Plastic bottles

City to Sea’s position on the proposed Scottish Deposit Return Scheme

City to Sea have responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on their proposed Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) and would strongly encourage others to do the same. The consultation remains open until the 10th December 2019.


The Scottish Government have said they recognise that fresh interventions are needed to bring about the systemic and behavioural change necessary to fulfil the aspiration of creating a more circular economy. Scottish Ministers have announced legislation to establish a Deposit Return Scheme. This would enable consumers to take single-use containers back and redeem a 20p deposit from any retailer selling drinks covered by the scheme. Including plastic bottles made from PET plastic, aluminium and steel cans and glass bottles.

Why They Are Consulting

The regulations for Deposit Return Scheme are subject to the super-affirmative procedure and will be laid in Parliament for a 91-day consultation period. This will allow industry experts, interested stakeholders and MSPs the opportunity to comment on the details of the regulations and allow us to refine the legal approach further– this follows on from a consultation in 2018 on the overarching principles.

You can read the specific consultation documents here.

City to Sea’s position:

City to Sea is an award-winning not for profit, campaigning to prevent plastic pollution at source. We are reducing the need for recycling in the first place, by advocating reuse and providing practical solutions to single-use plastic water bottles, through measures such as our Refill campaign.

We’re however also hugely supportive of Deposit Return Scheme (DRSs) as a principle. They have been shown to be an effective way of capturing the plastic bottles in use and ensuring they don’t make their way into our oceans. From a social-economic perspective, a DRS is also a powerful tool for empowering people to value plastic and has a knock-on effect of connecting people with the extrinsic value of other single-use plastic products.

However, we would always advocate reuse rather than single use and would encourage legislators to prioritise this consideration.

Image of plastic bottle pollution in water

With regards to the current Scottish government consultation for a DRS, we consider this an opportunity for Scotland to lead the way in the home nations in delivering an effective DRS. We know it is popular with 77% of Scots saying they back the scheme. We also know it could be effective with an estimated 31,000 fewer plastic bottles littered every day. Moving this captured plastic towards a circular economy will slow – although not stop – the flood of plastics heading to our waterways. We consider that the success of this DRS should, at least in part, be measured by the plastic prevented from going to landfill and the plastic pollution prevented from entering our waterways. We would encourage the Scottish Government to report on these factors in an open and transparent manner.

Crucially – this DRS embeds into domestic law an example of extended producer responsibility, which requires producers to be responsible for the packaging (in this case the drinks cans and bottles). City to Sea strongly welcomes this and would encourage legislators to consider how such a principle could be rolled out to other products that cause plastic pollution.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly we would like to stress the potential carbon saving impact that this DRS will have - an estimated 160,000 tonnes every year. There is perhaps no greater threat to our oceans than that of climate change and so any policy measure that limits GHG emissions is to be encouraged.

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Press release: Loophole & delays undermine microplastics restriction

32 NGOs sign joint letter to key decision makers that reiterates support for restrictions on all intentionally added microplastics under chemical legislation REACH

City to Sea, the environmental campaigning organisation has joined 31 other NGOs from across Europe to raise major concerns that proposed limitations to the European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) restriction on intentionally added microplastics act as loopholes to satisfy industry, by delaying implementation and creating derogations for biodegradable plastics.

Comments from the industry lobby in the ECHA public consultation on microplastics are aimed at undermining the core purpose of the restriction rather than contributing to meaningfully addressing the issue of microplastic pollution.

The latest European Chemicals Agency proposal to restrict all intentionally added microplastics has generally received strong support from NGOs across many sectors. In letters to national governments, 32 NGOs together with the #breakfreefromplastic movement of more than 1,800 organisations, and the Rethink Plastic alliance, reiterated this support, while raising major concerns on derogations and unnecessary delays in a letter addressed to national environment ministers and relevant agencies on Tuesday. They call on the Commission and Member States to address these concerns and move the restriction process forward without delays or derogations.

Once released in the environment, microplastics are practically impossible to remove, and are expected to be present in the environment for hundreds, possibly thousands, of years, with severe and well documented effects on the environment. The scientific data gathered by ECHA in the report backing the need for a restriction is unequivocal: microplastics constitute a serious risk to the environment, and are a source of pollution that is currently, and undeniably, out of control.

In particular proposed derogations for allegedly biodegradable microplastics and the extended transitional periods are highlighted as undermining the prevention of microplastic pollution, and lacking in scientific basis.

Elise Vitali, Chemicals Project Officer at the European Environmental Bureau said “The restriction proposal is a big step forward. But if passed as it stands, this plan would seriously jeopardise the EU’s reputation as a leader in the fight against plastic pollution. It is a matter of urgency that these unjustifiable loopholes are closed, and that the restrictions are applied to all intentional microplastics in a concise timeframe.”

Rebecca Burgess, the CEO of City to Sea said, “Tiny pieces of microplastics represent a big part of plastic pollution in our oceans. While we have seen important initial steps in tackling this problem, we have so much further to go. We are proud to stand alongside 31 other civil society organisations from across Europe calling for faster implementation of stronger legislation.

She continued, “Although this is about micro-plastics our concerns about so called ‘bio-plastics’ go much further. Too often they are presented as a solution to plastic pollution when we know they often compound and worsen problems. For consumers we still stick by our basic advice, reducing the amount of single-use plastic we use, whether bio-plastic or not, is the only solution. Through the Refill campaign we’re working with thousands of food-to-go businesses to encourage them to move towards refillable options rather than switching to bio-plastics.”

Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Coordinator of the #breakfreefromplastic movement in Europe and of the Rethink Plastic alliance said “It is high time the industry stops bringing biodegradability claims to obtain exemptions and create loopholes in much needed restrictions, be it on single-use plastics or in this case on microplastics added to products.  If it is even slightly serious about contributing to solving the plastic crisis, the industry should rather focus its efforts on redesigning and removing all intentionally added  microplastics from Industry products”.

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Bristol signs international Plastics Declaration

Press release: Environmental Organisation, City to Sea, welcomes home city of Bristol signing international Plastics Declaration

Responding to the news that Bristol has joined 19 other cities in signing the Eurocities joint Plastics Declaration, CEO of Bristol based environmental organisation City to Sea, Rebecca Burgess, said,

“I am delighted that Bristol is at the forefront of the global fight back against the flood of plastic pollution. This declaration harnesses the energy and commitment in cities across Europe to do what they can to tackle plastic pollution. At City to Sea we will continue to work with local and national politicians, businesses and individuals to prioritise reduce and reuse, over single use. Our pioneering, award winning water bottle campaign Refill is now expanding internationally and here in Bristol we are expanding the campaign to become the one-stop shop to live with less plastic. Using the free Refill app you will soon be able to find out where to refill not just your water bottle, but also your coffee cup, lunch-box, groceries and even your cleaning products and toiletries. We look forward to working with Bristol City Council and other stakeholders in the city to bring about lasting change.”

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ASA bans Andrex wet wipe “flushable” advert as “misleading”

Press release: Wet wipe manufactures need to “be a good a**holes” - Environmental organisation responds to ASA ruling that bans Andrex wet wipe “flushable” advert

Plastic pollution campaigning organisation, City to Sea, who collaborated with world famous, Lord of the Rings actor Andy Serkis, to make the viral “talking a**hole” to raise awareness of the issue calls out “misleading” advert

City to Sea call on Kimberley-Clarke to be a good a**hole and get on board with the Water Industry’s ‘Fine to Flush’ standard

Despite their naming, fatbergs are in fact made up of 93% of wet wipes and just 0.5% fat and are responsible for blocking the nation’s sewage sytems.

90% of wet wipes on the market contain plastic and are therefore non-biodegradable.

The environmental organisation behind the viral “talking a**hole” advert which reminds people not to flush wet wipes down the toilet, City to Sea, have today responded to the news that Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) have banned an Andrex advert because of claims that their product was “flushable” was “misleading”.

City to Sea’s Campaigns Manager, Steve Hynd said,

“For Kimberley Clarke we reserve this remark – be a good a**hole and get on board with the water industry’s ‘Fine to Flush’ standard so customers know for sure that they can flush your products and not contribute to a big, and pretty disgusting, problem of fat bergs and plastic pollution that a lot of wet wipes contribute to”.

He continued, “Many people don’t realise that most wet wipes contain plastic and should never be flushed down the loo, or that wet wipes are a major cause of fat bergs, sewers blockages and plastic pollution spilling over into our waterways. This has been, at least in part, because some manufactures have been real a**holes and refused to tell customers that their products contain loads of plastic while others have suggested products could be flushed when they really shouldn’t be. Until all major manufactures come on board with plastic-free, 100% biodegradable complete product ranges that meet water industry standards, we will continue to advocate the much simpler message for customers to don’t believe the wipe and only flush pee, paper and poo.”

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Press release: be a good a**hole

Press release: Andy Serkis takes on a new character, an animated talking a**hole, to stop people flushing wet wipes

Plastic pollution campaigning organisation, City to Sea, has collaborated with world famous, Lord of the Rings actor Andy Serkis, to make a stand against the use of wet wipes and their damaging impact on the planet

The short film sees Andy Serkis take on the role of an animated talking a**hole, literally, to encourage people to make a change in their habits

Despite their naming, fatbergs are in fact made up of 93% of wet wipes and just 0.5% fat and are responsible for blocking the nation’s sewage sytems[1]

90% of wet wipes on the market contain plastic[2] and are therefore non-biodegradable


City to Sea, a plastic pollution campaigning organisation, has today announced its collaboration with actor, voice over artist, director and author Andy Serkis. In a 30 second short film animation, Andy Serkis takes the role of a talking a**hole in a bid to raise awareness of the catastrophic impact of our addiction to wet wipes.

Famously known for his voice work as Gollum in The Lord of The Rings trilogy and as a passionate environmentalist, Andy Serkis is now the voice behind a brand-new character, a loveable talking a**hole. The campaign calls for the public to ‘be a good a**hole’ and dispose of wet wipes responsibly.

City to Sea and Andy Serkis are raising awareness of the damaging impact flushing wet wipes down the toilet has on our sewers and the environment. While fatbergs attract the headlines, in fact they consist of 93% wet wipes and only 0.5% fat, which has inspired City to Sea to take action. Despite what the majority may believe, 90% of wet wipes on the market contain plastic and do not biodegrade, with many wet wipe brands incorrectly labelling their products as flushable [3]. This has prompted City to Sea to urge the public to get off their backsides and “be a good a**hole.”

Natalie Fee, City to Sea founder, says, “It’s a bummer that so many people are still treating their toilets like bins and flushing single-use plastic wipes. And let’s face it, the real a**holes are the manufacturers who are still not listing the actual material of the wipe on the ingredients list. This is making it hard for people to realise they’re potentially flushing plastic down the loo. We’re thrilled that Andy is helping us raise awareness of the issue and shine a light on how what we do with our own ‘precious ring’ can save our seas. Be a good asshole and don’t believe the wipe.”

In 2018 the UK used over 10.8 billion wet wipes [4] and on average each of us will use around 38,000 over our lifetime [5]. Once flushed, wipes clog our pipes and sewers contributing to giant ‘fatbergs’ which lead to sewage systems overflowing, spilling into waterways and seas and inevitably pollute our oceans with plastics and sewage. In 2018 the Marine Conservation Society recorded over 14 wet wipes per 100 metres of coastline, a rise of 700% over the last decade [6].

City to Sea is calling on the public to stop flushing wet wipes down the toilet and to only flush the 3Ps - pee, paper and poo. The organisation advises that if you do need to use wet wipes, always put them in the bin and not down the toilet. Or even better, use reusable wipes or just toilet roll.

Speaking on his involvement on the campaign, Andy Serkis explains, “All across the news we are seeing people take a stand to look after our planet. It’s time we all start taking responsibility for our actions and that starts with being a good a**hole. It’s only one tiny change we can all make which goes a long way in protecting our oceans. I didn’t think I’d ever feel so passionate to take on the role of a talking a**hole.”

