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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Are you a good A**hole?

We need to talk to you about your a**hole. We know, we’re sorry!

The problem is, when trying to look after your a**hole, and the a**holes of those you love, many people are buying, using and incorrectly flushing wet wipes.

Today we’ve launched a new campaign to shine a light on the issue and find a way to tackle it.

What’s so bad about flushing wet wipes we hear you ask?

Most people think wet wipes break down like toilet paper when you flush them, but they don't!

When wet wipes are flushed down the loo, they caused huge blockages called fatbergs (which are made up of 93% of wet wipes). And it costs millions to clear up, contributing to plastic pollution in our oceans by blocking sewers and causing overspills of waste.

Wet wipes are now changing the shape of our rivers and polluting our beaches in terrifying numbers. One study found over 4,500 wet wipes on one 154m sq patch of foreshore - a rise of 700% over the last decade[1].


Did you know - most wet wipes are made of plastic?

The problem is, most people don’t even realise that wet wipes are mainly made up of plastic. Of the 11 billion wet wipes sold in the UK every year, 90% contain some form of plasticThe confusing packaging usually doesn’t even mention plastic!

As City to Sea’s founder, Natalie Fee says, “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.”

Sorry to dump bad news on you like this, but it’s important and here in the UK, we don’t tend to like talking about poo, bums or anything else that happens behind that locked bathroom door (unless of course, it involves toilet humour).

Be a Good A**hole

This is why we’ve launched our new campaign - #BeAGoodAsshole. The campaign involves our very own talking a**hole, developed in partnership with Lord of The Rings actor, Andy Serkis and the creative agency Karmarama. That’s right – a very famous talking a**hole – that we hope will make a real splash!

In a short animation, our a**hole highlights the problem with flushing wet wipes and suggests that you might not need to use wet wipes in the first place.

Speaking on his involvement in 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.”

Have a look and see what you think.

Ultimately our talking a**hole sends you to the campaign’s microsite where you can share the animation and create your own a**hole profile picture.

While we would love you to spread the word with all the a**holes you know, the biggest thing we want you to do is this – try to not use wet wipes at all (toilet roll is fine), but if you do feel the need to use wet wipes, always put them in the bin and not down the toilet.

There is a golden rule here, whenever you’re on the bog make sure you only flush the 3P’s - pee, paper and poo.

It’s simple and could help solve a really crappy plastics problem.




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‘Seb, Polly Planet & their Ocean Quest’

It’s a big week here at City to Sea HQ, as one of our original team members, and now in-house photographer and filmmaker, Michelle Cassar launches her first book today, for World Oceans Day Seb and Polly Planet on their Ocean Quest, a children’s book raising awareness of solutions to the issue of plastic pollution.

It’s a stunningly illustrated, and already highly acclaimed adventure story aimed at children age 5+ and is designed to empower them to live with less plastic. Through the magical adventures of daring Seb, children will learn about the effects of plastic pollution, and what they can do to prevent it. Rather than focus on recycling, this book takes a fresh approach; concentrating on the other three Rs – refuse, reduce and reuse. As you know, we need to ‘turn off the tap’ if we really want to prevent plastic pollution.

A bit about Michelle…

Michelle has been living with plastic a lot less (PALL) since 2008, it wasn’t always easy #BeingPALL. At that time, only a handful of people had woken up to plastic pollution and were doing something positive and solution focused – Michelle was one of them. Despite having struggled with writing and it taking over six years for her to find the confidence to write a blog, she’s now putting her 10 years of experience into a book so she can inspire the next generation!

One of many stunning illustrations by Create’eve Illustration based in Cornwall.

Never one to shy away from an opportunity

Michelle brings fun into preventing plastic pollution. She’s also known as Hydro Harriet, the Mermaid with a Message, and isn’t afraid to sit on a toilet with her knickers down in the high street to raise awareness of the issue of plastic flushed down our loos. She’s managed to turn a serious issue into something that children will engage with and we couldn’t be prouder!

Inspiring and hopeful, Seb and Polly Planet brings to life the difference one person can make by saying no to single-use plastic. An empowering, practical and fun read that will help readers grasp just how important they are and how their actions really can change the world.


