Making waves in 2019

It’s been a monumental 12 months for us at City to Sea and for the environmental movement as a whole. Extinction Rebellion brought London to a standstill, the Friday’s for Future campaign exploded and ‘Climate Emergency’ was named as Oxford Language’s ‘Word of the Year 2019’. As a nation, we’re now, more aware than ever of the fragile state of our planet and the urgent action needed as we head into the new decade.

But before we pack up for Christmas and sail into the new year, it’s time to reflect on how far we’ve come together this year. None of this would be possible without our dedicated volunteers, supporters and of course our incredible partners.

We couldn’t do what we do without the support of each and every one of you, so a massive THANK YOU from all of us - you made all of this happen!

Here are a few of our highlights!

The rise of the Refill Revolution

The Refill campaign grew beyond belief in 2019 and we’re now on track to have prevented 100 million plastic bottles from entering our waste stream by the end of the year. We hit 250k app downloads and were listed in Vogue Magazine, The Telegraph and Men’s Health Magazine’s as a top sustainability app.

We held our second National Refill Day reaching an estimated 73 million on social media and were trending on Twitter ALL DAY!

Our incredible Refill community grew to over 350 schemes across the country, and there are now almost 30,000 Refill Stations on the app offering free drinking water to thirsty people.

We teamed up with food and farming charity, Sustain, to launch the #50Fountains Challenge and launched a pilot in Bristol & Oxford to expand the campaign and become the go-to for avoiding single-use plastic. Oh, and our Refill X Chilly’s bottle got a shout out on This Morning and the campaign featured on the BBC series ‘Hugh’s War on Plastic.’

As if that’s not enough, we’re now going global with Refill schemes launching in Japan, Italy, Chile, Ecuador and Australia!

None of this would be possible without our incredible community of volunteers, who drive the Refill Revolution on the ground and make the campaign the success it is today. Here’s to 2020 being even bigger and better!

Plastic-Free Periods – a #BloodySuccess

This year you helped us petition the government to get #PlasticFreePeriods products into schools. And joined us in launching our nationwide #RethinkPeriods schools programme and helped us encourage retailers to stock more eco-friendly product choice.

As a result of our petition, which had nearly 40,000 signatures, the Dept for Education said that products sent to schools would be now be required to be ‘environmentally friendly’. This move could prevent 90 million carrier bags worth of plastic!

We reached more than 11 million people on social media, raising awareness of the issue of plastic in menstrual products and our film ‘Turning Tides’ toured with the Ocean Film Festival during Environmenstrual Week.

We’ve also had success with the retailers and now have open dialogue with 7 large UK retailers, encouraging them to remove plastic from their own brand period products and stock more plastic-free period choices. This is all thanks to you calling them out on social media and letting them know it’s a #Bloodyshame reusables are not more widely available.

Plastic-Free Travel

Over the summer we launched the #PlasticFreeTravel campaign to help make it easier for people to avoid single-use plastic when they are travelling. We teamed up with transport hubs, like Heathrow Airport and Network Rail to ensure travellers were able to Refill on the go. Partnering with Premier Inn as our ‘best practice partner’ pledging to reduce single-use plastic across their hotels.

We had our voices heard and petitioned the top 5 Health & Beauty retailers to encourage them to stock more plastic-free products.

Be A Good A**hole

In the autumn, we took our Unflushables campaign to the next level, working with Lord of the Rings film-star Andy Serkis in a hilarious new role as a 'talking a**hole'.

Our #BeAGoodAsshole campaign was a big hit with the media - in what must be one of our all-time campaign highlights, we got The Guardian, the Telegraph and Huffpost to use the word anus in a serious feature about wet wipes and fat bergs! But on a serious note, the campaign reached millions, raising awareness of a massive issue to a totally new audience.

Next year, the a**hole advert is going on tour and will coming to a cinema near you. Watch this space!

