Picture the aftermath of the festival: a sea of fans leaving behind empty water bottles, disposable cups, wrist bands, lost IDs and a few used whipped cream chargers.
For all the environmental lip service we hear from megastars, the carbon footprint of live entertainment has only recently received the attention it deserves. Trash is just one piece of that puzzle, and it’s currently Live Nation’s focus Events giant Sends $5 million into Turn Systems.
Turn aims to help venues eliminate single-use cups, and so far a series of trials show the system is working, Live Nation said. For venues, turn It offers reusable cups and collection bins and operates its own dishwashers, which the company says are “700% faster than traditional dishwashers.” For fans, reusable cups do not require a deposit and are handed out by default. Once all their drink is gone, a scannable code on the bottom of the cup opens a slot at the top of a fancy, custom-branded collection bin.
For most people, that’s all they’ll see, but as an added return incentive, fans can also sign up through an app to get rewards for things like free merch and “VIP upgrades,” says Lucy August, director of sustainability at Live Nation. Perna on a call with Technology Flow. Behind the scenes, San Francisco-based Turn’s software tracks how many cups are returned to its system, and the company shares that data with venues.
Live Nation says it has trialled the technology at several events this year, including Lollapalooza, which saw a 93% return rate. It’s not always too much; Fans returned only 58% of cups at the Suenos music festival in Chicago. “We did the pilot [Turn] Now in many venues and major festivals and hopefully we can get the results we achieved,” said August-Perna. Overall, “we’ve seen a return rate of over 90% cups,” she added.
Although there is no data on their exact global toll, it is clear that single-use cups are harmful to the environment. In the UK, a 2020 Guardian analysis found that the 2 billion or so disposable cups that hit landfills each year contribute 152,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide – almost as much CO2 as 33,000 gasoline-powered passenger cars emit annually. The rest of the globe consumes far more disposable cups. Starbucks alone burns through nearly 7 billion single-use cups each year (about half of the coffee brand’s 34,000 stores are in the US).
Plastic and paper cups (usually these covered with plastic) There are Rarely recycled, and bioplastics can come with their own environmental drawbacks. By comparison, reusable cups are better for the environment – as long as they are used repeatedly.
Live Nation said in a statement that it aims to “displace more than 1 million single-use cups this year” as part of efforts to cut its environmental footprint. In search of other ways to eliminate plastic, the events promoter and ticketing company partnered with canned water company Liquid Death, which raised $75 million earlier this year.
Other backers of the turn include Anheuser-Busch owner AB InBev, Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures and Bjarke Ingels Group, a large architectural firm.
Other companies that have turned to the technology to promote reusable cups include UK chain Costa Coffee, r.Cup and Ember.