A book for everyone

Seb and Polly Planet book will appeal to parents, carers, grandparents, aunties and uncles, eco-schools, educators, community groups, and anyone interested in plastic pollution and environmental issues, who want to empower children to make good choices. Who doesn’t like a good rollicking superhero story?!


Michelle’s crowdfunding…

Launching with a pre-order of the book via Crowdfunder , Michelle hopes to raise the funds to get this book on the shelves for more children to be inspired by.

Proceeds from the sale of Seb and Polly Planet and their Ocean Quest will be donated to a number of organisations preventing plastic pollution. Naturally, City To Sea will be one of the beneficiaries alongside the brilliant Plastic Oceans, UK, founded by Jo Ruxton and widely known for their multi-award-winning film on Netflix, and Plastic Free July founded by Rebecca Pruiz which has encouraged millions of individuals to commit to reducing their plastic use, in over 170 countries worldwide.

We’ve ordered our copies, now you can pre-order yours via crowdfunder, to get this book and it’s timely message into the hands of children and their carers everywhere.

A funny, heart-warming story of a little girl discovering that her actions make a difference to the lives of the beautiful birds and animals that live in our oceans. This hopeful book shows children (and their parents and teachers!) how they can save marine wildlife by making different everyday choices to stem the flow of plastic pollution going into the sea. I can’t wait to buy it for all the children in my life!

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Race to champion anti-plastics in Premier League kicks off in earnest

As Tottenham Hotspurs plays their first home game in their long-awaited new stadium this evening, anti-plastic pollution campaigners at City to Sea are celebrating the news as the start of race to champion the anti-plastic pollution movement in the sports sector.

The new stadium is being heralded for having green credentials such as the complete elimination of all plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery and all plastic disposable packaging that accompanies these items.  Equally, the club has a commitment to “to phasing out single-use plastics across all Club operations” as well as supporting school education programmes. These measures come alongside Newcastle United’s announcement this week that they will eliminate all plastic water bottles from their training ground saving an estimate 48,000 bottles a year.

Commenting ahead of the home game this evening against Crystal Palace, CEO of City to Sea, Rebecca Burgess said,

“The drive to eliminate plastic pollution by Premier League clubs is really kicking off this evening. Spurs have had this great opportunity through their new state of the art stadium to drive forward their efforts to eliminate plastic pollution at source. And it really feels like there is real competition now between the clubs for each to being doing more. This is a welcome competition. While each club are taking their own different steps forward, it is important to say that any action to tackle this problem is welcome. At City to Sea we can work with top clubs to help them go further faster.

Increasingly I think clubs are seeing that they can offer fans truly memorable match days experience without producing mountains of plastic pollution. With more than eight million tonnes of plastic thrown away each year, with much of it being washed out to sea, this is something that all clubs need to tackle.”

Photo by Nathan Rogers on Unsplash.

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European Union Flag

European Union To Ban Single-Use Plastics By 2021 

Last week the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to support earlier proposals from the European Commission to cut plastic waste, targeting, in particular, the single-use plastics that are most commonly found polluting Europe’s beaches and seas.  

The vote by MEPs paves the way for a ban on single-use plastics to come into force by 2021 in all EU member states.  

The Single-Use Plastics Directive, which if adopted in full would come into force in 2021, would see a ban on selected single-use products including: cotton bud sticks, cutlery, plates, straws, stirrers, sticks for balloons, as well as cups, food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene and on all products made of oxo-degradable plastic across all 28 member states. 

As an organisation, our focus has always been on preventing marine plastic pollution so we welcomed this Directive as “the biggest shift we have ever seen in eliminating” plastic pollution at source 

As well as banning certain items the Directive would force all Member States to: 

  • Take measures to reduce consumption of food containers and beverage cups made of plastic and specific marking and labelling of certain products. 
  • Extend Producer Responsibility schemes covering the cost to clean-up litter, applied to products such as tobacco filters and fishing gear. 
  • Implement a 90% separate collection target for plastic bottles by 2029 (77% by 2025) and the introduction of design requirements to connect caps to bottles, as well as target to incorporate 25% of recycled plastic in PET bottles as from 2025 and 30% in all plastic bottles as from 2030. 

Responding to the Directive, Natalie Fee, our founder commented.

