AB InBev brings ‘recycling hawkers’ to MLB ballparks in new environmental push

The brewer has created the National Recycling League to encourage environmentally friendly fan behavior

Published On
Apr 12, 2022

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There will be a new vendor roaming select MLB baseball stadiums this season—“recycling hawkers.”  That is the term Anheuser-Busch InBev is using to describe new volunteers who will collect used cups, cans and bottles from soda- and beer-swilling fans, so that they can be recycled as part of a partnership with environmental nonprofit Keep America Beautiful.

The program is part of a larger initiative the brewer is calling the National Recycling League, which aims to leverage the company’s broad reach as a corporate sports sponsor to encourage environmentally friendly fan behavior at sports venues. Initiatives include using recyclable aluminum cups instead of single-use plastic and signage that encourages recycling, including in-seat decals and other billboards asking fans to “Recycle Like a Champion.’”

AB InBev says 10 teams have signed up so far, including the St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals. The brewer envisions signing up teams from other sports leagues, including  the NFL, for what it is calling a “multi-sports league coalition aiming to reduce waste on game day.”

AB InBev cited an Environmental Protection Agency finding that U.S. sports fans generate about 39 million pounds of trash annually.

“At Anheuser-Busch, we approach everything we do—including sustainability—with an innovation mindset so that we can create an outsized impact,” Brendan Whitworth, CEO of the brewer’s U.S. division, said in a statement.

To build buzz for its program, the brewer released a video from its PR firm Weber Shandwick showing its recycling hawkers roaming baseball stadiums just like beer vendors. Only a subset of the teams in the larger initiative will have hawkers: the Astros, Nationals, Rangers and Padres.

The company is also running a contest in which it will encourage participating teams to compete for the highest recycling rate during home games. Consumers in the city with the highest rate will be offered a $5 coupon for AB InBev products, with only the first 1,000 consumers who sign up gaining the coupons. Fans are asked to sign up on the brewer’s mycooler.com loyalty platform, which has emerged as a key way for AB InBev to build its database of first-party consumer data.

A boost for business

AB InBev’s program comes as studies show consumers are increasingly favoring brands that emphasize sustainability. “Companies that don’t have sustainability as part of their core value proposition need to act now to protect against future reputational impacts and loss of market share” Shikha Jain, a partner at globally consultancy Simon-Kucher & Partners, stated in a press release late last year accompanying a report on changing attitudes toward sustainability.

Encouraging recycling has long been in the playbook for beverage companies, whose products are packaged in bottles and cans that can be a particularly problematic form of litter if not disposed of properly. But marketers in recent months have stepped up efforts, often with attention-grabbing moves. 

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For instance, Molson Coors last month announced it would begin revamping Coors Light six-packs to use fully recyclable cardboard sleeves in place of plastic connecting rings. Coca-Cola last week released a stop-motion animated film starring Bill Nye, aka the "Science Guy," that illustrates steps the company takes to recycle its own bottles and containers. 

Plenty of other initiatives will surely be announced in the coming days in advance of Earth Day on April 22, which has emerged as a critical date on the marketing calendar as brands seek to win the support of environmentally conscious consumers.