England’s iconic Oval ground will host the opening game of this year’s cricket world cup on Thursday – and plastic pollution is set to be the biggest loser.

Home of Surrey County Cricket Club, the Oval is on a mission to eliminate all single-use plastic. Among the venue’s initiatives, the 10,000 plastic pint glasses that will be used to fill thirsty sports fans this week will be recycled, rather than discarded. More than this though, the Oval management team wants to go completely plastic-free by 2020, and is 90% of the way there already.

“We are committed to eradicating all single-use plastics at The Oval, and having reached 90% of our target we are confident we are moving in the right direction,” said Richard Gould, Chief Executive of Surrey CCC. “Reducing our environmental footprint is a major priority for us. We are proud that we are now within touching distance of being the first single-use plastic free stadium in our class.”

Free water fountains are slashing sales of bottled water, while reusable glassware is offered at the stadium via a deposit scheme, where fans either return them and get their £1 deposit back, keep as a souvenir, or drop in a charity bin. The club says its efforts last year resulted in ‘690,000 pieces of single-use plastic – or six tonnes worth – from being sent to landfill’.

“The Oval are hitting sixes when it comes to beating plastic pollution. Things like plastic cutlery often get used just once but can linger around for hundreds of years, polluting our oceans and environment,” added Craig Bennett, Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth.“Making things which are re-usable, rather than just recyclable, is key, which is why it’s great that you can enjoy a pint at the cricket in a re-usable cup and why the installation of water fountains is so important.”

Sports connect with audiences in numbers globally that make it arguably one of the most important communication vehicles. The actions being implemented at the Oval can only help inspire fans and other stadiums to do more to eliminate plastic pollution.

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand,” Nelson Mandela famously said.