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Last orders for traditional pint glass as search begins for alternatives


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Time is being called on the traditional beer glass as the Home Office calls in experts to develop a safer pint pot. The move follows growing concern at the number and extent of injuries caused in violent incidents involving glassware each year.


Over the next four months a team of designers will produce a range of drinking vessels that are not only a safer pint glass but, crucially, find favour with the public.


Although there is confidence that the designers can produce a safer glass, the key problem is overcoming the drinkers’ attachment to the traditional pint glass.


Sebastian Conran, who heads the Home Office’s Design and Technology Alliance Against Crime, said: “There are existing plastic glasses and if you go to a baseball game in the United States you can buy beer in a paper cup.


“People are quite used to drinking beer out of plastic and paper things but there is a feeling that in public, it is a traditional thing to drink beer out of a glass.”


The dimpled pint glass with a handle has been in long-term decline for decades, replaced since the 1960s with a lighter, straighter pint glass. The new glass, with a bulge about an inch from the top, is easier for staff to collect and solves the problem of straight glasses chipping at the rims.


Mr Conran said that reducing the estimated 87,000 injuries caused every year by glassware is the key behind the initiative. “We want to find something that will end the situation where shards of glass can inflict quite horrible injuries,” he added.


The ambition is to design a more attractive pint glass with a material that will not shard on breaking, he said. Designers have been asked to look at four specific areas as they develop the next generation of pint glasses.


They will look at: adding a new feature to the glass material that provides safety when it is broken; developing a composite or alternative material; ensuring that plastic and polycarbonate is at the core of any new vessel; and making sure that the new material makes no difference to the consumer’s enjoyment of the drink.


In addition to concerns about the injuries caused by violent incidents involving glassware, the designers say that safe vessels will reduce the number of staff in pubs and clubs who suffer cuts from broken glass while serving, clearing up, carrying or washing.


In a number of local initiatives across the country polycarbonate glasses have been introduced in pubs and clubs in an attempt to reduce injuries caused by alcohol-fuelled violence.The “unbreakable” polycarbonate glasses and bottles bounce off floors rather than smash and are strong enough for a car to park on them.


Alan Campbell, a junior Home Office minister, said: “Innovative design has played an important role in driving down overall crime. This project will see those same skills applied to the dangerous and costly issue of alcohol-related crime and I am confident it will lead to similar success.”


There remains consumer resistance to anything other than traditional glass and outright hostility to plastic.


The British Beer and Pub Association, which represents 98 per cent of beer brewers in Britain and more than half of the 58,000 pubs, said that people did not like drinking from plastic containers.


It also said that they did not last as long as the average three-month lifespan of a pint glass and were susceptible to scratching. Mark Hastings, director of communications at the association, said: “A glass is better container for the quality of the beer. You can pick up a taint of plastic from a plastic container.”


Mr Hastings added that in real terms plastic containers were expensive. They had a limited shelf life, scratch and were damaged in dishwashers.


Pulling points


— 126 million pints of beer are served each week in Britain


— The average British man will drink 11,600 pints in his lifetime Beer was drunk from pewter, pictured below, or earthenware mugs from the 1400s, with lids added after the plague to keep out flies. These lidded “steins” were used until the 20th century


— Clear glasses were first used in the 1700s to show the beer’s colour, but were not popular until after the First World War


— The classic British glass pint jug was originally ten-sided but changed to a dimpled design in the middle of the last century. Their popularity waned because the handles prevented stacking


— The most common shape of glass in pubs is the “nonic”, derived from it’s “no nick” design — a bulge below the rim that prevents them from chipping


— Pint glasses have a number on them from the Weights and Measures Authority, used to identify which office inspects them.


— Most British pints are drunk out of French glasses made in Calais


Sources: Design Council, Northumbria police



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