#CallOutCoke

In case you missed it, last week we took on plastic-polluting giants Coca-Cola for their recent digital and out-of-home advertising campaign. We complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about Coke’s use of the phrase ‘single-use’ and challenged them on their claim that ‘single-use plastic bottles are only single-use if they are thrown away.’

The ASA has now been inundated with complaints from our incredible supporters and is now looking into the campaign. With Coca-Cola named as the top polluter globally, it’s campaigns like this and the support from all of you, which really allow us to have a big impact in preventing plastic pollution at source.

Awards, awards and more awards!!

2019 has been the year of awards for us at City to Sea!

The Refill campaign WON two awards – the best ‘Reduce & Reuse Campaign’ at the Plastic Free Awards and the prestigious Energy Globe Award. We’ve also been shortlisted for the Edie Sustainability Leaders Awards for our National Refill Day campaign.

Our film ‘Turning Tides’ won the TVE Global Sustainability Awards ‘Beyond Plastic category’ and we won the Surf Film Fest ‘Shorty Awards’ for a film to raise awareness of the issue of plastic pollution in our oceans.

Our founder Nat won the Sunday Times and Volvo ‘Visionary Award’ and our CEO Rebecca was listed as one of NatWest’s WISE100 (Women in Social Enterprise 100).

City to Sea team

Our team

It’s been a year since our CEO took the helm and in January, we also welcomed our brilliant Non-Executive Board to further strengthen our governance and accountability.

We are now an incredible team of 36 everyday people doing extraordinary things. We're campaigners, volunteers, academics, influencers, techies, strategists, creatives, partnership managers, social marketeers and so much more!

We’re all here thanks to one inspirational lady, our founder Natalie. It’s been a special year for her as she launched her second book ‘How to Save the World for Free’ – which has gone on to be an Amazon best-seller! Nat has also released a new music video, secured a column with Time-Out magazine and featured in countless media and TV interviews, reaching millions!

And Nat’s not the only team member with book out this year. Our videographer Michelle, has recently published a children’s plastic pollution book - ‘Seb & Polly Planet on their Ocean Quest.

Rest and regenerate

That’s it from us this this year. We’ll be closing the office for the Christmas break and taking some much-needed time to rest, restore and regenerate. And we hope you’ll be doing the same! Enjoy some time in nature, switch off your phone and give yourself some space to reflect and recharge.

Next year we’ll be back and ready to continue with our mission to prevent plastic pollution at source by awakening active hope, championing practical solutions and inspiring collective action.

Our vision is a world where everyone connects their actions to our oceans and all life can thrive. And together we can make this vision a reality. After all, we don’t need one person to do it perfectly, we need millions to do it imperfectly.

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Coca-Cola Advert

ASA and Coca-Cola respond to advert complaint

Last week we logged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)against Coca-Cola for their recent advertising campaign claiming their bottles were no longer single-use because they could be recycled.  

Here at City to Sea, we want big brands and massive polluters like Coca-Cola, to stop this kind of greenwashing and take positive steps to transition away from single-use and move towards systems of reuse. Advertisements that attempt to mislead the public and have the potential to increase the number of plastic bottles polluting our planet, can and should be banned.  

You can see our complaint, and understand more about why we complained, here. 

Coca-Cola hits back

Following the backlash, Coca-Cola hit back claiming we had “misunderstood the message of the campaign” and that instead it “was designed to make clear to people that all of our bottles can and should be recycled so that the plastic in them can be used to make a new bottle.”  

Coca-Cola stated that they were “working to make them as sustainable as possible by doubling the amount of recycled plastic they are made from and ensuring all of them are recovered and recycled”.  However, they accept the fact that “for the plastic in our bottles to have more than one use, the essential first step is for the bottle to be in a recycling bin. That’s what the advert was encouraging consumers to do”.  

But we think Coca-Cola and the ASA are the ones who have misunderstoodThe United Nations (who we would regard as a fairly authoritative voice on most matters!) define single-use as; “items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled.” 

