123,000 single-use plastic water bottles removed from a major sporting event

Friday 4 December 2020

The Open is one of the world’s major sporting events, with an on-site attendance that can reach over 230,000 people.  In 2019, The 148th Open at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland became one of the first major global sporting events to completely eliminate single-use plastic water bottles.

PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND – JULY 15: On a practice round day prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 15, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Tom Dulat/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

A potential 600 million households in over 190 countries worldwide are reached by TV broadcast of The Open every year.  In among the footage of iconic golf courses, summer-dressed visitors and the world’s best golfers, the ocean is the backdrop.

“The detrimental impact of single-use plastic on the ocean was a topic that deeply resonated with us.  We knew we wanted to do our part to help tackle this global challenge.”
– Philip Russell, Assistant Director – Sustainability, The R&A

With the opportunity to lead, innovate and showcase how major events can act as catalysts for awareness raising and behaviour change, The R&A removed all single-use plastic water bottles from the Championship.  In a collaboration between The R&A and Bluewater, and after nearly 6 months of detailed planning, “The Open Water Initiative” saw the installation of 19 water stations and the provision of thousands of stainless steel refillable water bottles.  Fans were also encouraged to bring their own refillable bottles to the Championship to enjoy unlimited free chilled and purified drinking water.

Plastic has doubled in the North Sea since 2000.  With small changes, we can make a big impact.  No single-use plastic water bottles were used at The 148th Open in 2019, with The R&A taking an important lead on how major sporting events should be held.

The Sustainability and Legacy of Major Sporting Events: a Case Study in Tackling Single-Use Plastic” was an event held during the University of St Andrews’ Green Week 2020 in collaboration with The R&A.  We are looking forward to learning more about how large organisations, events, and infrastructures can play their part in creating a greener future. Contact environment@st-andrews.ac.uk if you are one of them and want to share your story for Green Week 2021.


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