Andy Marinos, WOSUP (War On Single Use Plastic) Board Chairman
In his first ‘what next’ move since stepping down as Rugby Australia CEO (in June 2023), Andy Marinos takes a seat as Board Chairman of Sydney-based social impact enterprise, WOSUP (War On Single Use Plastic). The former Rugby League and Union International brings 20 years’ experience in business and sports administration at the highest levels globally, including a five-year term as CEO of the Southern Hemisphere’s rugby body Sanzar. He is credited for steering Rugby Australia through financial difficulty in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, turning a $27.1 million loss in 2020 (prior to his appointment) into an $8.2 million surplus in 2022. Today, as newly-appointed WOSUP Board Chairman, he’s focused on engaging with senior stakeholders across sports and government – in Australia and globally – to create a cleaner, greener planet for future generations.
To explore how the power of live sport and entertainment can drive positive behaviour change for the benefit of people and the planet, Tim Langdon, publisher of Eco Voice, had the pleasure of facilitating a Q&A with former Rugby Australia CEO-turned WOSUP Australia Board Chairman, Andy Marinos.
Q1: What is WOSUP Australia focused on in terms of sustainability?
WOSUP is first and foremost a purpose-driven, social impact enterprise, committed to turning the tide on a global throwaway culture which the live sport and entertainment industry unnecessarily contributes to. It’s hard to comprehend, but globally we churn through 500 billion single-use plastic cups every year – the majority of which end up in landfill, or worse, oceans. My life has evolved around sport, both on and off the field (and a fair bit of time in the ocean too, as a keen surfer and open water swimmer), yet it’s only in recent years that I’ve stopped and seriously questioned why large-scale venues and events are among the biggest contributors to this mountain of plastic waste that ends up in landfills across the globe or, of greater concern, finds its way into our waterways and oceans. In Australia alone, 65 stadiums and 43 arenas go through an estimated 40 to 50 million disposable plastic cups per year… and that’s a conservative estimate. The true number is likely much higher in light of a 2021 report commissioned by the Australian Government which found every person in Australia, on average, uses 35.7 single-use plastic cups per year for cold beverages, adding up to a head-spinning 900 million cups annually. If we take New South Wales as an example, annual attendance at ticketed sports and entertainment events sits at around 3.5 million people. On the law of averages, this group, in one year, could contribute 122 million single-use plastic cups to the scrap heap and waterways. Surely, we can – and must – do better. Yes, live sport and entertainment events are a place to have fun, celebrate, and escape the everyday stresses of life. However, it’s a sobering thought that many people, caught in the moment, don’t immediately stop and question beverage packaging at live events, perhaps assuming plastic cups are the only option on offer. I was once among them – and this is precisely where WOSUP’s focus on sustainability comes into play, enabling and empowering large-scale sport and entertainment venues to call last drinks on ALL types of plastic cups and switch to lightweight, reusable and infinitely recyclable aluminium cups. Reason being, aluminium is a key building block in the transition from an environmentally questionable linear economy to a sustainable circular economy, in which a shift to reusable (not just recyclable) products is paramount. Bottom line: in the global war on single use plastic, prevention is the best cure for plastic pollution, which means stopping production at its source. For anyone asking why, the answer is simple: only 9% of all plastic ever made has been recycled, while 75% of all aluminium produced remains in use.
Q2: How can sport drive positive behaviour change for the benefit of people and the planet?
