How UK Nightlife Could See A Plastic Free Revolution

The new normal for UK nightlife. We spoke to Hadi Ahmadzadeh, founder of sustainable nightlife consultancy ecodisco about the future of eco-friendly clubbing.

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Hadi Ahmadzadeh is the founder of ecodisco, a sustainable nightlife consultancy tackling single-use plastics and GHG emissions in the UK events industry.

With expertise in carbon footprinting, reusable cup systems and specialist communications, ecodisco is pushing for a more environmentally and economically sustainable nightlife scene in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We spoke to Hadi to learn more about ecodisco and how he came to start this UK nightlife revolution.

Nightlife inspires a more progressive future

Between 2017 and 2019, I used to throw happy pink disco events with friends in London.

We cared a lot about designing the space and aligning it with the music we played, combining a sense of minimalism with dizzying disco balls and lights to inspire a vibrant dancefloor.

The positives of nightlife often outshine the negatives. The joy of a crowd, the sound of the music, and the sheer spectacle of a live performance will impress even the biggest cynics.

However, several issues need to be resolved to make the nightlife industry a more safe, accessible, and durable space.

As with any other part of society, nightlife must move with the times.

In the past, dance music has propelled the rest of society towards a more progressive future, empowering the under-represented and providing a platform for people to express themselves in many ways outside of western societal norms.

The need for a more sustainable UK nightlife

ecodisco originated as London’s first club night to remove all single-use plastics.

This project was my response to the massive contradiction between the many positive social and cultural impacts of nightlife and the abysmal environmental impact of the industry.

I had spent 2018 trying to make our events in London more sustainable through incremental changes with minimal knowledge, and I struggled a lot to make any progress.

I decided that a major overhaul was needed in the way we approached club nights, and in the summer of 2019, I launched a new concept party and called it ecodisco.

At ecodisco, we believe in harnessing this power that nightlife can have and direct it towards ‘sustainability’ – a word that can be controversial and is often misused and misunderstood.

For us, sustainable development for the nightlife industry is aligned with the Bruntland report definition: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

While we are primarily focused on environmental sustainability, we acknowledge the necessity of specific policies and approaches towards social and economic sustainability.

We use the UN Sustainable Development Goals to guide us on this.

A new way to tackle plastic waste

We supplied steel cups made with fabric holders so people could keep hold of their cups through the night.

We also partnered with Life Water to replace bottled water at all our events, and we designed a range of reusable signage that would be used at all ecodisco events.

We held events throughout 2019, proving that it was possible to party more sustainably.

We would include a £2 cup deposit in the ticket price for every event, and we handed cups out at the entrance; these would then be returned at the end of the night in return for a shiny £2 coin.

Highlights of this journey were appearing on BBC News twice and being named in the top 5 most influential people in London nightlife by the Evening Standard 1000.

Pivoting during the pandemic

In June 2020, ecodisco evolved from a club night into a consultancy – partially due to the cancellations caused by COVID-19, but mainly due to my desire to have a wider impact on the events industry.

In 2020 we generated £100k of funding from Innovate UK to design and pilot our reusable cup rental service. This will be commercially launched in October of this year after piloting in London through July, August and September.

The ecodisco cup system relies on a £1 green fee charged to ticket buyers at each event.

This £1 covers the cost of delivering, collecting, washing and storing our reusable polypropylene cups (same as festival cups) for venues or promoters.

Our system removes the cost of purchasing and disposing of cups for music venues, saving them tens of thousands of pounds each year.

It was vital for us to make this system as economically sustainable as it is environmentally sustainable to ensure that venues and events can realistically shift from single-use to reusables as restrictions ease.

Research to back it up

We recently released our first piece of research entitled Disposables Discontinued. It includes ecodisco survey data from nearly 300 event attendees and 100 venues/events.

The key findings are that reusable cups are safer, more cost-effective and more eco-friendly than single-use alternatives when used through ecodisco.

In fact, the report says that using ecodisco’s reusable cups system: ‘has the potential to save a 750 capacity venue over £36,000 a year. Not only does the venue remove the cost of purchasing cups, but they also remove the cost of disposal, savings that will be invaluable as venues reopen during the COVID-19 recovery.’

‘Most importantly, our system has the potential to replace the 100 million+ single-use cups that litter the UK events industry each year.’

Read more about ecodisco’s impact on UK nightlife and download the full Disposables Discontinued report for free on their website here.