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The Oval hitting sustainability targets

The Oval cricket ground has already achieved 90% of its target – a year ahead of its commitment to be completely plastic-free – by introducing a series of imaginative recycling initiatives.

These have been endorsed by environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth as ‘best in class’.

The Oval yesterday hosted the opening match of the ICC World Cup with England taking on South Africa in front of a capacity crowd.

It is estimated that more than 10,000 plastic pint glasses will be recycled, rather than being discarded, thanks to a reusable beer glass scheme. All pints of beer have been served in recyclable and reusable pint glasses since 2015.

Now, however, Surrey is stepping up its efforts to eliminate all single-use plastic:

All alcoholic drinks, including wine, spirits and champagne, are being served in reusable glasses and glassware.

All water and soft drinks are now served in cans, rather than bottles, and hot drinks are served in compostable cups.

Plastic straws and cutlery have been replaced with paper and wood counterparts and no condiment sachets are distributed within the ground.

All food is now provided in recyclable cardboard containers and the club shop has phased out the use of plastic bags.

The installation of 14 free water fountains around the ground has resulted in water sales being halved, with more than 5,000 fans using the free facilities during the recent One Day International against Pakistan in May 2019.

The Oval’s reusable glassware is provided on a deposit scheme, with fans able either to return their glasses to collect their £1 deposit, or keep their cup as a souvenir, or deposit their cup into a charity bin. Their £1 deposit is then donated to charities, including Surrey CCC’s charity partner, Evelina London Children’s Hospital. Bottled wine is decanted into carafes, which carry a £5 returnable deposit.

Since broadening the scheme to include all glassware, the club has increased the number of deposit redemption points and charity bins available for all glassware. With the ground also now predominantly cashless, contactless redemption points have been introduced in 2019, allowing fans to tap their card and receive their deposit back.

Over the course of last season, it is estimated that the club’s efforts prevented 690,000 pieces of single-use plastic – or six tonnes worth – from being sent to landfill.

Surrey launched its target in April 2018 to be 100% plastic-free in two years. The final elements of the programme include sourcing a coffee cup that can be put in mixed recycling rather than compostable and, from next season, serving wine in cans. All delivery packaging is also being reviewed.

Reducing food waste

To help reduce food waste, the ground is also currently trailing ORCA, an innovative processing solution that mimics a human stomach by breaking down waste food into a liquid. Doing so reduces both the amount of waste produced and the number of rubbish trucks required to remove it.

Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth chief executive, said:

The Oval are hitting sixes when it comes to beating plastic pollution. Things like plastic cutlery often get used just once but can linger around for hundreds of years, polluting our oceans and environment.

Making things which are re-usable, rather than just recyclable, is key, which is why it’s great that you can enjoy a pint at the cricket in a re-usable cup and why the installation of water fountains is so important.

The Oval have shown that going plastic-free can be done, now we need more stadiums across the country to follow suit.

Richard Gould, Chief Executive of Surrey CCC (pictured right), said:

We are committed to eradicating all single-use plastics at The Oval, and having reached 90% of our target we are confident we are moving in the right direction.

Reducing our environmental footprint is a major priority for us. We are proud that we are now within touching distance of being the first single-use plastic free stadium in our class.