WE DEMAND AN END TO PLASTIC POLLUTION ON UK BEACHES BY 2030
What is the cause?
The root cause of plastic pollution is the systemic over-production and over-consumption of non-essential single-use, throw away and polluting plastics.
The plastic pollution crisis is made worse by our ineffective recycling & waste systems, which cannot process the staggering volume of plastic entering the market every year.
It has been estimated that by 2015, 8,300 million tonnes of virgin plastics had been produced since large-scale production first started in the 1920’s. Of this, 6,300 million tonnes became waste, only 9% was recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% has accumulated in landfills or is polluting the natural environment
Why aren’t things getting better?
Government’ responses globally so far haven’t stopped the flow of plastic pollution because they have focused on recycling at the end of a products life rather than reducing plastic consumption in the first place.
Plastic production is increasing all the time. Globally, plastic packaging production is expected to double by the late 2030s and quadruple by 2050.
The UK government is also effectively supporting and sustaining the plastic pollution crisis by providing the highest subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, which provide the raw materials needed to produce plastics.
I thought recycling was a good thing?
We can’t just recycle our way out of the problem, at the minute only 2% of plastics are effectively recycled and many countries have just decided to ship off our waste to developing countries who do not have the infrastructure to deal with amount of waste imported.
Recycling reduces both waste and carbon emissions, compared to incineration and landfill but we must first focus on reduction, reuse and refill of products before recycling.
What about biodegradable or compostable plastics are they better?
Well no, not really most of these plastics can only be broken down in industrial composters and won’t biodegrade for years if they end up in the ocean. Although bio-plastics produce less greenhouse gas emissions over their lifetime than normal plastics they still require a lot of land, energy and chemical process to make.
Instead of switching to bio plastics or other single use alternatives we need to start reusing and repairing.
It’s a cultural problem
The plastic pollution crisis is most of all a symptom of the disposable and throwaway consumer culture that dominates our economy, placing a huge stress on the world’s resources and contributing to the climate and ecological crisis.
What needs to change?
To solve the plastic pollution crisis, we need to reduce the production and consumption of non-essential single-use, throwaway and polluting plastic, and build a circular economy that ensures plastics are designed to be reused and repaired.
1. Legislation that ends the production and consumption of non-essential single use and polluting plastics
- We need an overarching policy and legally binding targets for the elimination of plastic pollution and to bring about an end to the manufacture, sale and use of non-essential single-use, throwaway and polluting products.
- We need ambitious and consistent bans across the UK on all non-essential single-use products, not just plastics, and progressive taxes and charges for those items where alternatives are not currently available.
- We must end subsides to fossil fuel and petro-chemical companies which are responsible for the systemic over-production of plastics. Instead government needs to incentivise green industries which develop sustainable alternatives to single-use, throwaway and polluting plastics.
- We need a global plastic treaty that creates a level playing field, cuts plastic pollution at source and cleans up the plastic that is already in the environment.
2. Legislation that ensures effective resource use and waste management
- We need to develop a circular economy which designs out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use and actively regenerates natural systems.
- We need a UK wide ‘all-in’ Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) focused around the principals of reduction, reuse and refill by 2023.
- We need an Extended Producer Responsibility scheme (EPR) that fully embraces’ Polluter Pays’ principals, covering the full environmental cost of a product throughout its life cycle, from resource extraction to recycling and incentivising business to design products for reuse and repair.
- We need to end the offshoring of the UKs domestic waste and develop and invest in domestic systems which keeps this material in the loop.
3. Business models that are focused on reduction and reuse
- We need business’ that produce products which are fundamentally designed to be reused, repaired and eventually effectively recycled.
- We need business’, large and small, to collaborate with government and each other to adopt consistent polices that create a level playing field and ultimately reduce waste and pollution across industries.
4. Cultural change across society
- We need to encourage a shift in narrative that recognises that ‘traditional recycling models’ don’t present the solution to the plastic pollution crisis. We must instead focus on reduction and alternative systems.
- We need to educate wider society that plastic pollution is a symptom of our wider unsustainable consumer culture. All forms of single-use products and packaging contribute to this crisis.
- Communities and individuals should be encouraged and empowered to reduce their plastic and waste footprints.
What is SAS doing?
We campaign to turn back the plastic tide choking the ocean.
Surfers Against Sewage is a leading voice in the campaign to eliminate plastic pollution, mobilising and empowering a nationwide network of ocean activists to take action from the beach front to the front benches of Parliament.
We work in collaboration with partners to connect grassroot community action and businesses with policy makers to drive progressive government legislation and policy focused on reduction, reuse and refill interventions.