Founded in 2014, City to Sea is an award-winning, not-for-profit organisation campaigning to stop plastic pollution at source and advocates reduce and reduce over single-use. Their mission is to encourage and inspire people from all walks of life with solutions-focused initiatives to help make a positive impact on our planet – from cities to the sea.

To find out more about the #BeAGoodAsshole campaign visit To find out more about City to Sea visit



For more information about the campaign or to arrange interviews please contact:

Karmarama [email protected]

020 3301 2076

Steve Hynd – Campaigns Manager at City to Sea
[email protected]

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Press release: Most bioplastics are “a load of rubbish”

The plastic pollution campaigning organisation, City to Sea, have today branded most bioplastics “a load of rubbish” in response to the Environment Select Committee’s call for a reduction in the use of plastics over other ‘false solutions’ such as most bioplastics.

The call comes as MPs launch a consultation on bioplastics and City to Sea have produced an ‘explainer’ video to help people understand the problems with bioplastics.

Responding, City to Sea CEO, Rebecca Burges, said:

“Bioplastics might sound good, but in reality, they are basically the same as plastic and don’t decompose in the way most people think they do. They often just end up as rubbish littering our streets, oceans and killing marine life. Bioplastics are a ‘false solution’ as they are single-use and there are extremely limited options to compost them. Ultimately, due the nature of when we tend to use bioplastics – as takeaway food containers and packaging – they end up in the bin and consequently as rubbish needing to be burned or landfilled.”

She continued, “Our advice at City to Sea remains that reducing the amount of single-use plastic we use is the only solution. Through the Refill campaign we’re working with thousands of food-to-go businesses to encourage them to move towards refillable options rather than switching to bio-plastics.”

City to Sea are now working with over 23,000 businesses in the food to go sector, including high-street chains like Pret and Costa and have seen a significant increase in the number of enquiries about bioplastics and compostables in recent month. Next week, City to Sea will be launching a free guide for businesses in the food-to-go sector – ‘Navigating disposables & reusables: a guide to reducing the impact of single-use packaging in the food-to-go sector’.

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Press release: 250,000 downloads of app aimed to tackle plastic pollution

City to Sea, the organisation behind the award-winning Refill campaign, are this week celebrating their Refill app being downloaded by more than 250,000 people. The free, location-based app connects people to places they can Refill their water-bottle for free. This stops people buying single-use plastic bottles and prevents millions of plastic bottles from entering our waste stream.

The Refill app is tapping into a growing concern about single-use plastic and the impact it has on our shared environment. App downloads have increased by 175% since the start of the year and the number of active users has increased by 422%. The app was recently trending at number 2 for travel apps on the android store.

The Refill campaign works by connecting people who are looking for water, with thousands of local business, transport hubs and public spaces where they can refill for free. Cafes, bars, restaurants, banks, galleries, museums and other businesses simply sign up to the app and put a sticker in their window – alerting passers-by that they’re welcome to come on in and fill up their bottle. There are now more than 23,000 Refill stations listed on app including organisations such as Starbucks, Pret, McDonalds and Costa Coffee along with thousands of independent businesses. City to Sea estimate Refill will have saved over 100 million single-use bottles from entering our waste stream by the end of 2019.

Lanie Sibley, Refill app, Digital Product Manager at City to Sea responded to the news saying, “It’s incredible to see how much the app has grown in the last 8 months. What started out as a local Bristol campaign has now grown to become an internationally used app for people looking to refill their water bottle over buying a plastic bottle. We continuously look for ways to make small changes to the app to for a more seamless experience. We recently redesigned the app for a cleaner look and feel based on feedback from our users and we have big plans for development over the next couple of months.”

The Refill app was named in the 10 best sustainable apps in Vogue, as one of the six apps to help you shop, eat and drink more sustainably in the Daily Telegraph and it was awarded GOLD at the Global Good Awards.

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Press release: Plastic campaigners celebrate Sainsbury’s removal of plastic tampon applicators from own-brand products

Responding to the news that Sainsbury’s has stopped producing and selling own-brand plastic tampon applicators, City to Sea’s Plastic Free Periods Campaigns Coordinator, Jasmine Tribe said,

“Sainsbury’s has taken a huge step in offering customers a real choice. People should be able to buy plastic free period products easily and affordably. It is up to retailers to offer this basic choice. Sainsbury’s has shown how easy it is to remove one of the most significant pieces of plastic from its period products. It’s time now for other retailers to go with the flow and scrap plastic applicators from their own-brand period products. With cardboard or reusable applicator alternatives on the market there is no excuse to keep offering the environmentally disastrous plastic applicators.