“This is biggest shift we have ever seen in eliminating plastic at source – the EU has set a precedent we hope the UK and the rest of the world will follow. It’s time for companies to wake up and take action if they want to keep trading and selling inside the biggest market in the world, they need to get serious about stopping plastic pollution. Ultimately, we’d like to see a shift towards organisations looking at reusable alternatives to some of the pointless plastics that are hard to recycle and polluting our oceansThe refill revolution is happening – it’s time to get on board.” 

The European Commission estimates that as well as tackling the most common forms of plastic pollution found on beaches the Directive will:  

    • Avoid the emission of 3.4 million tons of CO2 equivalent; 
    • Avoid environmental damages which would cost the equivalent of €22 billion by 2030;
    • Save consumers a projected €6.5 billion.  

So what’s next for Europe?  

The proposals still need to receive a final adoption at the Council of Ministers before the Member States will be given two years to transpose the legislation into their national law. 

But what about Brexit?  

Regardless of what happens with Brexit, the UK is almost certainly going to be obliged to implement the Directive’s proposals. The UK government has repeatedly claimed that they will match or where economically practicable exceed the Directive’s ambition.  

We’ll be watching closely to make sure this happens and will keep you updated. In the meantime, find out what you can do to reduce single-use plastics here 

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First ever global commitment to tackling single-use plastic 

This week saw the first ever global commitment by national governments towards curtailing the surging consumption of single-use plastics. The pledge happened at the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi in Kenya.

 The non-binding declaration sets out plans to curb items like plastic bags, bottles and straws over the next decade. However, the initial wording put forward by the Indian delegation to commit to “phasing-out the most problematic single-use plastic products by 2025” was heavily watered down by a USA led group. The final text committed states to “significantly reduce” single-use plastics by 2030. 

 Our Founder, Natalie Fee broadly welcomed the commitment saying:  “This is a huge first step towards a global solution to a global problem. It was heartening to see real action plans being backed by the majority of the countries represented, but the proof will be in the delivery of these plans. With the last-minute watering down of the proposals, we’ll now be watching closely to make sure that these very first steps are implemented and acted upon.”

 She did however also join other environmentalists in expressing her disappointment in the watering down of the agreement saying:  “I was also disappointed to see how a small minority led by the United States blocked the more ambitious parts of the text and delayed negotiations. If we’re going to tackle this global problem the United States needs to join the growing consensus around tackling plastic pollution and stop pumping money into the fracking industry that fuels the plastics industry. What was agreed last Friday needs to be seen as a minimum standard that we expect of governments and we can and must do more. Change is happening but we need people, councils and businesses to keep pushing to go further faster. With 8 million pieces making their way into our oceans each day [3] our fragile planet can’t afford any more delays.”

Find out more about how you can take action on plastic pollution here. 

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Scotland’s first International Marine Conference!

This February the Scottish government launched their first ever International Marine Conference, bringing together representatives from more than 10 other nations. Our campaign co-ordinator Jasmine was there to get the low down and find out what we can learn from Scotland.

Kicking off the conference was Scotland’s First Minister – Nicola Sturgeon, reminding everyone present of the importance of the ocean to Scotland – which actually accounts for 8% of Europe’s total coastline! The marine environment surrounding Scotland has huge importance for globally significant species, for tourism and for offshore wind and tidal power.

The first day of the International Marine Conference focused on Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) and Blue Carbon – two areas in which Scotland is trying to show leadership. Under the Convention on Biodiversity there are global obligations to protect 10% of the world’s oceans by 2020. Demonstrating their commitment to ocean health Scotland are already protecting 22% of their territorial waters and are aiming for even more. Dr Sarah Cunningham from Scottish National Heritage highlighted that MPA’s must now have flexible boundaries and management across regions, in order to account for the movement of species and habitats in response to climate change.

Scotland is the only country to have made a national marine carbon inventory, looking at how the marine environment can help reduce global greenhouse emissions. Scottish peatlands and fjords store a huge amount of carbon, some of which has been locked in these environments since the ice age, so it’s vital to carefully manage these areas!

Image: JNCC

The second day of the conference was focused on marine litter, where Scotland are also spearheading the way in some areas of policy and planning. As Cabinet Secretary Rosanna Cunningham pointed out:

We’re an innovative species… we’re the ones who invented plastic in the first place! It’s time to solve this problem which we ourselves created.”

