Grassroots action turning the tide on plastic pollution

Ocean Activists are helping to remove a massive 43.3 million single use plastic items per year as part of Surfers Against Sewage’s grassroots Plastic Free Communities movement.  Plastic pollution is a growing threat that is on the verge of colonizing the whole planet. But our new impact report, Freeing the UK from Single Use Plastic, shows grassroot Ocean Activists are at the frontline in tackling this ever-present pollutant.

The Plastic Free Communities campaign empowers and connects people in a shared journey to free where they live from avoidable throwaway plastic. As part of the campaign over 800 communities and 4,590 businesses have chosen to stop using and selling single-use plastic items like plastic cutlery, coffee cups, water bottles and much more and instead opt for reusable items. This is making a big dent on the plastic pollution that is being found on our streets, beaches and in our rivers. In fact, you could fill a 25-metre swimming pool 14 times each year just by the number of plastic cups and drinks bottles eliminated by the movement. The report is testament to the effect that individual and community action can have to clean up the natural spaces we all know and love.

But despite this huge ground swell of action from individuals and communities we are still seeing tonnes of plastic pollution being churned out by big business. Our 2021 Brand Audit, which Ocean Activists like you made happen, showed that the likes of Coke and Walkers continue to pump out single-use packaging onto our beaches despite commitments to take action. We have also seen the polices that could make a real difference to plastic pollution, like Deposit Return Schemes and bans on single-use plastic, delayed and delayed by a government too busy tying themselves in knots to put the environment first.

Surfers Against Sewage CEO Hugo Tagholm said:

“I’m so proud of the impact Plastic Free Communities have helped deliver. Whether on the coastline or inland, they truly have delivered Ocean Activism everywhere.

But these Ocean Activists who have done so much over the course of the pandemic to innovate and mobilise to ensure that we continue to free communities from the scourge of single-use thinking are being let down by a government tied in knots and big business who continue to put profit ahead of planet.

To turn the tide on plastic pollution we need to see governments and business take real and concerted action to tackle plastic pollution. The time for greenwashing is over, it’s time for action.”

There are though green shoots on the horizon, driven by our people-powered campaigns against pollution. Scotland have committed to ban more single-use plastics in June. England are also currently consulting on whether to ban plastic single-use cutlery and other similar items.

(This consultation is a great opportunity for you to have your say on plastic pollution so we created some top tips to help you respond and make your voice heard. You can find that here.)

However, the pace of government and business change is far too slow. And the ambition of those in power falls far short of the overarching polices and actions we need to reduce plastic production at source and turn the tide on pollution for good. The people of the UK are doing their bit to free our beaches from plastic pollution it’s time for governments to do the same.

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


Want to make your voice heard?

Top tips for responding to England’s single use plastic consultation can be found here.

Read the Plastic Free Communities Impact Report

Join the Plastic Free Community Movement: