Tiny SV Sandhausen showing bigger teams the way forward with reusable cups

icon beer221 October ~ Germany leads the way among European nations in terms of recycling, but a study conducted by the national environmental conservation body (DUH) has revealed the shocking amount of waste produced by the clubs in the top two divisions. During the first eight weekends of the current season, more than two million disposable plastic cups were used.

A reusable cup system requires the use of time and energy to collect and clean them after each game, which might seem less ecologically sound than using disposable cups made of apparently environmentally friendly polyactide. However, this material is made from corn starch, which itself requires the application of fertilisers and pesticides on an industrial scale in the US.

Twelve clubs in the Bundesliga, including TSG Hoffenheim and Bayern Munich, failed to meet the standards set by the DUH investigation into the sustainability and ecological footprint of their catering programmes, but the worst result was awarded to Borussia Dortmund. The club with the largest crowds in the top flight actually switched from reusable to disposable cups earlier this year. 

Meanwhile, the green credentials of tiny SV Sandhausen, now in their fourth season in the 2. Bundesliga, put many of their bigger and better-known rivals to shame. The DUH were impressed not just by the switch to reusable cups, but also the fact that food is also no longer served on paper plates: sausages are served in a bun and ketchup and mustard are stored in dispensers next to the snack bars, instead of being distributed in plastic sachets.

Sandhausen’s head of marketing, Michael Becker, had calculated that up to 4,000 plastic cups were used at each home game. Not all of these were discarded in the stadium, and many could be found littering roads and pavements around the Hardtwaldstadion. “It used to take us two to three days to clear up all the mess,” admitted Becker, “but the reusable cups are so much better.” The club signed a contract to procure 10,000 reusable cups, and spectators pay a €2 deposit per cup, which can be refunded at the end of the game. The Hoepfner brewery in Karlsruhe, whose beer is served in the stadium, covered almost all the costs and the new cups are made of sturdier material than the disposable variety. 

The addition of a handle means that fans are less likely to spill the contents when negotiating their way back to the terraces, which has increased acceptance of the change among the Sandhausen regulars. The cups have also been designed to reduce the chance of injury should anyone launch a pint of beer from the sidelines towards the referee or an opposing player: the base of the cups is concave, meaning that one would turn in the air if thrown, emptying its contents early and preventing it from becoming a dangerous projectile.

And Sandhausen’s fans’ representative Stefan Allgeier hopes that plenty of visitors to the Hardtwaldstadion will choose to forego the return of their deposit and instead donate their reusable cups. All proceeds from these collections will be used to help pay for some spectacular choreographic displays that Allgeier is planning to help the club celebrate its centenary in 2016. John van Laer

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