She continued, “The applicator however is only one part of the plastic found in period products. Most tampons and pads have plastic woven into the actual products. What we need is for manufacturers and retailers to come clean about how much plastic is in their products and then do all they can to remove this unnecessary plastics. On this front, all major supermarkets, including Sainsburys, have a lot of work to do.”

In 2010 a UK beach clean picked up an average of 23 menstrual pads and 9 tampon applicators per kilometre of British coastline. Each pack of ‘conventional’ pads contains the equivalent of 5 plastic carrier bags. Every day, 2.5 million tampons, 1.4 million pads and 700,000 pantyliners are wrongly flushed down UK toilets contributing to the problem of plastic pollution in the marine environment.

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Press Release: Welcoming the removal of mini toiletries from Holiday Inn hotels.

The plastic pollution campaigning organisation, City to Sea, are today celebrating the news that all hotels run by InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) will remove mini toiletries from their rooms. The move will see hotels chains such as Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza hotels taking the small single-use plastic bottles out of its 843,000 rooms by 2021.

The news comes following the launch of City to Sea’s #PlasticFreeTravel campaign that seeks to make plastic-free travel easier and cheaper for holiday goers and includes working with hotels to encourage them to use refillable dispensers in bathrooms. Plastic pollution from holidays is a major issue with an estimated 40% surge in marine litter entering the Mediterranean during the summer months. Further research estimates that 980 tonnes of mini-plastic shampoo bottles are being dumped by British holidaymakers abroad each year – that’s equivalent to two-and-a-half Boeing 747s.

Responding to the news City to Sea founder Natalie Fee commented,

“This is fantastic news. Holiday Inn has taken a huge step in reducing their plastic footprint and in doing so are sending a message to the hotel industry that removing single-use plastic toiletries is a good business move as well as a sound environmental one. Concern for the environment is at an all-time high, with plastic pollution being top of the list, so they needed to take action to keep customers happy.”

She continued, “The pressure is really mounting now for those hotels who still give out these tiny bottles of shampoo. We’ve been working with hotel chains like Premier Inn who already have dispensers in their bathrooms, Marriott Hotels announced last year they were getting rid of them, and now we have Holiday Inn on board too. Any hotels that still using single-use miniatures need to catch up and get behind our plastic-free travel campaign.”

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PRESS RELEASE: Pressure mounts on government to provide plastic-free period products to schools  

Pressure mounts on government to provide plastic-free period products to schools 

In less than one weeks’ time, on July 15th, the government tender for brands to supply schools with period products closes. Currently there is no obligation for period products to be plastic-free, or for the supplier to offer reusables. Ensuring schools are provided plastic-free products could prevent the equivalent of 90 million plastic bags[1] flooding schools just months after the government challenged UK schools to go plastic-free by 2022 [2].

Plastic pollution campaigning organisation, City to Sea, are warning that there are only 7 days left to make sure all period products offered as part of the new Government initiative will be plastic-free. A statement was made by the Department of Education half way through the process in Schools Week saying that the successful bidder “will be required to offer environmentally-friendly sanitary pads as a minimum, and are encouraged to provide further environmentally-friendly options (such as menstrual cups or eco-friendly tampons)”.

The government urgently needs to clarify that the ambiguously phrased ‘environmentally-friendly’ includes plastic-free requirements and ensure that all disposable products offered are plastic-free, not just pads, and not just as an opt-in.  As a result, City to Sea are calling on the general public to sign a petition [3] to the Department of Education that requests they use joined up thinking in tackling social and environmental issues.  So far City to Sea have successfully gained the support of 30,000 people and over 100 teachers have signed a public letter to the Department of Education [4].

