Last week I had a call from the owner of Moshimo Restaurant in Brighton. He’d taken a picture (above) after the half marathon of lots of Lucozade Sport bottles on the seafront. They were there, as I understand it, because they were given out to runners along the route. Lucozade sponsored the event. The runners then discarded them and got on with their run, leaving the organisers with the headache of tidying up and then dealing with the ferocious storm of anti plastic protest afterwards. The organisers were furious too, about the image, stating that none of the bottles ended up in the sea following their clean up.
Today I read that Belfast Marathon, which takes place on the 7th May, is to be sponsored by a bottled water company, Deep River Rock, who will give out free 330ml bottles to all runners at 8 water stations along the route. The headline of an article in BelfastLive.co.uk says “Leave your water bottles at home for this year’s Belfast Marathon.”
How many people take part in Belfast’s marathon? 17,000. So that’s at least 17,000 plastic bottles of water going to recycling. To be fair to Deep River Rock they are saying they want runners to be responsible and are placing recycling bins 200m beyond the water stations. But it still doesn’t seem right, does it? Surely we should be encouraging events like this to be plastic free – if only as an example of best practice – given what we now know about the state of the oceans. We should be using less of it, not more.
Drinks companies are keen to sponsor running events as it gets their product in front of a friendly audience. And event organisers need sponsorship money. It would appear to be a match made in heaven. But all I can see is mass littering, irresponsible use of plastics and no one with the good sense to call it out. Should organisers insist on water fountains instead of bottles, or at least paper cups?
Should they ban single use plastics from their events?
As time goes on and more people become aware of the issues of single-use plastics, relationships with polluters are going to turn toxic. Excessive and irresponsible use of plastic will be bad for business.
Should the local council put a ‘no plastic’ stipulation on all events? They do have the power as they grant the licences for such events. Or should the organisers do it themselves? Can they afford to say goodbye to partnerships that offer an easy way to get their event underway? At what point do they put principle in front of cold, hard cash?
In summer 2017 I attended the British Surf Life Saving Championships at Holywell Bay in North Cornwall. It was a plastic free event. Each competitor was given a refillable water bottle and told there were to be no single use bottles on the event site. Water points were provided with free refills for everyone.
How much litter was there after the event? None. Seriously, the beach was immaculate. And almost 1000 competitors walked away having been educated just that little bit. At my surf club we discussed making all our events plastic free after Holywell Bay.
The year before I attended the same event at a different venue. We held a mass #2minutebeachclean before the medal ceremony for 600 junior competitors. They brought back a huge pile of about 40 black bin bags.
It says a lot.
Here at #2minutebeachclean HQ we are always concerned about working with organisations that are pushing out plastics. It’s a dilemma. We are desperate for funds and yet we need to be careful who we talk to. Do we develop relationships with like minded companies or do we talk to those who pollute, in a effort to help them change?
We don’t want to fight, we want to inspire.
But, at what point would we have to say goodbye? Time for the events organisers to ask themselves the same questions. Are you inspiring change or just taking the easy road?