Scottish government have banned microplastic in personal care products, will be banning plastic stemmed cotton buds from the summer of 2019, have 300 sea vessels signed up to the Fishing for Litter scheme, and have just released the results of their consultation on a Deposit Return System (where England and Wales are only just opening a consultation to the public). Being the first government in the UK to supply free period products to students, we were very excited to hear that the government is also working to promote reusable menstrual products with Zero Waste Scotland! Great news for Plastic-Free Periods!

Lewis Pugh – Patron of the Oceans UN Environment Committee – swam an inspirational 1km across the north pole (which should be covered in ice) to send a message to global leaders about climate change. As a keynote speaker at the conference Lewis spoke of the importance of belief and absolute commitment to achieving a goal:

When we think about the environment we’ve been diving in with thoughts of victory and defeat at the same time. You cannot confuse your subconscious by preparing for success and defeat simultaneously. Chose success – there is nothing more powerful than a made-up mind.”

The International Marine Conference was full of fascinating researchers, inspiring campaigners and grassroots groups made up of people whole-heartedly committed to protecting our oceans for generations to come. Here are just a few of them who stood out for their dedication and passion for the cause:

The Marine Conservation Society and Our Ladys RC Primary School

During her ocean outreach work Catherine Gemmell from MCS met the ambitious year 3 students at Our Ladys RC school. After Catherine’s workshop these inspired students created a campaign called Wild Bottle Sighting Alert! In collaboration with MCS they encouraged anyone who found a littered water bottle to report it on the Wild Bottle Sightings map, helping to raise the profile of plastic bottle pollution and collect valuable data. This campaign was used to send a message to Scottish politicians about why a Deposit Return scheme is so vital. Scotland’s mini rockstars!

School twitter: @OurLadysRRS

  • Fidra

Fidra have been working to reduce plastic pollution from cotton buds for years. They’re a great example of how working with industry rather than targeting policy makers or consumers, can be the way to reach the heart of product issues. One of the reasons our Switch the Stick campaign was so successful was thanks to the behind the scenes work from Fidra, and now Scotland will be banning plastic cotton bud stems this summer!

Zsuzsa and Gerry are both advertising professionals who have worked for Coca-cola, Irn Bru, Honda, Tesco and MasterCard. Luckily for the planet, this committed couple have now turned their talents to anti-littering campaigns in Scotland, with amusing, memorable and award-winning results! Check out their visual campaigns here.

  • Rune Gaasø and Clean Shores

Geologist Rune Gaasø is working with Eivind Bastesen and Clean Shores to identify, log and remove plastic from an entire island off the west of Norway. Currents have washed litter ashore on this island probably since plastic was invented, so it will be a fascinating study. The litter is meters deep and on one dig they found plastic bottles from the UK, remnants of a light bulb from the Netherlands and a chip packaging from Germany. Hats off to Rune and Eivind for mobilising their communities and taking ambitious clean up action that highlights the extent of our plastic pollution problem!

A few years ago Sunnyside’s oldest student group made a photography calendar with David Yarrow about anti-rhino and elephant poaching, they campaigned to get the council to turn their heating down by 2 degrees and campaigned against cetaceans being held in captivity. When it was time for the class to leave primary school, the projects weren’t finished and so they passed them down to the rest of the school to continue taking action towards a more sustainable world. Each year group now focuses on one conservation theme and have since raised money for bears and lions rescued from circuses, become recycling champions and designed light-switch stickers to remind people to switch off their lights and save energy!

As well as passion, successful ocean conservation requires a global and political sharing of resources to allow developing countries to skip straight to best practise. We need to stop reinventing the wheel and start urgently implementing the policies, practises and projects that we know work. This inspiring conference suggested that Scotland fully intend to lead the way in trialling solutions on a small-country scale, which hopefully can be rolled out globally moving forward.

Amidst fears around how our government will act on environmental concerns after leaving the European Union, Nicola Sturgeon re-aussured us that

“… despite Brexit, Scotland is going to continue to maintain EU environmental standards, and to work with partners across the globe.”

We shouldn’t accept anything less from English and Welsh governments. In fact, if Scotland can do it we can’t see any reason why our small island countries of England, Wales and Northern Ireland can’t also follow suit with measures like the Deposit Return System and banning cotton buds.

Sometimes waiting for strong leadership from powerful people makes us feel powerless. Here are some things we can all do to fight for a healthy planet for future generations:

We left Scotland’s International Marine Conference feeling inspired and hopeful, and look forward to working collaboratively for a year of bold action from politicians, community groups and businesses alike!

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Don’t let the government bottle it with the Deposit Return Scheme

What’s happening?

This week, the Government revealed a new consultation to overhaul the current waste and recycling system in the UK, including the proposed Deposit Return Scheme.

What is the Deposit Return Scheme?

Deposit Return schemes work by charging consumers a small financial deposit for every bottle they purchase. The consumer drinks the product, then posts the empty bottle into a machine which produces cash or a coupon to return the deposit. In Norway where the scheme has been hugely successful, a shopper pays the equivalent of 10p to 25p depending on the size of the bottle. In countries where the scheme has been installed, it’s led to recycling rates soaring to and sticking around 97% - whereas in the UK, just over half of the 13 billion plastic bottles used every year are recycled, with 700,000 littered every single day.

The UK proposal, part of the Resources and Waste Strategy, is likely to copy one of the schemes adopted in other countries. There are currently two options that are being explored during the consultation – the ‘on the go’ or the ‘all in’ approach.

The ‘on the go’ proposal, would include single soft drink cans and small mineral water bottles that people tend to buy while out of the home, but would limit the scheme to small bottles (smaller than 750ml), which are typically consumed by people when out of home, despite evidence that this would exclude millions of plastic bottles.

This is being considered following pressure from retailers who say only small bottles should be considered because they cause most litter; larger bottles could be exempted because they are mostly recycled at home, they argue. In a recent BBC article, Andrew Opie, of the British Retail Consortium, said “a catch-all deposit would mean big bottles going into recycling machines rather than home recycling bins”, he argued. “This would remove a source of revenue for local councils, because plastic bottles are valuable for recycling”.

However, the environmental charity, Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), collected 27,696 single-use drinks containers from 500 beaches and rivers in clean-ups in October. Of the bottles, 58 per cent were 750ml or larger and would be excluded if the drinks industry succeeds in convincing the government to limit the new deposit scheme. They have warned the new recycling scheme could fail to capture billions of plastic bottles if industry succeeds in watering down the Deposit Return Scheme an are calling on the public and small businesses to voice support for the ‘all in’ model pressuring Michael Gove to act.

Beach pollution. Plastic bottles and other trash on sea beach

We at City to Sea are committed to preventing plastic pollution at source – reducing the need for recycling in the first place by advocating reuse and providing practical solutions to the single-use water bottles such as our Refill campaign.

We’re hugely supportive of the Deposit Return Scheme as a means for capturing the plastic bottles in use and ensuring they don’t make their way into our oceans. We’d like to see the Government listening to the public and taking real action to curb the issue of plastic pollution by implementing the ‘all in’ version of the scheme – not bowing to industry pressure to water down the potential impact of the DRS scheme in England.

Have your voice heard and tell the government we need a Deposit Return Scheme that is inclusive and tackles bottles of all sizes – it’s not just small bottles washing up on our beaches so why would we create a scheme that only deals with part of the problem?

Responding to the consultation

The UK Government is managing the consultation process on behalf of the Welsh Government and DEFRA. You can respond to this consultation in one of the following ways:

As a country, England is already lagging behind Scotland, who were the first to commit the DRS scheme in the UK, and Wales who are now the third best country in the world for recycling. Let’s make sure we don’t continue in this way.

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Wales led the way with the plastic bag charge, will they do the same for the latte levy?

What we want

City to Sea are calling on the Welsh Government to introduce a point-of-sale fee (levy or tax) on all single-use coffee cups to prevent waste, reduce litter and encourage uptake of reusables. We believe the tax collected should be ring-fenced for investment in anti-pollution strategies and solutions that work towards a circular economy where ‘waste’ is designed out of our system. This idea has been dubbed the ‘latte levy’.

