3 alternatives to single-use plastics at events

3 alternatives to single-use plastics at events

Plastics have replaced glass at events and festivals as a safe alternative, however it comes with it’s own set of issues for event organisers and the wider environment.

The Plastic Problem at Events

  • Litter – The perception of plastic cups and bottles as a single-use item means it is readily discarded which at events often means being chucked on the floor, creating a litter problem
  • Quickly filled bins – Bars and events that serve single-use plastic cups find their bins are filled frequently. On a festival site this means increased bin maintenance.
  • Recyclability – Not all plastics are recyclable or recycled. Plastic recycling varies from facility to facility.

 The Environmental Impact of Plastics

  • The production of plastics uses significant resources. This impact is far higher for single-use items due to their limited life.  One study claims it takes 6.74 gallons of water with a litre of fossil fuels used in the transportation of just one litre bottle.
  • A recent report by Dr Jenna Jambeck, (University of Georgia, USA) claims that 8 million tonnes of litter is dumped in the oceans each year.
  • A 2013 study found that one in six ­fish in UK waters contained plastics in their bodies
  • Every piece of plastic that has ever been made still exists as it takes 500 years for plastics to break down.


There are a number of alternatives available to UK events which ensures that the audience stays hydrated whilst reducing the litter and waste impacts.

Reusable Cup Schemes

A reusable cup scheme can be implemented by venues and events using hardened plastic glasses.  These can be washed on site during the event or afterwards at an off-site location by the cup provider.

To ensure the guests bring the cups back a deposit or levy scheme is advisable.  Reusable cup contracts can take many forms from hiring generic glasses or getting branded glasses printed.

Water Refill Stations

These can take the form of jugs of water with glasses to drinking fountains or mobile refill stations as supplied by water charities at major festivals.

Reusable Bottles

Encouraging the use of reusable bottles either by bottles brought to an event or ones sold onsite or in advance with tickets. The reusable metal bottles can provide a revenue stream to counter that lost from water bottles


At present plant-based (PLA), ‘compostable’  plastics can’t be composted or processed as a plastic in the UK (processing plants are not set up for them). If they do end up in the compost or the plastics waste stream it will result in everything being landfilled.

Get more information and advice

There is more detailed information in the Plastics Free Festival Guide and in the Green Event Guides on our Resources page.

Kambe offers Green Event Consultancy for the UK Event and Festival Industry. Drop us an email to discuss

  • Reduce environmental impact
  • Improve audience experience
  • Improve reputation
  • Reduce costs