- Deposit Return Scheme Action
- Do a Beach Clean
- Join a Plastic Free Community
- Become a Plastic Free School
- Organise a Mass Unwrap
- We have empowered over 700 communities and counting to sign up to ditch single use plastics and become Plastic Free Communities
- In 2019 alone, we mobilised over 90 volunteers to remove 120,000 kg of plastic pollution from our beaches
- Over 2400 schools have signed up to become Plastic Free Schools
- SAS campaigners, volunteers and communities nation-wide have helped to ensure that the UK government and Devolved Administrations are now banning single use items including plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers
- Worked through the Ocean Conservation All Party Parliamentary Group to create a Plastic Free Parliament
- Our Message in a Bottle petition supported by 329,000 citizens and delivered to 10 Downing Street, has been pivotal in calling for a Deposit Return Scheme in the UK.
People Power Toughens Up The Environment Act
After three long years of campaigning by Ocean Activists and NGOs, the Environment Bill finally received royal assent last week and has been made into law. We now have the Environment Act 2021.
The Environment Act is a key piece of legislation that sets out how the environment will be protected and restored for decades to come. The final result may not be the best act but it is a much, much better act than it may have been, and that is thanks to the tireless campaigning of Ocean Activists. People like you, who aired your views, piled the pressure on law makers and fought for change. Collectively, our voice was pivotal in achieving key improvements to the law on sewage pollution, plastic pollution and ocean recovery. Proof that people power works and that we can succeed in our fight for a better, bluer world.
When the Environment Bill was first introduced to parliament, in January 2020, there was hardly any focus on tackling sewage pollution and improving water quality. Enter the #EndSewagePollution campaign. Spearheaded by Surfers Against Sewage, the campaign drew together the passion and expertise of Ocean Activists, river lovers, NGOs, journalists, politicians and legal experts to catapult sewage pollution right to the top of the political agenda and on to the front pages. The campaign built upon the groundwork undertaken by activists like SAS for the last 30 years and has resulted in a number of key legal duties being added into UK law:
1. Water companies must provide real-time information any time that a Sewer Overflow discharges. We have been campaigning on this issue for years and so this is a huge win. We will be working to add all this new info into the Safer Seas & Rivers Service so water lovers can make more informed decisions about when to use our rivers and seas.
2. Water companies have to monitor and report on the impact of sewage discharges on water quality. This coupled with the real-time reporting on Sewage Overflow use will give us a clear picture on the effects of sewage pollution and ensure we can tackle the worst polluters first.
3. Government must make a plan to tackle sewage pollution and present this to parliament by September 2022. This is an important commitment and SAS will be working hard over the next nine months to ensure the plan is bold, ambitious and actually gets delivered.
4. Finally, after huge public pressure from Ocean Activists, the government has placed a legal duty on water companies to progressively reduce the adverse impact of discharges from storm overflows. Whilst we at SAS had campaigned for a more ambitious duty, actually including any measure in the Act is a resounding success – and the government has claimed that what is in the Act will be effective. So we will be using the new legislation to hold government and water companies to account in our mission to end sewage pollution.
Before the #EndSewagePollution campaign kicked off, none of these duties to improve the state of UK water quality existed. Their inclusion is testament to the power of our grassroots activism.
The Environment Act also included some welcome measures to tackle plastic pollution, crucially including powers to create a Deposit Return Scheme. If designed effectively, taking a range of materials in all shapes and sizes, this can have a huge impact on reducing the amount of plastic entering the ocean.
The Environment Bill, as first drafted, also included powers to charge for single use plastic items, a measure with positive intent. However, this could have risked business shifting to using other single use items such as paper or wood which can have as bad, if not worse, climate and environmental impacts. So we were stoked to see more of our activism bear fruit, with the government expanding the power to all single use items, an issue we campaigned on, alongside fellow NGOs.
As a result of our campaigning and advocacy, the Environment Act also includes the Marine Environment within the scope of the law. This means that targets set through the Act will have to contribute to recovering life at sea as well as on land.
Furthermore, as a result of the ‘State of Nature Campaign’ the government also included a target to halt the decline of species by 2030 within the Act. And whilst we wanted this to go further, the inclusion of such a target in the Act is a clear step forward.
So, what comes next
Whilst we now have an Environment Act, our campaigns to end sewage and plastic pollution and restore a thriving ocean for thriving people is far from over. As we know, from bitter experience, the blatant disregard water companies have for the law and the environment mean that legislation mean very little without robust enforcement. So, over the coming years, it is paramount that Ocean Activists continue to come together and use our collective voice to hold water companies, governments and regulators to account. We want to be able to play in clean rivers and seas, see nature rebound, and enjoy a natural world free of plastic pollution.
We know that the Environment Act has some considerable gaps. But the law now compared to when first drafted is undoubtedly much stronger. This is testament to the power of people coming together and demanding change and we’ll be working hard to make sure governments put the policies in the Environment Act into practice. We need ambitious targets to be set to improve water quality both inland and at the coast, resource efficiency and waste, and biodiversity. We need clear guidance from government to industry that ensures the environment is at the heart of business decision making and for industry to invest in nature.
Thank you for all you have done to drive the campaign so far – we would could not have achieved such progress without you. As we move further into this decade of ecosystem restoration, people power will become all the more important in driving the change we need for Planet Ocean.Read More
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