A latte levy would give consumers certainty that their investment in a reusable cup will pay for itself within a few uses, and create a more level playing field for coffee retailers. At the moment the random patchwork of discounts offered are disadvantageous to small independent businesses who can’t afford to reduce prices (because they’re buying in much smaller volumes than the big coffee chains).

We’re calling for this charge to be on all disposable cups, whatever they’re made of. This is a resource and waste issue, not just a plastic issue. We need to incentivise moving away from a throw-away society and towards a regenerative culture of reuse.

Why we want it

Here in the UK 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown away every year, with half a million littered every DAY!

Most coffee cups contain polyethylene, a type of plastic. Plastic is such a pervasive material that we have no idea how long it takes to ‘degrade’ and even when it does it only breaks down into microplastics that cause havoc in our oceans and our food chain.

A quarter of a million of you signed our petition calling on the government to take action against plastic pollution by introducing a point-of-sale plastic tax on items like coffee cups. Then you responded in record numbers to the government consultation on a plastic tax, and yet the request was totally ignored in UK government’s autumn budget! We’re representing the will of the public who want immediate action.

Reusable mugs and bottles are a simple and effective alternative to disposable cups. The evidence is clear that levies are effective in changing throw-away behaviour. The 5p charge on plastic bags reduced plastic bag use by 86% in the seven big British supermarkets, in just three years … it seems that consumers respond more to sticks (a charge or tax) than to carrots (an incentive).

The single-use plastic industry fuels the extraction of fossil fuels and given that scientists have issued a 12 year warning’ to limit climate catastrophe we need all the help we can get to move towards a circular (zero waste) economy.

Image from

A charge would:

  • Save retailers money (probably small retailers would save more money than larger players)
  • Prevent unnecessary waste
  • Reduce the amount of litter in neighbourhoods
  • Reduce ocean pollution
  • Raise funds for anti-pollution strategies and solutions that work towards a circular economy


To make standard coffee cups waterproof, card is fused with polyethylene (plastic) which can’t be separated out in a standard recycling mill. There are only three specialised recycling facilities that can deal with coffee cups in the UK, meaning that less than 1% of them are recycled. What’s more, 90% of that packaging disposal and recycling cost is covered by us tax payers!

‘Biodegradable’ or ‘Compostable’ cups only reduce the problem if they can be home composted (although the lids can’t go in there!) or your area has an industrial in-vessel composter. Both of these scenarios are few and far between – out of the fifty UK in-vessel composters only about fifteen accept Vegware.

Regardless of how good recycling facilities are, paper and plastic can be recycled less than ten times and then the material is no longer functional. Reducing waste and opting for reuse is always a better option than recycling.

The Waste Hierarchy from Simply Waste Solutions

Why Wales?

Did you know that the UK government initially refused to implement the 5p plastic bag charge? Wales however, went ahead, followed by Northern Ireland, then Scotland, and finally England joined the movement four years later!

Welsh government are already ahead of England with regards to recycling, and we believe that they can take the lead on reduction and reuse measures too. Last year Welsh ministers considered asking Westminster for powers to tax disposable cups but other tax reforms were prioritised. We hope that the will of the people is evident enough to reconsider working swiftly towards a latte levy.

We would like to work with the Welsh government to collect evidence for a point-of-sale plastic tax and to support them in implementing an effective levy for reducing plastic pollution and building a culture of reuse.

Photo by Sammy Leigh Scholl on Unsplash

Surveys show that 85% of the public want to do something to stop plastic pollution. In order to ‘do something’ about plastic pollution we need to reconsider our every-day habits – to choose sustainability and compassion over convenience. But we need the support of government, and we’re turning to devolved governments to show leadership and take action when Westminster isn’t.

We’ll keep you up to date!

Current business-led coffee cup schemes:

Boston Tea Party – run a ‘deposit return scheme’ meaning that if you forget your reusable cup you can loan one for £4.50 and return it to any of their cafes to receive your money back.
Pret A Manger – 50p discount for bringing your reusable cup
Starbucks – trialling a 5p charge on disposable cups and 25p off for using a reusable cup
Costa – 25p off for using a reusable cup (excludes stores in Northern Ireland and “Proud to Serve” concession stands in other sites such as canteens and petrol stations)
Paul – 25p off for using a reusable cup
Greggs – 20p off for taking your reusable cup
Café Nero – will give you an extra stamp on your loyalty card if you bring a reusable cup

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The Low-down on Plastic – EU and UK laws

Collins Dictionary recently announced “single-use” as its word of 2018, reflecting the surge in public awakening about the plastic pollution crisis. With 8—12 million tonnes of plastic entering our oceans every year, leaching toxins into the land, our food and our bodies, serious action has been a long time coming!

