Love drinking beer in the sunshine, but hate the mountain of throwaway plastic cups you’ve been served this summer? The number of disposable cups being served by the leisure industry is staggering. Each year 100 million single use plastic cups are served up at UK music festivals, that’s not even counting the number given out by pubs, party boats and small riverside events.
Estimates on the recycling of the UK’s throwaway cups ranges from 0% - 34%. The prevailing ideology of disposability has reached new heights of stupidity. But this single-use plastic tide of plastic cups from pubs may just be able to turn.
Alison Baker, founder of Ally Bee Knitwear
In the Drink is a new scheme aimed at encouraging bars and events in cities to ditch throwaway cups. This not-for-profit scheme rides on the changing public mood about the use of disposable plastic. Many pubs have thankfully removed plastic straws from their bars, a move that has been welcomed by many and barely noticed by most drinkers. Removing throwaway plastic cups is the next obvious step forward for bars. In the Drink hopes that joining this scheme will be a no-brainer for many bar-owners, and that the more reluctant bars will follow suit when they realise their competition is coping perfectly well, even saving money, by ditching single-use cups.
How big is the problem of plastic cup pollution ‘in the drink’? Huge. London’s River Thames - the initial focus of the In the Drink scheme - turned into a plastic soup this long hot summer. As a regular stand-up-paddleboarder and kayaker on the Thames - catching the tide with plastic cups floating past - I’m keenly aware of the volume of plastic trash, and I am also involved in many cleanups in my community on the river foreshore in leafy South West London.
One day in July, myself and 2 other volunteers picked up a staggering 1000 cups in just under 2 hours from a small stretch of Thames foreshore. Washed up on the foreshore, in just one tide, this was a shocking snapshot of just how many of these flimsy, single-use cups are in the Thames. Cups that will soon break up into small pieces and end up polluting our seas as micro-plastics.
In the Drink will be contacting Thames riverside pubs, breweries, sporting events, party boat operators and riverside festivals and giving advice and support on better ways to serve beer without relying on disposables. If a pub feels compelled to use a non-glass receptacle then it is time to start using a robust reusable plastic cups (NOT problematic bioplastic throwaways by the way) that can be washed and reused 100’s of times. An initial upfront investment has a quick return on investment for a pub and saves on their rubbish disposal - making them look good too as they become part of the solution to a big problem.
Reducing our river’s plastic trash is a far cry from the business of luxury fashion, but I feel the issues are interconnected. Fashion - whether fast and cheap or premium and luxury - can be a wasteful, filthy business. It is part of a wider culture of accepting disposability and convenience as a god-given lifestyle and commercial right, without equal weight being placed on responsibility for the externalised costs of cleaning up after it.
The food and drink industry can be just as culpable, and in that respect a paradigm change in the way businesses operate is urgently needed. I own the sustainable fashion label, Ally Bee Knitwear, and am pleased to have Ally Bee as one of the founding partners and supporters of In the Drink. My business is in fashion, and the mission of the business is inextricably linked to the wider concern of promoting lifestyle shifts away from short-term use and disposability.
In the Drink also receives support from the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and river advocacy group Thames21, and fellow partner founders Active 360 and Anti-Plastic People. The scheme has only recently launched, so we’d love you to spread the friendly word to your local pub to look at ditching their single-use plastics, and letting them know about In the Drink. The initial focus of In the Drink is riverside London, but we see this voluntary scheme as immediately transferrable to any city situated on a river, anywhere in the world. We’ve all got an interest in improving what goes ‘in the drink’!
Alison Baker is the Founder of conscious knitwear label, Ally Bee. Launched in London in 2014, Ally Bee is dedicated to using sustainable and ethically sourced natural fibre yarns. Ally Bee is a co-founder organisation of 'In the Drink.'