Our supporters

We’re not the only ones who believe it’s not Coca-Cola’s privilege to redefine single-use and that instead we should be choosing the Refill Revolution. We’ve had backing from campaigners like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Break Free From Plastic. 

We’ve also been blown away by the response from our supportersThanks to YOU the ASA was inundated with complaints and initially released a statement saying that they were looking into the ‘single use plastic campaign’ by Coca-Cola.  

The complaint was also picked up by media bodies within the food and beverage sector, including Food ManufactureResource Magazine and New Food Magazine 

ASA responds

The ASA have responded to say they ARE investigating the environmental claims made by Coca-Cola but WILL NOT look into whether they are misusing the term single-use.  

As you can imagine, we are delighted they are looking into the claims Coca-Cola make about the environmental credentials of their product, but we also stand by our initial complaint and have responded asking for the ASA to clarify some points in their response including what definition (if not the UN’s, the EU’s or even the recycling body WRAP’s that Coca-Cola are part of) they are using.  

Thank you

As ever, we’re incredibly grateful for everyone getting behind this and for the ongoing support we’ve received. Although the ASA are unable to give a specific timeframe for this ruling, we will keep you informed with any updates we receive.  

Together we really can make a difference and hold corporations to account.  

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Coca-Cola Advert

Complaint made over “misleading” Coca-Cola advert

Sending plastic round in circles?

Have you seen the new Coca-Cola advert claiming their single-use plastic bottles aren’t single-use because they can be recycled? Yes, that’s right. They are trying to redefine the phrase ‘single-use’ in their adverts, setting a dangerous precedent to the rest of the drinks industry.

Coca-Cola’s assertion that plastic bottles are only single-use if we throw them away rather than recycle misrepresents a commonly held definition of the word single-use. This confusion has the potential to increase the volume of plastic bottles ending up in our environment, perpetuating the environmental damage that plastic pollution causes.

The word single-use was recognised as the Collins Dictionary ‘word of the year’ in 2018, demonstrating the level at which it has reached the public vernacular. They defined it as: “products that are often made of plastic and have been made to use just once, only to be thrown away after, rendering them unsustainable and harmful to the planet.”

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) defines ‘single-use’ plastic as follows: “single-use is a term which can refer to any plastic items which are either designed to be used for one time by the consumer before they are thrown away or recycled, or likely to be used in this way”.

Clearly Coca-Cola’s bottles are single-use according to all commonly held and legal definitions from highly reputable organisations. Not only are these products single-use, but their packaging (plastic PET bottles) clearly falls under legal definitions of what constitutes waste, even if they are sent down waste recycling streams.

Recyclable vs recycled

Whilst we celebrate their bottles becoming 100% recyclable (or so they say), we know there is a big difference between something being recyclable and being recycled. The reality is, even Coca-Cola accept that only a fraction of plastic bottles are recycled.

We believe this is greenwashing and is misleading for consumers, so we have made the decision to lodge a formal complain to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) and we need you to do the same. Only if enough of us speak out against this type of greenwashing can we hope to put a stop to it.

We strongly feel the industry needs to be called out, particularly at a time when public concern around single-use plastic is at an all-time high.

Our CEO, Rebecca Burgess says; “The holidays are coming, along with the iconic Coca-Cola truck. But this year, Coca-Cola have taken a new tack when it comes to their marketing – tapping into public concern on single-use plastic and redefining the word to sell their products; misleading customers and setting a dangerous precedent in the industry. While they say their products can be recycled, we know that in reality, many are not. Plastic bottles are consistently the most polluting items on our beaches and rivers and Coca-Cola is the worst offender. We had no choice but to report these misleading claims to the ASA and we are encouraging others to do the same.”  

How big is this problem?

An estimated 700,000 plastic bottles are littered every single day in the UK and the MCS estimates that there are now more than 150 plastic bottles for every mile of beach in the UK.