With so much going on in the plastic sphere it can be hard to keep up and filter meaningful developments from wishy-washy statements. Here we’ll give you a rundown of where we’re at with plastic legislation in the EU and the UK, in plain English. Get ready for some news worth celebrating as well as a reality check about the challenges we’ll be facing in 2019.

Good News in the EU…

Let’s start with the EU, which took a significant step forward by introducing the Single-Use Plastics Directive in December 2018. After months of negotiations, the EU agreed on a ban for several single-use plastic items: cotton buds, straws, stirrers, balloon sticks, oxo-biodegradable plastics, plates, cutlery and food containers and cups made from expanded polystyrene – great news!

Side note: You may be wondering what on earth oxo-biodegradable means, and why items made from this type of plastic are being banned. If it’s biodegradable isn’t that a good thing? The thing is, oxo-biodegradable plastic breaks down faster than normal plastic when exposed to oxygen, but it’s still plastic and still breaks down into microplastics! Plus, it’s debatable whether they act any different to normal plastics when they’re in the ocean.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes required by the EU will mean that manufacturers (including top polluters like Coca Cola, Pepsico and Nestlé) will have to pay for the management, clean-up and awareness-raising measures for several single-use items, including cigarette butts and fishing gear, by January 2023. The same is true for wet-wipes and balloons by the end of 2024. EU countries will also be obliged to reduce post-consumption waste from cigarette filters – the most commonly littered item in Europe – which yes, contain plastic!


Other steps in the right direction include: product labelling about plastic content, appropriate disposal options and the environmental impact of littering, an option for EU countries to restrict the market for food and drink containers, and an obligation to ensure that by 2030 all beverage bottles are made from a minimum of 30% recycled content.

In December 2018 the European Commission also launched the Circular Plastics Alliance to strengthen the market for recycled plastics. Although prevention is always better than cure this alliance could be a positive step for making the most of all plastic currently in circulation and reducing littering.

The EU expect this Single-use Plastics Directive to reduce CO2 emissions by 3.4 million tonnes, avoid €22 billion on environmental damages by 2030 and save consumers up to €6.5 billion.

The EU is the first region to introduce laws to reduce plastic, thanks to the Break Free From Plastic movement, the open hearts and minds of certain EU officials, numerous other environmental campaign groups and consultancies, and everyone else involved in making this happen. This all feeds in to the EU’s wider Circular Economy Action Plan which was adopted in December 2015.

The not so good news….

Now for the not so good news about the EU plastics legislation… Weakened by plastic industry lobbying, legislation to reduce the consumption of food containers and cups is non-binding and vague. Rather than obliging EU members to commit to EU-wide targets and deadlines, it has been left up to national governments to “significantly reduce” consumption, with a hope that they will be ambitious and follow through. In this same vein, countries can choose to achieve reduction and Extended Producer Responsibility goals through voluntary agreements between industry and authorities. Will national governments step up to the challenge and will they do it fast enough?

We also saw a 4 year delay (2025 to 2029) in achieving a 90 percent collection target for drinks containers, and a 3 year delay (2021 to 2024) in making sure that plastic drinks containers have caps/ lids attached. What are they waiting for?

Image by John Cameron on Unsplash                                                         

What’s happening in the UK?

Now moving onto the UK government – which has a 25 Year Environment Plan, pledging to leave the environment in a better condition for the next generation. The concept of safeguarding the planet for our children has historically been referred to as ‘the Children’s Fire’ and it enabled our ancestors to live in relative balance with the natural world. Decision making around this concept is vital if we’re to shift from our current, wasteful system to a nourishing, closed-loop economy… so is the government backing up this statement with action?

