By: Dan Fisher, President, Ball Corporation
For decades, the world of sports and entertainment has been an accelerator for meaningful change — from fostering international collaboration to addressing equal pay. It should be no surprise, then, that there is huge opportunity within this community to drive actions that benefit the environment and enable a circular economy — where materials can be, and actually are, used again and again.
This is important because, like other industries with a global reach, sports and entertainment has a significant environmental footprint. As tens of millions of fans cheer on their favorite teams at sporting events around the world, impacts including air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and waste generation emerge. In fact, 51 million plastic cups — most of which are not recycled — are used at sports events annually. As hubs of cultural and community moments, sports and entertainment venues, as well as their teams and players, have the power to improve their impact and influence significant sustainable change on a wider scale.
The good news is that this is already happening. Over the past several years, the sports and entertainment industry has made meaningful progress on responding to growing consumer demand for sustainability by making it a priority within venues — from setting environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals, to pursuing greener construction plans, to transitioning to recyclable materials and packaging. While there is much more work to be done, the progress is promising.
And as the industry looks to expand its impact and influence, now is the moment for businesses to play a role. Ball Corporation — a leading global provider of infinitely recyclable aluminum beverage packaging — identified an opportunity to leverage the inherent sustainability qualities of aluminum cans, bottles and cups to bring beverage packaging circularity to sports and entertainment venues. In fact, 75 percent of the aluminum produced is still in use today, and aluminum cans, cups and bottles can be recycled and back on a store shelf within 60 days. Ball is committed to raising awareness of aluminum’s sustainability and using it to help venues and teams make progress on their ESG goals, to reduce waste and to give fans an opportunity to do right by the environment.
As part of this effort, Ball is partnering with like-minded sports teams, concessionaires and venues to bring its new, infinitely recyclable Ball Aluminum Cup to fans around the world. Last year, Ball partnered with Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE) to bring the aluminum cup to three marquee venues in Denver, Los Angeles and London. The partnership was founded on a shared vision to advance sustainability in sports and entertainment by strengthening in-venue aluminum recycling, providing fans with a more environmentally friendly experience, and showcasing aluminum beverage packaging as the most sustainable choice.
The cup is available at numerous additional locations across the country including at college stadiums such as University of Colorado Boulder and the University of North Carolina, and expanding to other sports venues and events such the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Mercedes Benz Stadium, Allegiant Stadium, Raymond James Stadium and Hard Rock Stadium — where it has given hundreds of thousands of sports fans the opportunity to be more sustainable and experience how everyday choices can have an impact on the environment.
For example, if 80,000 attendees are at a single professional sports game, about 160,000 cups or bottles are used. Aluminum cans, bottles and cups give venues the opportunity to embrace a circular option rather than create waste by using non-recyclable beverage containers. To help venues enable a truly circular economy, Ball and KSE recently launched the Team Aluminum backpack ambassador recycling program at Ball Arena in Denver. The program encourages fans to recycle and makes it easier with ambassadors carrying backpacks around the stadium to collect aluminum containers.
Increased use of aluminum beverage packaging is one step toward making the industry more sustainable, but there is much more work to be done. Many companies are doing their part to drive change, some of which were recently recognized on the inaugural Laureus Sport for Good Index. Ball was included for making a positive impact on sports through its partnership alongside 28 other brands including Nike, Microsoft and Patagonia.
Ultimately, it will take all of us to create a lasting impact. Beyond sports, every industry has a responsibility to evolve the way it does business to address the environmental challenges we face. These challenges affect us all and we all have a role to address them. Through its experience, Ball has learned that we can have a greater impact together.
At scale, a small behavior change, such as enjoying a beverage in an aluminum cup, can have great impact for the planet. By leveraging the influence of sports and entertainment to share that message, together we can make a difference.