I’m not a behavioural expert, but few would argue that sport has an amazing ability to excite and inspire people like no other activity. As I see it, sport, in tandem with high-profile athletes and role models, powerfully influences the human psyche. What I do know is that sport, in all its forms, has and will continue to produce a line-up of heroes, whether individual athletes, teams or codes. It’s also no secret that live sport broadcasts rank highly on the global mass media agenda, meaning influence stretches far beyond on-site crowds. Taking all of this into account, there’s no question live sport – and large-scale venues, sponsors, and other corporate partners that profit from it – can drive positive behaviour change for the benefit of us all and our planet. What’s also clear is that individual athletes, teams, and sporting codes are increasingly holding positions that drive advocacy for positive change. Increasingly, across all industries, we are noticing that consumers (especially “Gen Next”, aka Millennials, Gen Z and Gen Alpha), are make purchasing decisions based on whether the social and environmental credentials of organisations and brands align with their own value system. Knowing that education and entertainment go hand-in-hand, WOSUP has developed an innovative technology platform and loyalty program (WOSUP Rewards), providing venues, sponsors, athletes and brands with the unique opportunity to personalise crowd experience, deliver real-time fan engagement, and bring spectators along on their ESG (environmental, social, governance) journey. Accessed via customised QR codes built into every WOSUP cup, the loyalty program can be used to deliver information and education, and drive messaging, alongside attractive offers, competitions, and money-can’t-buy experiences. Importantly, this interactive tech platform solves eco-conscious partners’ ESG marketing conundrum by introducing a dynamic new category in “sustainability sponsorship”, with plans underway to develop an environmental portal that tracks cup usage and eco impact at events. As a result, WOSUP’s closed-loop, clean tech solution is a no-brainer for an industry at the touchpoint of society and culture, keeping in mind all eyes of the world are focused on Australia in the so-called “Golden Decade” of sporting and cultural events; the pinnacle being the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Notably, the first Olympics to be designated “carbon positive” under the International Olympic Committee’s reform program to tackle climate change. The good news is Australia’s stadiums and arenas have the opportunity, right now, to lead the world in driving positive change… one reusable and infinitely recyclable aluminium cup at a time.
Q3: Do you think that sport, collaborations, networks, and partnerships can help to reduce single use plastic in Australia?
In the war on plastic pollution, there’s no time to waste. Australia is a signatory to the global coalition to end plastic pollution by 2040 (the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution), hailed as the most significant environmental pact since the 2015 Paris climate accord. However, only with concerted action and collaboration across all industries will this have any chance of becoming a reality. So, it’s not so much a question of “can” but “must”, which is why WOSUP’s primary focus is to work with governments, sporting bodies, tourism authorities, venues, commercial partners and other networks and partners to eliminate the knock-on of plastic pollution from large-scale sport and entertainment events. Encouragingly, governments in states and territories across Australia are systematically introducing legislation to phase out plastic products that cause harm to the environment and human health. WOSUP takes the position that all types of plastic cups are problematic and unnecessary and should be banned at large-scale sport and entertainment venues. Since March, on the back of important collaborations, networks and partnerships, we’ve rolled out successful pilots of WOSUP’s sustainable beverage packaging solution at major stadiums, venues and events. They include Stadiums Queensland pilot, comprising a series of 10 NRL games, one Women’s State of Origin, and one Super Rugby match at Townsville’s Queensland Country Bank Stadium; Australian Turf Club Autumn Carnival at Rosehill Gardens and Royal Randwick; and Wallabies vs Argentina rugby union test match at Sydney’s CommBank Stadium. As a result, use of WOSUP cups has prevented approximately 34,000 single-use plastic cups ending up in landfill and delivered a total carbon reduction of 102,000kg CO₂-e (equivalent of 162 native trees planted by Greenfleet). Equally exciting is the fact we’ve received positive ratings in customer satisfaction surveys from fans who used our product, had a positive experience, and felt they personally made a direct impact to sustainable outcomes.
Q4: Is sport more generally moving towards sustainability focused solutions?
