Tennis Australia is working on brushing up its environmental image by announcing this week that it has teamed up with a game-changing Australian enviro-tech startup to reduce plastic bottle waste at the Australian Open, and ending its controversial partnership with oil and gas firm Santos.
We’re currently in the first phase of our ‘Maximum Play, Minimum Footprint’ sustainability pathway where our focus is building strategies and capability, measuring and baselining impacts and piloting innovative programs. Tim Jolley, Chief Strategy Officer, Tennis Australia
TA is backing recycling innovators Samsara in their mission to end the plastic pollution crisis, through their Wildcard Ventures VC fund.
A pioneer in ‘infinite recycling technology’, Samsara uses plastic-eating enzymes to break down plastic waste into its basic components, which results in material that can be used to create new medical and food-grade plastic products that can be recycled repeatedly without degradation.
Samsara will collect approximately 5000 used plastic water bottles during the course of AO22, which they will recycle at their Canberra lab.
“Tennis Australia is proud to support Samsara’s ground breaking technology,” Tim Jolley, TA’s Chief Strategy Officer, said. “We are committed to minimising our environmental impact through a diverse range of sustainability programs.
“As a formal investor in Samsara, we have a genuine stake in their future success.”
Samsara’s process is carbon-neutral, environmentally friendly and streamlined, because it doesn’t require clear and coloured plastic bottles to be separated.
Throughout 2022, Samsara will expand their lab operation to build its first recycling plant, with a view to full production in 2023.
“We are proud that Tennis Australia is providing materials from Australia’s biggest sporting event, the Australian Open, to Samsara to showcase our game-changing recycling process,“ Samsara Eco founder Paul Riley said.
The Samsara investment is one of a number of initiatives TA is implementing as part of the AO’s growing focus on sustainability, including:
- Greenhouse gas emissions at Australian Open 2022 are being tracked as part of TA’s commitment to the UN Sport for Climate Action Framework (UNS4CA)
- An emissions reduction plan has been formulated that focuses on eight emissions sources, in order to meet the emissions reductions targets laid out in UNS4CA
- Australian startup Green My Plate, a local green business, is supplying and hygienically washing reusable plates and bowls used at the AO ‘Beach House,’ eliminating thousands of single use items from landfill during the tournament
- The challenge of event waste, improving measurement and reducing overall landfill is a major focus.
- A dedicated recycling stream has been created to manage 60,000 AO tennis ball tubes, which have traditionally been difficult to recycle
- Elimination of plastic lids from AO tennis Ball product packages
- The AO22 fleet includes 10 all-electric Kia EV6s; an important milestone on the road to fully integrating electric vehicles.
“We’re currently in the first phase of our ‘Maximum Play, Minimum Footprint’ sustainability pathway where our focus is building strategies and capability, measuring and baselining impacts and piloting innovative programs,” Jolley said.
“These building blocks, and the development of our emissions reduction pathway, will form the backbone of our future sustainability efforts as we strive towards reducing the AO’s environmental impact.”
Meanwhile, Patrick Burke reports on insidethegames.biz that TA has ended its controversial multi-year deal with oil and gas producer Santos after less than 12 months.
South Australia-based Santos was confirmed as the AO and ATP Cup’s official natural gas partner in February 2021, before the delayed first tennis Grand Slam of the year, with TA claiming it would ‘provide a platform for Santos to showcase how natural gas is used in everyday life’.
The partnership has been brought to a premature end, with a TA spokesperson commenting: “Santos was a partner of AO2021, however they are no longer a partner now.”
The decision was made in November last year, although only recently has it received more widespread publicity.
Climate activists including 350.org Australia, an international movement of ordinary people working to end the age of fossil fuels and build a world of community-led renewable energy for all, had compared sponsorship with fossil fuel giants to ‘doctors promoting cigarettes in 1930’.
350.org Australia accused AO organisers of allowing Santos to ‘sport-wash’ its image, but Chief Executive Lucy Manne applauded TA’s decision.
“Tennis Australia should be congratulated for ending their association with Santos,” Manne said. “Fossil fuel companies like Santos are driving climate damage, including increased heatwaves, drought, bushfires, coral bleaching and sea level rise – and they must not be allowed to ‘sports-wash’ their image at major events.
“The sustainability of the Australian Open depends on a sustainable climate.
“Research by the Climate Council has shown that climate change is already subjecting Australian Open players to more heat stress and the situation is expected to get worse.”
TA has signed the United Nations Sports for Climate Action Framework, whose members aim to use sport to drive climate awareness and action, and have committed to achieving ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.
Natural gas has been considered a ‘bridge fuel’ to assist with the transition to carbon-neutral energy, although scientists have challenged those claims, arguing they are undermined by its ‘leakage rate’.
Santos merged with Oil Search Limited last month, but has claimed it aims for ‘net-zero emissions’ by 2040.