The Resources and Waste Strategy & EPR

Last year the UK government drew up The Resources and Waste Strategy to ‘become a world leader’ in preserving resources, moving towards a circular economy and managing waste safely. Under the 2018 strategy the government aims to oblige retailers and producers of packaging to pay the full cost of collection and recycling, with penalties for packaging that’s difficult to recycle – like black plastic. Hopefully you’re sitting down for this next fact… at the moment 90 percent of recycling costs are covered by the taxpayer (that’s us!) whilst businesses pay just 10 percent!

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) moves responsibility from the consumer to the producer, encouraging suppliers and retailers to seriously reconsider the materials used and the lifecycle of their products. This tool is really vital in catalysing a shift away from plastics and other harmful pollutants, towards sustainable, non-toxic materials. It’s unclear whether EPR alone would prevent waste but in combination with a tax/levy on single-use plastic, modulated fees on varying materials and a deposit return scheme for bottles and cans, we could see real changes in consumption and waste habits. It’s great to see EPR finally on our government’s agenda!

Photo by Eva Dang on Unsplash

So when is this all going to happen?

In a similar fashion to the EU legislation around food containers and cups, the waste strategy is very vague with relaxed- or no deadlines. There’s a considerable amount of language like ‘consider’ and ‘try’ in the strategy, and the EPR plans are still reliant on a forthcoming consultation which leaves policies open to being watered down and delayed. Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands have already got EPR systems in place and the Scottish government plan to introduce a deposit return system by 2020. Packaging producers – who will pay for the DRS system – want it to be UK-wide but English government have moved the target from 2018 to 2023, showing a real lack of ambition and urgency about reducing resource consumption and pollution.

The plastic tax

At the end of 2017 we at City to Sea launched a petition calling for a single-use plastic levy at the point of sale for single use straws, coffee cups, pint cups, takeaway containers and cutlery, in order to see change around consumption behaviour across the UK. People seriously re-think their buying habits when they have to part with hard-earned money, and the 5p bag charge proved that even small levies are enough to seriously change habits. Nearly a quarter of a million people signed our petition, filling us with optimism and enthusiasm!

In mid-2018 the government ran a consultation on a plastic tax and received a record number of citizen responses, with one third of respondents having also signed our petition (thank you, thank you, thank you!). Despite a loud and clear display of public support for a levy or tax on avoidable single-use plastic, the government did not take any action. Instead, they will run another consultation in four years time about taxing manufacturers on the production of single-use plastic with less than 30 percent recycled content. We felt this move to be extremely weak and unacceptable in the face of public demand.


Recycling & Bio-plastics

More encouragingly, the Waste Strategy should legislate for UK-wide recycling specifications on materials, requiring all local authorities and waste operators to operate consistent, high-quality collections, including food waste. Currently bioplastics are not an option because there is such limited infrastructure to deal with them, but should the Waste Strategy legislate for industrial composting facilities UK-wide they may become a viable alternative to petroleum-based plastics.

UK government and the EU ‘want to be ambitious’ but with scientists warning that we have just 12 years to tackle climate change, the most recent developments lack immediacy and concrete action. Proposals must now translate into policy, and policy translate into action supported by adequate funding and resources. Once the UK has left the EU we’ll be relying on our government to seriously step up and be held accountable to their pledge to leave the environment in a better condition for the next generation.

Photo by MItodru Ghosh on Unsplash

As for the rest of the world…

In July 2018 the UN Environment and World Resources Institute found that 127 countries had implemented some form of policy for plastic bags and 23 had established some form of deposit-return system. 2018 also saw: the UK’s first National Refill Day for keeping Britain hydrated and preventing pollution from plastic water bottles, investment firm Circulate Capital raised $90 million to invest in waste collection infrastructure in Southeast Asia, two Australian supermarkets prevented 1.5 billion bags from entering the environment in three months by introducing reusable bags, and the Walt Disney Company announced that single-use plastic straws and stirrers will be banned at nearly all its theme parks by mid-2019.

There’s a lot of great movement happening, but we still have a long way to go. Knowing that there are so many individuals out there like you, like us, all wanting change, fuels the fire in our bellies to keep keeping on, to fight the good fight. And we hope that you, as part of that community feel the same and continue to lead the charge in your own home, office, town and countries!

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’ – Margaret Meade

By Jasmine Tribe, City to Sea’s Campaigns Co-ordinator

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