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Bundesliga: Reusable cups mandatory in stadiums

Olivia Gerstenberger
January 18, 2023

German football is in a state of flux when it comes to environmental protection and sustainability. The latest pioneering decision comes as the Bundesliga looks to get back underway after the World Cup in Qatar.

Disposable cups in the Bundesliga
Disposable plastic cups will no longer be available in Bundesliga stadiums starting in 2023Image: Karina Hessland/IMAGO

Beer from a disposable cup and currywurst with fries on a plastic plate? Those images could soon be a thing of the past in German football stadiums.

As early as the Bundesliga's re-start after the World Cup and winter break, catering operators in stadiums must also offer reusable cups by law, at the same price as the disposable version. 

The new requirements from the Packaging Act have been in force since January 1, 2023. They oblige companies such as restaurants, canteens, supermarkets or cafes that sell takeaway food and drinks to also offer their products in reusable packaging. 

This also applies in football stadiums, right down to the fourth tier of German football. However, in this case only for beverages. For food, stadiums may continue to offer disposable containers for food as the only option if they are made of pure cardboard, wood or aluminum. Most stadiums currently offer paper plates and wooden cutlery. 

According to Environmental Action Germany (DUH), 17 of 18 Bundesliga clubs had voluntarily implemented the new requirements at the start of the season. Schalke 04, the last club in the Bundesliga to switch, also did so on January 1, 2023. Just five years ago, only 10 of 20 clubs in the Premier League used exclusively disposable cups, causing a mountain of waste of more than 8.5 million plastic cups every year. 

Bundesliga leading by example

According to Germany’s Environment Minister Steffi Lemke, this makes Germany a pioneer throughout the European Union. German football also plays a pioneering role internationally in the area of sustainability, expert Tanja Ferkau confirms to DW. 

Warming Stripes corner flag
A look at the corner flags used to depict global warming in German footballImage: Wunderl/BEAUTIFUL SPORTS/picture alliance

This is because, starting next season, ecological as well as economic and social sustainability criteria will become a mandatory part of the German Football League Association (DFL) licensing process with the goal of becoming the most sustainable league in the world. Some of the criteria could have been stricter, but Ferkau explains that they have to ensure they can also be implemented by a team in the third tier.

The German Football Association (DFB) is also getting involved with several measures and campaigns in the DFB Cup, the Women's Bundesliga and the 3. Liga. There are "climate logos" on the captain's armbands, vegan bratwursts or corner flags with the "warming stripes." These are a visual representation of scientific data from climatologists and are intended to illustrate the issue of global warming.

'Environmental pioneers' St. Pauli, Bremen and Freiburg 

Some Bundesliga clubs have been engaged with the issue of environmental protection for much longer than others. DUH highlights three: FC St. Pauli, SC Freiburg and Werder Bremen. "These are clubs that have thought about environmental protection from the very beginning, since the late 1990s, when it wasn't an issue in football at all. They have set trends," DUH's head of circular economy, Thomas Fischer, told DW.

Among other things, Freiburg has equipped its stadium with one of the world's largest solar roofs, uses green electricity and has relied on returnable cups for decades. Werder Bremen is a role model when it comes to sustainable mobility: The public transport connection is exemplary, and there is also an infrastructure for thousands of bicycles that can be parked at the stadium not to mention a good network of footpaths. St. Pauli, meanwhile, selects its partners according to ecological and social criteria.

Alongside energy, transport, emissions and waste, merchandising is one of the most important issue, says Fischer. Sporting goods manufacturers Nike and Puma have already made the switch. They say they use 100% recycled polyester for jersey production. At Adidas, the figure is just over 90%, but the Bayern Munich jersey is already made exclusively from recycled polyester. 

According to the DUH, second tier St. Pauli are "environmental pioneers" amongst German teamsImage: Oliver Ruhnke/IMAGO

DUH: Some clubs 'need to catch up'

However, Fischer reports that there are also clubs that are very defensive about the issue, such as Schalke 04 or VfB Stuttgart. Many soccer clubs from eastern Germany also have a lot of catching up to do, he adds. "Dresden, Aue, Chemnitz, Zwickau - they don't stand out with pilot projects either. There, we've always noticed a very defensive attitude." The reactions of these clubs were often monosyllabic, "sometimes even almost aggressive." And that's when he realized, "Okay, they don't understand." 

That's why it's immensely important that the DFL set targets to create a binding force in the areas of resource management, waste, traffic emissions, merchandising, so "that even those who don't want to deal with these issues, have to."

Overall, Fischer believes German football can still go a step further and hopes that green energy, regenerative energies for electricity use and sustainable turf heating will become standard. 

In addition, it could play a big role in terms of mobility. "How do people travel? Can we do without short-haul flights? You don't have to fly from Berlin to Frankfurt, there's a good ICE train connection there. Do you need your own fleet of company cars? Maybe you could also ride a bike if you live close by."

The least that could be done in the near future is to switch to reusable food containers. That would be a another significant step in club’s obligations that would continue to eliminate unnecessary disposable waste week after week.

This article was translated from German

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