Rachel Carson, a Primary school teacher said: “There is a gaping hole in general understanding of the plastic problem and school is a great place to start making a difference. Providing plastic-free period products to combat period poverty seems like a golden opportunity to lift girls out of embarrassment and shame whilst simultaneously investing in their future. Plastics are derived from oil, so why the government would not make this a priority having recently declared a climate emergency, is beyond me.”

Jasmine Tribe, Plastic Free Periods campaigns co-ordinator said: “This is a key opportunity for our government to show that they’re serious about tackling plastic pollution. Joined up thinking is so vital when tackling social issues like period poverty and environmental issues like climate breakdown. 

She continued, “More pressure is needed now to make government clarify that ‘environmentally-friendly’ includes plastic-free requirements and ensure that all disposable products offered are plastic-free, not just pads, and not just as an opt-in. We cannot let the government miss this opportunity to provide a long term, financially and environmentally sustainable solution for students and the planet.”


Notes to Editor

1) Why is this so important? 

The government has made three promising commitments recently: 

It seems that departments in government are potentially putting our schools on a collision course with the green targets that they have set them. They are turning this momentous moment for women’s rights into an environmental disaster. By ensuring all period products in English schools are plastic-free the Department of Education will be supporting future generations and targets for all schools to be single use plastic free by 2022. 

This why City to Sea launched a 38 Degrees petition that has already received over 30,000 signatures.  


2) Further quotes available from social media influencers Flora Beverley and Sophie Hellyer and 2 additional teachers who have signed the letter. Please contact [email protected]  


3) About City to Sea  – City to Sea is an award-winning not-for-profit campaigning to prevent plastic pollution at source.  Through their fun, solutions-focused initiatives they are empowering individuals to make a difference in their communities, working with companies and retailers to help them tackle plastic pollution and reaching millions of people with our digital content and campaigns. They are behind award-winning campaigns like Refill, a campaign to connect people to free drinking water and Switch the Stick.  


City to Sea was founded by environmental campaigner, Natalie Fee in 2015.  


4) About Plastic Free Periods – City to Sea’s Plastic Free Periods campaign aims to prevent plastic pollution from our periods by a) mainstreaming reusable and plastic-free disposable products and b) raising awareness that no period products should be flushed. 


Plastic Free Periods was launched in 2017 with a video that was viewed over 3 million times in the few weeks after publishing on facebook 


In 2018 the campaign was featured on Women’s Hour, joined the Environmenstrual Coalition, ran online and offline events and reached 2 million people through the social media campaign. Our Women’s Hour slot saw sales from Honour Your Flow (reusable pads) triple in the 3 days following! 


In 2019 City to Sea secured funding for a nationwide, unbiased schools program, are investigating a pilot scheme in NHS Trusts and continuing to target retailers and manufacturers. 

5) Background information  


[1] Government estimates that “of the 1.7m pupils/students who are eligible to benefit from the scheme, we estimate that 1.1m will access this provision” The average person who has periods use 22 products per month and has 13 periods per year. A study by Natracare found the same plastic in a box of 14 period pads as 4 plastic bags. This means this scheme would use close to 23 million boxes of period products per year – or close to equivalent of 90 million plastic bags. 


[3] The petition is here:  



[4] The Government tender closing on July 15th can be seen here:[email protected]=NjJNT08=U   


[5] Here in the UK a staggering 4.3 billion disposable menstrual products are used every year. Many people don’t realise that most period pads (including Always, Bodyform and most supermarket own-brands) can contain up to 90% plastic – the equivalent of 4 plastic bags per box of pads and 90 million plastic bags sent to schools in just 1 year! Most tampons also contain a thin layer of plastic. What’s more, although no period products should go down the loo, it’s estimated around 700,000 panty liners, 2.5 million tampons and 1.4 million pads are flushed down the toilet every day in the UK – many of which block our sewer systems and escape into our rivers and seas. 


In addition to the environmental benefits of providing plastic-free period products, a reusable product option provides immense cost savings over time and reduces ‘period poverty shame’ – those who require free products find it more dignified to do so every 2-10 years, as opposed to every month. Research shows that over a lifetime an individual can save up to 94% of what would have been spent on disposable products, by switching to reusable ones. 

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