Safety or recycling? Australian police take legal action against canned beer sales at sports events
09 Sep 2022 --- South Australia’s police union is launching legal action to prohibit the sale of canned beers at the Adelaide Oval sports ground, citing concerns that the metal packaging poses a safety threat to players, staff and police officers as a potential projectile.
Previously, beer could only be sold in plastic cups, but metal cans were then permitted by the state’s Liquor and Gambling Commissioner in July. The Stadium Management Authority (SMA) has argued that metal cans provide a more environmentally responsible alternative to plastic cups and allow for a wider range of beverages to be sold.
However, the Police Association of South Australia’s (PASA) president Mark Carroll questions whether the SMA’s motivations are truly centered around raising recycling levels.
“The majority of South Australians would not buy the proposition that this action is about environmental concerns and not commercial ones. There are many alternative environmentally-friendly products on the market that do not carry the same safety risks as full cans,” he tells PackagingInsights.
Meanwhile, the Police Federation of Australia has also taken a position against the sale of cans at all Australian stadia. PASA naturally endorses this stance though its specific appeal concerns only the sale of cans at Adelaide Oval.
History repeats itself
When amending the stadium’s liquor license, Liquor and Gambling Commissioner Dini Soulio noted that historical can-throwing incidents have occurred, but that they were a long time ago and rare events.
South Australia Police (SAPOL) were originally opposed to the sale of beer cans being sold at Adelaide Oval but reversed its position after the SMA addressed public safety issues, including issuing warnings on the stadium’s screens that throwing beer cans could result in a two-year ban from the stadium.
However, Carroll says police officers are disappointed with SAPOL’s change in stance. “We know for a fact that thugs at sporting events all over the world have used full cans of beer as projectiles. It has happened before, and it will certainly happen again.”
“The Adelaide Oval Stadium Management Authority itself warns patrons at the ground not to use dangerous projectiles, so they are well aware of the risks,” he adds.
The recycling debate
The SMA has suggested that metal cans offer environmental sustainability benefits over plastic cups. According to Australian government statistics, only 13% of plastics are recycled (PP (9%); PET (21%)), representing “significant untapped value.” By contrast, 90% of metals are recycled, due to “well-established recycling processes, with mature markets for secondary materials.”
However, Edward Kosior, CEO and founder of Nextloopp, an initiative pioneering food-grade recycled PP from post-consumer packaging waste, argues that sports stadia are ideal places to collect and recycle plastic cups.
“It seems rather amazing that a shift from beer in recyclable plastic cups to beer in cans is being considered. Given that all the beer cups can be made from one type of food-grade plastic (PP or PET), recycling them back into food-grade PP or PET is very straightforward,” he explains.
“This system could be organized simply in all similar sports events, which would then reduce litter and reduce the carbon footprint of serving beer, as well as being safer for the spectators, police and players.”
“The bigger issue is the crowd’s responsiveness to recycling initiatives, as switching cups to cans won’t automatically improve the recycling rate. Any losses in aluminum would be more costly than losses in plastic cups.”
Education programs and simple collection systems would help drive up collection rates, he adds, while deposits could also be used to support effective cup collections.
Not all plastics are equal
Plastic packaging advocates highlight that despite the comparatively poor recycling rate of plastics globally, they boast superior carbon impact to competing materials like glass and metal, largely due to their lighter weight and less energy-intensive raw material demands.
However, Kosior highlights that plastics are even more carbon competitive when recycled but that the climate impact varies between types of plastic.
“We need to refer to the intrinsic CO2e footprint of the base plastics to ensure our choices have the smallest CO2 footprint. Recycled HDPE and recycled PP have a 25% lower carbon footprint than recycled PET,” he tells PackagingInsights.
“So, while PET has been a true recycling success story, from a CO2 perspective, we should be looking to recycle more HDPE and PP than PET. PP cups would be preferable due to the lower carbon footprint required to make the resin and recycle it.”
“The change to aluminum cans has been made for undeclared reasons. Potentially, it could be aimed at selling more beer. It would be important to discover the true reasons behind the decision,” he adds.
By Joshua Poole
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