To be fair, on the specific question of beverage packaging, the sport and entertainment industry has, to date, been somewhat hamstrung by the absence of a simple, cost-effective solution to replace plastic cups at live events, keeping in mind strict safety requirements. Here, WOSUP’s lightweight aluminium cups are a safe and sustainable crowd-and-climate gamechanger. The cups are purposely designed to be used again and again (hygienically washed and returned to venues for reuse). They also keep drinks colder for longer and, thanks to our partnership with Australia’s first carbon offset provider, Greenfleet, deliver a net carbon abatement of 3kg CO₂-e per use, alongside positive land use outcomes. We’re in ongoing discussions with key industry and government stakeholders about the win-win benefits of WOSUP’s sustainable business model. Our aim is to reduce global use of 50 million disposable plastic cups a year by 2030, in turn helping sport and entertainment sectors in Australia and overseas become carbon neutral by 2050 (the year Australia has legislated to reach net-zero emissions). At WOSUP, we also take a stand against greenwashing, which is why we commissioned an independent life cycle assessment (LCA) by Lifecycles into environmental advantages and disadvantages of the reusable WOSUP aluminium cup, compared to four alternatives. Namely, three single-use products: polyethylene terephthalate (PET) cup; polylactic acid (PLA) cup; and an aluminium can. Plus, one reusable plastic cup made from polypropylene (PP). Lifecycles concluded WOSUP’s reusable aluminium cup has the lowest impact on climate change, fossil fuel depletion, water scarcity and soil quality. Based on delivery of one drink, the WOSUP cup has a carbon footprint of 32g CO₂-e, (reduced to a net carbon abatement of 3kg CO₂-e per use, thanks to our partnership with Greenfleet), compared to reusable PP (50g CO₂-e); and single use alternatives PLA (47g CO₂-e); PET (43g CO₂-e) and an aluminium can (244g CO₂-e).
Q5: How can WOSUP Australia collaborate with others in your industry to make even further progress to address Australia’s single use plastic problem?
The sustainability sector is a community all working together to drive change. We have and will continue to dedicate a significant amount of time to building relationships with policy makers and have already received invaluable support from key industry sector stakeholders including the Australian Aluminium Council, alongside climate advocates in the public service, and Members of Parliament. As a collective, we’re focused on collaborative engagement in climate policy and legislation to phase out plastics. At WOSUP, we’re also committed to continuous improvement and look forward to the future introduction of a renewable aluminium plant in Australia. In the interim, we’ve commissioned KPMG to conduct a comprehensive Climate iQ risk and opportunity assessment report, analysing the environmental benefits of our solution compared to other beverage packaging such as cans and reusable plastic. Again, the only solution when it comes to addressing the global single use plastic problem is to stop production of ALL plastic at its source.
Q6: How can publications, such as Eco Voice, play their part in promoting sustainability in your business sector?
In the non-stop, 24-hour news cycle, it can be challenging to get cut-through, no matter how worthy an initiative. Independent publications, like Eco Voice, focused on sustainability news, provide an invaluable arena for critical information and ideas that might otherwise be lost. So, keep doing what you’re doing. Thank you.
First published in 2003, Eco Voice is your go-to publication for sustainability news in Australia. Eco Voice prides itself as an independent news platform with a clear focus on sustainability, with articles coming from a diverse range of contributors – all levels of government, corporations, not-for-profits, community groups, small to medium sized businesses, universities, research organisations, together with input from international sources. Eco Voice values community, conservation and commerce. Eco Voice is a media partner of the prestigious Australian Banksia Sustainability Awards – The Peak Sustainability Awards.
WOSUP (War On Single Use Plastic) exists to help address one of the greatest environmental problems facing the world today – too much plastic waste. WOSUP Co-Founders Martin Salter and Karl Page were drinking beers at the footy when they found themselves sitting amid a sea of plastic cups. They began re-using their plastic cups and contemplating an alternative, eco-friendly solution. In 2018, WOSUP Australia was born. The Sydney-based social impact enterprise strives to make a difference by providing sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic. By creating 100% reusable aluminium cups and providing integrated services, complete with fan engagement technology, WOSUP offers a meaningful solution for public-facing service industries to ditch plastic cups. WOSUP cups are the perfect fit for major sport and entertainment venues, festivals, clubs, pubs, cinemas, hospitality and tourism attractions. For more information, visit www.wosup.com.au
Martin Salter and Karl Page WOSUP co-founders