Live Nation Wants to Bring High-Tech, Reusable Cups to Its Concerts

The cups, from TURN, can be returned to a collection pod and washed at the venue.

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Conscious effort to mitigate environmental impact, or greenwashing? Time will tell.
Conscious effort to mitigate environmental impact, or greenwashing? Time will tell.
Image: Giuseppe Cacace (Getty Images)

Live Nation, the company behind some of your favorite concerts, wants you to know that it has a soul. The events promoter and venue operator pledged $5 million to TURN, an environmental startup, to bring their high-tech, reusable cups to its events and shows.

What if I told you the worst part of drinking at a concert isn’t actually the overpriced and watered-down beer, but the fact that the plastic cup you’re drinking out of is going right into a landfill after you throw it on the venue floor? Well Live Nation, dubbed one of the world’s largest live entertainment companies, is trying to change that with an investment in reusable cups.

“By investing in TURN, Live Nation is able to make events at our venues and festivals more sustainable,” said Live Nation president and CEO Michael Rapino in a press release. “By rolling out real world solutions at scale we hope this helps the whole industry find solutions.”

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TURN’s cup return is pretty simple: Guests at a concert or event will receive a reusable, plastic or aluminum cup that can be refilled throughout the event. When they’re ready to return their drinking vessel, concertgoers will scan a barcode on the bottom and drop it into TURN’s collection bins. TURN will then wash the cups to reuse them—the company claims on their website that their dishwashing technology is 700% faster than traditional dishwashers. Guests are encouraged to return the cup instead of taking it home by receiving rewards on the TURN app when the cup is safe and sound in the collection bin.

Live Nation and TURN say that the system has already proved successful in festival and concert settings, having deployed the tech at events like Bonnaroo in June 2022. In a case study from Sea.Hear.Now festival in 2021, TURN says that 31,000 cups were returned to their collection pods by the end of the 2-day festival. Guests earned one entry into a $1,000 giveaway with every cup they returned.

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The interesting part is not necessarily TURN’s technology, but Live Nation’s decision to invest. Touring and concerts are notoriously environmentally damaging, with everything from paper and plastic litter, exuberant lighting systems, and tour buses taking their respective tolls on the environment. As Live Nation, one of the biggest concert companies on the planet, pivots to invest in green startups, consumers should maybe be wary if this is a genuine commitment to offsetting their impact or if it’s all for show.