Why is Wimbledon still promoting plastic bottle usage?

Campaigners say prestigious tournament has ‘profile and influence to generate massive change, and they’re using it to promote single-use plastic’

<p>Emma Raducanu takes a drinks break during a practice session ahead of the 2022 Wimbledon Championship</p>

Emma Raducanu takes a drinks break during a practice session ahead of the 2022 Wimbledon Championship

As well as stars including Emma Raducanu, Andy Murray and Serena Williams, tennis fans will have noticed something else on Wimbledon’s hallowed Centre Court this week: plastic bottles.

Campaigners have criticised the All England Lawn Tennis Club, which runs Wimbledon, and Evian, which sponsors the competition, for providing players with single-use plastic bottles despite the harm plastic pollution is causing the environment.

“Plastic bottles – the product Evian manufactures – are the second most common form of plastic pollution in our oceans, after plastic bags,” Maja Darlington, plastics campaigner for Greenpeace UK, told The Independent.

Andy Murray during a press conference following his defeat to John Isner on Wednesday

Wimbledon has “the profile and influence to generate massive change, and they’re using it to promote single-use plastic,” Ms Darlington said. “It’s disappointing.”

Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, which campaigns for the world to “turn off the plastic tap”, said there was “no need” for players at Wimbledon to use single-use plastic bottles.

“Shame on Evian for not taking the opportunity of such a symbolic sporting event to show, at least, the fact that they’re now using aluminium cans,” she said. “Shame on them for not using a reusable [bottle].”

The All England Lawn Tennis Club and Danone, which owns Evian, said they were exploring refill solutions for on-court.

In the meantime, the bottles made available for players were 100 per cent recycled, excluding the cap and label, and Evian water dispensers and glass refillable bottles were available in parts of the ground, a spokesperson for Danone said.

Evian is also running a scheme to incentivise recycling on-site and around Wimbledon town centre.

But Ms Sutherland said recycled plastic was “never the answer.”

“When we’re still only recycling less than 10 per cent of our plastic in the UK, we have to stop pretending that recycling is the answer,” she said.

The All England Club says it aims to have a positive environmental impact

The government estimates that just over 40 per cent of plastic packaging waste in the UK was recycled in 2018. However, the National Audit Office has questioned the government’s data, and Greenpeace has estimated that the true proportion to be less than 10 per cent.

Single-use plastics, also referred to as disposable plastics, are broadly defined as items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled.

Plastic is polluting the world’s rivers, lakes and oceans and harming its wildlife. Pictures of sea creatures tangled up in plastic pollution has become a defining image of our era.

Discarded plastic breaks down into microplastics, tiny plastic particles under 5mm in size, which have been found across the planet – from the world’s oceans to the air we breathe – and even in our blood.

A study published this week found that viruses can survive and remain infectious by “hitch-hiking” on microplastics in freshwater, raising concern about the impact on human health.

Hattie Park, the sustainability manager for The All England Lawn Tennis Club, said it always wants to improve and do things better, and that if Evian and the club could work together to find a refill solution on-court then “that’s what we’d like to do”.

Ms Park said she believed players have to use plastic Evian bottles on-court but said they were welcome to refill the bottles, and said quite often they did to add hydration salts.

Ms Park said that while Evian water bottles were also sold on-site, there were lots of water refill points so visitors to the Championships could refill their own bottles. Hot and cold drinks are served in reusable plastic cups which are washed and reused year-on-year, she said.

Customers pay a £1 deposit to incentivise the return of the cups, or they can drop them off in charity return points to donate the deposit to the Wimbledon Foundation. Messaging on the cups encourages users to reduce plastic waste, she added.

The All England Club says it aims to have a positive environmental impact by reducing emissions from operations to net zero and contributing to net gain in biodiversity by 2030. It also aims to use its influence to inspire wider action.

“We’re really lucky during Wimbledon that we have the opportunity to engage with a really wide audience,” said Ms Park. “Obviously tennis is the main event, but we do have a chance to talk about other things we care about.”

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