Designer Matt Cotterill explains how the new pint glass design works
By Margaret Ryan
Thousands of people are hurt each year in violent attacks where broken beer glasses are used as weapons. Could two new pint glass designs be the answer?
Nearly 87,000 injuries are caused by glass attacks each year in England and Wales, according to the Home Office. Many more are hurt as a result of accidents.
The worrying figures have prompted a redesign of the classic pint glass, with police, facial surgeons, pubs and brewers all voicing concern about the high number of glassings.
Traditional glasses could be replaced
The government hopes introducing safer pint glasses, still made of glass, will help reduce injuries. As well as the human cost, it also hopes it will reduce the financial burden of alcohol-related crime, which currently costs the NHS £2.7bn a year.
Now, two new prototypes for beer glasses have been unveiled, as part of a programme involving the Design Council. Launched by the Home Office's Design and Technology Alliance, the aim is to use design to tackle crime.
Designers say the new glasses will appeal to drinkers and have the potential to really reduce the number of glass-related injuries.
"The British love their pints of beer," says David Kester, of the Design Council. "We wouldn't want to take someone's enjoyment and pleasure away.
"This is not a silver bullet. It is one idea that can make a significant difference. We hope to save lives and reduce suffering."
A clear plastic coating is the secret of the first design, called Glass Plus, says Matt Cotterill, creative director of Design Bridge, which is behind the new glasses.
The coating or bio-resin is put inside a glass and prevents it from breaking into dangerous shards when smashed. It can be used to treat existing pint glasses and drinkers might not even notice the difference.
The second design, called Twin Wall, is inspired by car windscreens, which have gone from being made of toughened glass to being made from laminated glass. The glass is actually two thin-walled glasses inside each other, which are resin-bonded together. Again this stops the glass from shattering into pieces.
It does look significantly thicker than a traditional pint glass, although the designers say it is an early prototype and they are still working on improving it. An additional benefit of the design is that it makes beer easier to pour.
In a demonstration Glass Plus broke on the first attempt, but didn't shatter. It took four attempts to get a Twin Wall glass to break and when it did there were no shards of glass either.
The first model could be in pubs within 12 months, says Mr Cotterill. Designers are already working with suppliers and manufacturers to refine the coating.
It is unlikely to cost more than an existing glass to produce, as the toughened glass already used to make pint pots has to be heat-treated anyway. If you treated existing glasses there would be an additional cost. But the properties of toughened glass wear off over time, unlike the new coating.
Pubs are suffering and to ask them to cough up for supposedly improved glassware, it is not good timing
Louise Ashworth Camra
The second model may take longer to come onto the market, but the designers say it will be durable and hard-wearing. Both glasses still have to be tested further before they are ready to be piloted in pubs and bars.
Mr Kester says the Twin Wall version is likely to be more expensive, but says: "What price corporate responsibility?"
But for pubs and breweries the cost of replacing their beer glasses is a valid concern, says Campaign for Real Ale (Camra). It is reserving judgment on the designs until it knows more, but is worried about putting an extra burden on already struggling pubs.
"Who will pay for these additional glasses?" says spokeswoman Louise Ashworth. "Fifty-two pubs are closing down each week because of administrative burdens, high taxes and the smoking ban. Pubs are suffering and to ask them to cough up for supposedly improved glassware, it is not good timing."
Glass will always be popular among drinkers as they enjoy the look and feel it, so improving safety is to be welcomed, says Neil Williams, of the British Beer and Pub Association. He describes the designs as "interesting ideas that merit further work and development".
"We are certainly supportive of innovations that can improve glass safety."
Home Secretary Alan Johnson believes the glasses are "an important step forward which could also provide retailers and drinkers with a preferable alternative to plastic glasses".
But the drinks industry will not be forced to introduce the new pint glasses, with the Home Office acknowledging the financial strain some pubs are under.
"We are hoping to stimulate action," says a spokesman. "This is our early solution. Discussions are to be had. We are not looking to make this mandatory."
Below is a selection of your comments.
Sounds a great idea. My one concern is that I have heard of people being attacked by broken bottles more than pint glasses - surely bottles should be made the same way as these new glasses? Jo , Leicestershire
This article depresses me in profound ways. I hate the messed up social problems in the UK, which is why I left for Canada, including what would be considered reckless alcoholism here. And it's depressing to me that the best way deemed to fix one of the symptoms of a social problem is to make the glasses not do as much damage. Never mind education. Forget more effective law enforcement and structure such as restrictions on sales of alcohol. No. Let's stop the glasses hurting as much. Ridiculous. David, Toronto, Canada
Something definitely needs to be done but... toughened glass - much heavier and more difficult to break = a very good weapon. Not the best of ideas! Tony Brown, North Wales
Why not just have reusable plastic glasses ? Lee, Carmarthen
I worked in a large psychiatric hospital in Epsom in the mid 1950s, and the glass tumblers in use were designed to fracture into small crystals, just as a car windscreen would. The object was to prevent broken glass being used for self harm by the inmates. As I recall it, the appearance of these special tumblers was much the same as normal domestic/household items - only when smashed could the difference be seen. So I think a technology for this 'new invention' has been around a long time already. Ian T, Hunton, North Yorkshire, UK
Having witnessed somebody being permanently scarred by having a broken glass thrust in their face, I have to say this is an excellent idea. The sooner they are introduced, the better. Of course, fights don't break out in pubs and clubs all the time, but those places where it happens most often should be forced to introduce the new glasses. Phil Rogers, Bournemouth
Fab idea... as long as a pint stays a pint, I'm happy! Nicola, Peterculter, Aberdeen
How about pubs that use the new glasses getting a discount on their Public Liability insurance as accidents are less likely to be as serious. That way they will be able to off-set at least part of the cost of the new glasses. Robin Stirzaker, Watford
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