environmental campaign group estimates that over six million single-use plastic beer cups may have been used in the Premier League last season alone [1].

Arsenal and Manchester City have both introduced a reusable cup scheme this season, with City estimating it will help to remove 29,000 single-use plastic cups per match on average.

Tottenham Hotspur is trialling a re-usable cup scheme this Saturday, and several clubs ran trials last season. Successful schemes have been operating in cricket venues, such as Lord’s and the Oval, and Twickenham Rugby stadium for a number of years [2].

The move is likely to prove popular. A YouGov poll [3] of UK football fans, commissioned by Friends of the Earth, and published today (12 September), found:

• 84% agree Premier League clubs should ensure reusable or returnable cups are used in their stadiums.

• 86% agree Premier League football grounds should remove single-use plastics – such as plastic straws, sachets and cutlery - where possible.

Football clubs urged to sign Friends of the Earth's Plastic Pledge

Friends of the Earth and BASIS (the British Association for Sustainable Sport) – whose members include Lord's Cricket Ground, Arsenal, Principality Stadium, the Jockey Club and the All England Lawn Tennis Club, among others - are calling on football clubs in the top four divisions to get drastic on plastic by signing the Plastic Pledge, which is based on actions that some leading stadiums are already taking [4]:

• By the start of next season (20/21), eliminate single-use plastic cups for all beer and other cold drinks and replace them with reusable cups. A number of clubs are believed to be contemplating permanent schemes later this season – and some may have already introduced them.

• By the end of the current (19/20) season remove non-essential single-use plastic straws, bags, stirrers, sauce sachets, milk jiggers (small cartons) and cutlery, prioritising reusable alternatives where feasible or removing completely. These are relatively simple measures that clubs can introduce.

• Ensure that fans can easily access drinking water through drinking fountains and refill their own reusable water bottles (meeting relevant safety recommendations) at water refill stations.

• Engage with fans, visitors and the surrounding community about the action the club is taking to curb single-use plastic and why it is important, and what they can do.

• Constantly review the use of single-use plastic products – and where practicable eliminating SUP from use.

Friends of the Earth plastic campaigner Julian Kirby said:

"Football clubs across the UK should aim to be champions off the pitch, as well as on it, by giving single-use plastic the boot.

"Fans want football clubs to take action on plastic. We're encouraged that a number of clubs have already introduced measures on this issue – but we need every Premier and Football League club do what it can to get rid of unnecessary single-use plastic.

"This is why we are calling on clubs to adopt Friends of the Earth's Plastic Pledge – and commit to a number of measures that leading stadiums have already introduced.

"A reusable cup scheme is one of the key steps clubs can take – this measure alone would prevent millions of single-use plastic cups being landfilled or incinerated every season. We hope every football club is up for the cup."

Russell Seymour, Chief Executive of BASIS (the British Association for Sustainable Sport) said:

“BASIS works with all sports at all levels to reduce the environmental impacts of the sports sector. The impacts of plastic waste and pollution are one of the most important environmental issues of our time and we are happy to work with Friends of the Earth and the sport of football to reduce these impacts."


1. The 6 million estimate is based on information from more than one club.

2. Some stats:

* Manchester City anticipates that its reusable cup scheme will remove approximately 800,000 single-use cups per season. The cups can be used 100 times over and can be fully recycled at the end of their life.

* Twickenham threw out 140,000 plastic cups every match before introducing its returnable Fan Cup in 2014. Since then an estimated 9.12 million single-use plastic cups have been prevented from going to landfill – enough plastic cups to fill Twickenham Stadium 1.7 times.

* The Oval introduced its re-usable cup scheme in 2015 for the 1.2 million pints of lager and ales sold each year and in 2019 expanded this to include all glasses used throughout public areas.

* Lord's introduced its reusable cup scheme in 2018 and estimates that it has washed and reused over 1.5 million cups in two years.

A number of clubs, including – Chelsea, West Ham and Fulham – trialled a scheme last season.

3. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,075 adults, of which 625 identified as football fans. Fieldwork was undertaken between 12th - 13th August 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

4. Friends of the Earth has been talking to a number of leading football and cricket clubs about the steps they are taking on single-use plastic. Many have already introduced measures – such as getting rid of plastic straws, cutlery and sauce sachets, and a number are planning further steps to reduce single-use plastic.