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You Spilled My Pint?

August 25, 2009

Another thing I heard on the radio today was this: the Government is looking into replacing the glasses in pubs with plastic. They’ve commissioned a new design for plastic containers in a bid to stop glasses being used for weapons in alcohol related crime. 5,000 people a year in England and Wales are attacked with bottles or glasses, which is clearly 5,000 too many. I recall the story of this poor woman who died as a result of being hit in the neck by a stray piece of glass when a bottle was thrown in a pub on boxing day a couple of years ago. If I thought plastic glasses would kill alcohol-fuelled violence at a stroke I would be all for it, but there are several reasons why I’m not convinced it would work.

Number one: plastic glasses kill the experience of a pint. There’s the weight of the glass, the feel of it on the lips as you imbibe the liquid, the look of clear glass, giving the pint a lovely sheen. I’m sure the taste is affected as well. It’s one thing to have plastic glasses at festivals and concerts where the beer probably tastes like piss anyway so the quality of the vessel matters less. It’s quite another to go to an establishment and pay premium for the pint that you could get cheaper from an off licence to drink at home, only to find that you have to drink out of plastic. Are we adults, or toddlers? Number two: I cannot see how this could be environmentally sound. Glass is recyclable and washable. Though they can be a bit skanky after a few spins in the dishwasher, particularly wine glasses, the knackered ones can be disposed of, crushed and made into new glasses or other vessels. Consider how many people a day drink out of the same glass that would be washed over and over again. Plastic could only be used once. Even if they manage to make a washable plastic, the shelf life wouldn’t be anywhere near as long and I don’t think it would be trusted. I wouldn’t drink from it, would you? Number three: The pubs wouldn’t wear it. In a climate where 50 pubs a week are closing down through high rents, cheap supermarket booze and (possibly) the smoking ban, this could be the last straw. What pub would want to be known as the one with the plastic glasses? By association they’ll be tarred with the ‘dodgy pub – avoid’ brush. Not good for business. Number four: The reduction or prevention of alcohol-induced violence can only come from a change of culture, a long term solution that will take a long time to manifest.

Most of us are sensible drinkers, but as in so many aspects of our lives, we are being penalised (again) for the behaviour of the few.

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