Plastic pollution: what we stand for

We demand an end to plastic pollution on UK beaches by 2030 and all plastic pollution by 2040.

We’re in a toxic plastic pandemic. And banning plastic straws is no cure. It’s time to make big changes. 

Plastic is an amazing material. It keeps us safe, helps us heal, and provides a vital service in shaping our homes and lives. But the disposable, throwaway consumer culture nurtured by big businesses with fat bottom lines has turned this wonder substance into a death sentence for the ocean, and life as we know it.

Wildlife is frequently killed ingesting or getting tangled in plastic packaging and discarded fishing gear. Microplastics are entering the ocean and rivers at alarming rates, taking an as yet unmeasured toll on animal and human health. Plastics carry toxic chemicals, pathogens and invasive species to pristine and vulnerable marine habitats, damaging the resilience of these ecosystems. And by choking the ocean – the biggest carbon sink on the planet – it is also inherently linked to climate change.

A global and ecological crisis is upon us and plastic pollution is a key cause, placing stress on the world’s resources and contributing to our overheating planet.

We’re seeing overproduction and overconsumption of non-essential, single-use, throwaway and polluting plastics. Companies with no regard for the planet in their pursuit of profit, produce quick and dirty plastic-packed products to feed consumer culture’s obsession with the fast and the new. Globally, plastic packaging production is expected to double by the late 2030s, and quadruple by 2050.

The crisis is made worse by our current appalling recycling and waste management systems, which can’t cope with the staggering amount of plastic produced every year. Of all the plastic waste produced to date, only 9% has been recycled. Ever. In the history of plastic production. It has to stop.

How do we trigger a sea change?

Surfers Against Sewage is a leading voice in the campaign to eliminate plastic pollution, we bring together people power on the ground with changemakers at the top to drive progressive legislation that will stop plastic pollution at the source.

This is about joined-up thinking, not one-off causes. It’s about dramatic, urgent action to rethink our economic models so they become sustainable, circular and clean.

This means:

  • We need an overarching policy and legally binding targets for the UK to transition to a circular economy and the elimination of plastic pollution by 2040, ending 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 subsidies to fossil fuel and petro-chemical companies which are responsible for the systemic over-production of plastics. Instead, government must 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 the source and cleans up the plastic that is already in the environment.
  • We need to develop a circular economy which designs out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use and actively regenerates natural systems and ensures pollution does not negatively affect current and future generations.


  • We need a UK wide ‘all-in’ Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) focused around the principals of reduction, reuse and refill by as soon as possible.


  • 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 UK’s domestic waste and develop and invest in domestic systems which keeps this material in the loop.
  • We need business to 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.
  • We need to encourage a shift in narrative which focuses on reduction and alternative systems as the true solution to plastic pollution and acknowledges we cannot recycle our way out of the crisis.


  • 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.

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Turn back the tide of plastic pollution choking the ocean

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