Our Ambition is to End 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 (in all its forms) 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, as we build back better from the Covid-19 crisis, government needs to incentivise green industries which develop sustainable alternatives to single-use, throwaway and polluting plastics.
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?
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.
EXPOSED: Dirty Dozen Fuelling The UK’s Packaging Pollution Crisis
Our 2021 Brand Audit Report, launched today (11 August), has revealed that two thirds of the UKs plastic and packaging pollution can be traced back to just 12 polluting companies, aka. THE DIRTY DOZEN: Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Anheuser-Bush InBev, McDonalds, Mondelez International, Heineken, Tesco, Carlsberg Group, Suntory, Haribo, Mars and Aldi.
Hugo, our chief exec, had this to say:
“Our annual Brand Audit has once again revealed the shocking volume of plastic and packaging pollution coming directly from big companies and some of their best known brands. Serial offenders including Coca-Cola – which tops the leader board year on year as the worst offender – are still not taking responsibility. Legislation such as an ‘all-in’ deposit scheme needs to be introduced urgently and governments need to hold these companies to account and turn off the tap of plastic and packaging pollution flooding the ocean.”
By collecting the packaging pollution found through our Million Mile Clean, thousands of you have helped us expose over 300 companies who are responsible for the packaging pollution pandemic which is destroying the UK environment. Coca-Cola has been identified as the biggest offender yet again, with branded items such as Coke cans and bottles being picked up three times more often than other brands during the cleans.
Alongside the Dirty Dozen parent companies, the report also exposes the top ten food & drink brands who are fueling the packaging pollution pandemic in the UK, including household names such as Walkers, McDonalds and Cadbury.
It seems the COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted the type and volume of items recorded during this year’s Brand Audit. Stella Artois and Budweiser cans made their way into the top ten most polluting brands, leading to their parent company Anheuser-Bush InBev rocketing up the ‘Dirty Dozen’ leader board to third place, having been 8th in 2019. This surge is most likely due to the closure of pubs, bars and restaurants during consecutive lockdowns. Similarly, plastic and glass bottles and cigarette butts accounted for just under half (48%) of unbranded pollution.
Given that billions of cigarettes are sold to wholesalers and retailers nationwide, it’s no surprise that cigarette butts are one of the highest pollutants globally. The butts are primarily made up of plastic filters that don’t biodegrade, and usually end up on shorelines or at the bottom of the ocean and rivers, unless they are eaten by wildlife first.
So, what can be done about it?
As well as calling on companies to reduce their packaging and switch to refill models, we are urging the government to introduce an ‘all-in’ Deposit Return Scheme for all drinks containers of all sizes and materials, not just limited to small containers classified as ‘on-the-go’. The Brand Audit revealed that more than half of the pollution from the Dirty Dozen companies would be captured through such a scheme, including 80% of top polluter Coca-Cola’s products.
We’re calling on the big brands to ACT NOW and tell the public their targets and timelines for plastic REDUCTION. We need:
1. Legislation that ends the production and consumption of non-essential single-use polluting plastics
2. Legislation that ensures effective resource use and waste management
3. Business models within companies that are focused on reduction and reuse
4. A shift in narrative away from traditional recycling models and towards reduction and alternative use for single use plastics.
It’s time to call out the #DirtyDozen on their polluting ways and turn off the plastic tap.
READ THE REPORT. SHARE ON YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA & TAG THE BRANDS.
Our Campaigns are Funded by You
Are you as furious as we are at the #DirtyDozen? Our campaigns are funded by you and we can only hold big polluters to account with your support: Donate Today.Read More
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