We know that plastic bottles are consistently the most polluting items on our beaches and rivers and Coca-Cola is the worst offender.

Have your voice heard

Complaining to the ASA is really quick and easy.  We need Coca-Cola to be spending time and money transitioning away from single-use, to become part of the Refill Revolution and not on misleading advertising campaigns. Here's what you need to do:

  1. Click on the button below which will take you to their site. 
  2. Read the info and click continue.
  3. Select the option that shows that you are a member of the public submitting the complaint.
  4. Select 'Poster: Billboards, digital or transport' from the drop-down menu.
  5. Select 'Outdoor' from the drop-down menu.
  6. Add Cola Cola as the brand.
  7. Add either today's date (if you just saw the campaign today), or if you've seen it before then add the date you saw it.
  8. Either use our complaint as a template or write your own in the box.
  9. Download the image below to upload with your complaint. Or you can use this tweet from Coca-Cola.

#CallOutCoke on social media

If you agree with us that Coca-Cola should not be allowed to redefine what the phrase ‘single-use’ use means, then join us in calling out Coke on social media using the hashtag #CallOutCoke

What we’re calling for:

  • - Coca-Cola to withdraw its ads and stop trying to mislead the public about single-use plastic bottles;
  • - Coca-Cola to tackle the use of single-use plastic bottles by shift towards a comprehensive refill scheme
  • - The government to introduce a deposit scheme to ensure far more bottles are refilled – or failing that, recycled.
  • - The new government to introduce legislation to phase-out the use of all but the most essential single-use plastics
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Image of the Refill Team with Plastic Free Award Winner Logo

City to Sea wins Plastic Free Award

City to Sea picks up best ‘Reuse Award’ at the Plastic Free Awards for our Refill Campaign

Last week, City to Sea were awarded the ‘Reduce & Reuse Award’ for our Refill Campaign at the prestigious Plastic Free Awards. The awards, run by Surfers Against Sewage and Iceland, recognise champions from all walks of life. Including young campaigners, community leaders, small businesses, charities, designers, entrepreneurs, sports clubs and schools. All with a shared mission of stopping plastic pollution.

They were presented by environmental journalist and campaigner Lucy Siegal. And judged by a high-profile, expert panel including Ben Fogle, Liz Bonnin and Dr Paula Owen.

The Refill team holding the Reduce and Reuse Award

Reuse over single-use

We’re honoured to be recognised alongside so many pioneering businesses, not-for profits and individuals who are tirelessly campaigning to prevent plastic pollution. The Refill campaign was selected due to the work we are doing in championing reuse over single-use. And therefore providing practical solutions for some of the worst polluting single-use plastic items.

Refill is on track to have prevented over 100 million bottles by the end of 2019. And we’re now expanding to cover more than just drinking water. As a result, you’ll soon be able to use the free app to find out where to fill up your coffee-cup, lunch box, groceries and even toiletries and cleaning products. And with more than 250,000 app users we’ve got the potential to create a tipping point by make refilling the new norm.

A huge thank to each and everyone one of you!

Refill wouldn’t be possible without the on-going support from all of our partners. Including Water UK, Chilly’s Bottles and the Welsh Government. And we certainly couldn’t do what we do without our incredible community of volunteer led schemes and Refill stations who are the driving force for the #refillrevolution!

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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 www.beagoodasshole.com 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.

 

References:

[1] http://www.mcsuk.org/downloads/gbbc/2016/GBBC_2016_Report.pdf

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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.

NATALIE FEE – AUTHOR, AWARD-WINNING CAMPAIGNER AND FOUNDER OF CITY TO SEA

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?!

SEB, POLLY PLANET AND THEIR OCEAN QUEST.

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!

AMANDA KEETLEY – FOUNDER OF LESS PLASTIC | AUTHOR OF PLASTIC GAME CHANGER
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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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