With pubs still closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Brits have been getting their beer fix with takeaway pints instead. But could this be fuelling a different kind of crisis?
The UK government has started to relax lockdown restrictions, so people have begun flocking to public spaces. To provide much-needed refreshments for those venturing to local parks or beaches, restaurants and pubs have come up with innovative ways to serve customers - while maintaining social distancing.
In order to keep things safe and sanitary for takeaway orders, single-use packaging has made a significant comeback, meaning plastic waste is filling up in parks. Environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage reported that in Brighton, UK, an influx of visitors using takeaway services had led to a build up of plastic pollution on the city's beaches.
Two UK-based organisations have started a campaign called Plastic Free Pints to deal with the “massive problem of post-lockdown litter.” The project aims to encourage people to bring their own drinking vessels instead of relying on single-use plastic. They say that after the positive effects lockdown has had on the health of our planet, it’s important that we don’t slip back into pre-pandemic habits.
“As pubs reopened, we were seeing a lot of litter and thought, given the success of coffee KeepCups, that the solution was pretty straightforward,” says Florence Wildblood, co-founder of Ours to Save, a crowdsourced environmental news platform. Wildblood created Ours to Save during the pandemic after noticing “how people also seemed to be developing sustainable habits and taking the climate crisis more seriously in lockdown”.
She sees “#plasticfreepints” as a “test of what we’ve learnt - will things change, or go back to normal?”. Launched in collaboration with sustainable nightlife advocates, Ecodisco, the social media campaign encourages people to bring reusable cups to their local pub instead of getting a disposable takeaway one.
Getting involved with #plasticfreepints
You can participate by posting a photo of yourself using a reusable cup when you venture out for a pint, tagging three friends, and adding the #PlasticFreePints hashtag. Florence hopes the campaign will “nudge people in the right direction.”
Ecodisco is also helping vendors tackle the problem, by working with them to provide reusable options for their customers through deposit schemes and purchasable cups made from recycled British steel.
“We usually focus our consultancy services on nightclubs and festivals as British pubs already have such a great culture of reusable pints,” explains Ecodisco’s Hadi Ahmadzadeh, “but this shift towards single-use cause by the current pandemic has drawn our attention towards our local boozers.”
So far several pubs in London are taking part, including the Wheatsheaf in Tooting and the Crooked Well in Camberwell. Several others around the UK in Derbyshire and Brighton are keen to get involved with promoting this plastic free way of enjoying our socially distanced pints.