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 overarching and legally binding targets for the elimination of plastic pollution and end the manufacture, sale and use of non-essential single-use, throwaway and polluting products
- We need bans on all non-essential single-use products, not just plastics
- We must end subsidies to fossil fuel and petro-chemical companies which are responsible for the systemic over-production of plastics
2. Legislation that ensures effective resource use and waste management
- We need a circular economy which designs out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use
- 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 embraces ‘Polluter Pays’ principals, covering the full environmental cost of a product throughout its life cycle
- We need to end the offshoring of the UKs waste
3. Business models that are focused on reduction and reuse
- We need businesses that produce products which are fundamentally designed to be reused, repaired and eventually effectively recycled
- We need businesses, large and small, to collaborate with government and each other to create a level playing field and ultimately reduce waste across industries
4. Cultural change across society
- We need to recognise recycling alone is the not answer and we need to focus on reduction and alternative systems
- We need to educate wider society that the plastic pollution crisis 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.
- 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.
Grassroots Community Action Steps up Pressure for Plastic Reduction Targets
Communities are rising up against plastic pollution, deepening calls for action and using their collective voice more powerfully than ever. As thousands across the UK join the Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Protest, our Plastic Free Communities are converting on the ground action into specific calls on government and industry.
Image: Lewis Arnold
- Keeping to the ‘Rule of Six’, 10,000 people across the UK took action as part of the SAS Plastic Protest
- Six actions across six weeks call for urgent reductions in single-use plastic
- Results put direct pressure on supermarkets over Plastic Reduction Targets
- MPs to focus on plastic pollution at Ocean Conservation APPG
- Approved Plastic Free Communities join forces through new toolkit to keep up pressure
Grassroots community action is leading the charge as Surfers Against Sewage increases pressure on government and industry to end plastic pollution on beaches by 2030.
As part of the Plastic Protest, thousands of volunteers took to the UK’s coast, rivers, streets and green spaces to clean up plastic pollution and monitor what was found. The six weeks of action wasn’t just about cleaning up – but also targeting the root cause of the plastic crisis.
Action on the ground was followed up, as individuals completed surveys on pointless plastic in the weekly shop, and wrote letters to MPs and supermarkets calling for legally binding targets to stop plastic pollution and phase out single use plastics.
Almost four and a half thousand pointless plastic packaging items were removed in the #LessPlasticPlease Survey. A third of it was wrapping fruit and veg, over 20% was on dried goods and a fifth was on chiller and freezer goods.
Shoppers told us their top plastic pet hate was packaging on hard fruit and veg, two thirds putting it in their top three. The second most hated was the plastic on soft fruit and veg (40% of participants) followed closely by the infamous plastic multi-bag of fruit or veg (chosen by 38%).
Those stats are now being put to the HQ of every supermarket in the UK, as we urge them to join our call for a more robust Environment Bill, enforcing effective plastic reduction targets.
This community voice is also being heard in parliament. This month a cross party group of MPs, responding to the calls of their constituents, proposed a new law that would see targets set for plastic pollution reduction. This week the Ocean Conservation All Party Parliamentary Group will give the next generation of ocean activists the chance to grill politicians, academics and business about what they are doing to tackle the plastic pollution crisis.
Amy Slack, SAS Head of Campaigns and Policy, says: “The Plastic Protest has been an opportunity to ensure that action on the ground turns into action in parliament. And it’s working. MPs are listening to their constituents, and support for tackling plastic pollution through reduction targets is growing amongst parliamentarians from all parties. We are excited to be giving the next generation the stage to really challenge experts on the true solutions to plastic pollution through the Ocean Conservation APPG”
What then? The UK’s award-winning Plastic Free Communities network is firing up to keep on the pressure. This diverse grassroots movement is already making waves locally; working with businesses, schools, community groups and individuals to stop the supply and demand of single-use throwaway plastic.
Now, through a brand-new toolkit for accredited communities, they are taking the fight further up the chain. They are looping in with national SAS actions to target government and industry, with the aim of building on their initial foundations, empowering everyone where they live and creating a collective, national voice that can’t be ignored.
The toolkit will see them:
- Use their collective voice to call for policy and legislation
- Take local action, gathering evidence to feed into national campaign calls
- Engage with local councils on projects and policy
- Deepen action within local businesses to remove single-use plastic
- Link with more groups, schools and organisations to include the whole community
Rachel Yates, SAS Plastic Free Communities Manager, says: “It’s been inspiring to see how plastic free accredited villages, towns and cities have been building on their initial achievements in raising awareness and reducing single-use plastic. Now it’s time for the next wave of action; to ignite the network. It’s never been more important for politicians and industry to listen and act quickly on the environment crisis”
Jack Middleton, SAS Community and Events Manager, says: “As always, we were blown away by the community spirit and desire of volunteers to take action nationwide. Despite the ever-changing nature of 2020 and the current pandemic, communities across the UK came out in force to protect our blue and green spaces, telling Big Business they had had enough and demanding governments do more to stop the crisis.”
Communities are rising up again over single-use plastic. You’ve given us a clear message you want government and industry to take real and effective action … and we are taking your message straight to the top. Join us as we continue to free where we live from single-use plastic.Read More
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