Tackling marine pollution with the ‘Fine to Flush’ standard

Plastic pollution and littering from ‘flushable’ wet wipes is on the rise! We have a whole webpage dedicated to wet wipes but to summarise, here are the key points:

  • Last year the Marine Conservation Society recorded >14 wet wipes per 100 metres of coastline, a rise of 700% over the last decade.
  • In April 2018, over 4,500 wet wipes were found on one 154m sq patch of foreshore.
  • Many wet wipes contain plastic and don’t break down (or if they do they break down into microplastics).
  • The BBC has found that all wet wipes sold as “flushable” in the UK have so far failed the water industry’s disintegration tests. Despite this, the European industry body Edana still allows them to be labelled as “flushable”.
  • When wet wipes are flushed down the loo, they clog up our sewers causing them to overflow and pollute our rivers and ocean.
  • A study in 2017 showed that wet wipes could account for about 93% of the material causing blockages.
  • Sewer blockages cost the country £100m every year – money which Water UK says could be taken off bills or spent on improving services.

That’s where Water UK’s ‘Fine to Flush’ symbol comes in! Water UK have created a new standard which allows consumers to recognise products that are truly flushable, without causing havoc in our sewers and on our beaches!

So far Natracare’s plastic-free, compostable ‘moist tissue’ (sold in Waitrose, Ocado and independent health shops) is the only product to have been awarded the standard. Let’s hope that this pushes other wet wipe manufacturers to reconsider the materials they use and certainly change the information on their packaging.

If it doesn’t say ‘Fine to Flush’ – bin it!

Find out more about how to reduce plastic pollution from our toilets and our Bog Standard campaign 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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GUEST BLOG: Connecting the dots between my shopping basket and beach cleaning bag…

Guest blogger bio: Caroline Bond, known more publicly as Kittiekipper, is an artist and activist from Seaford, East Sussex. She uses her Instagram to share her ghost net fibre art sculptures and designs with her followers, as well as offering tips and solutions when it comes to all things plastic.  


Beach cleaning has changed me. The way I eat, the way I shop, the way I dress, the way I consume, and even the way I tackle my periods.

Before daily beach cleaning, I hadn’t really considered the implications of my consumer habits in such an in-depth way. I hadn’t realised that I was contributing to a problem I was so passionately fighting. It seems silly now, how long it took for me to make the connection between what was going into my shopping bag compared to what was going into my beach clean bag.

I find plastic tampon applicators regularly. Possibly even daily. And I’m not alone in that… Cruising through the beach clean hashtags on social media you’ll find them colourfully lighting up the shoreline in all the colours of the rainbow, on all the beaches of the globe. That’s right, period product waste has become a global issue. And when you think about it, how long is a tampon applicator actually used for? It has to be one of the speediest uses of single use plastic out there, making it a big offender in the single use plastic rouges gallery.


Somehow I still didn’t twig that I was part of the pollution problem, even though I’d never flushed one. The thing is – if you’re buying your own period products – you can choose what product and what company to invest your money in. By opting for tampons with an applicator (that I’m sure had been cardboard when I started my period and had somehow morphed into plastic!) I had been generating single-use plastic waste without making the connection to what I was finding on beaches. I was part of the problem, and once I realised this I knew it was time to change.

Instagram: kittiekipper

reusable alternatives

I’d heard about menstrual cups and reusable pads, but had been a little timid in trying them out. I had been really unlucky with tampons in general – my flow somehow seemed to miss the product and leak – so why was I so scared of trying something new? Probably just the unknown.

Monetarily the menstrual cup and reusable pads make a hell of a lot of sense. In the fight against single use plastic I’ve learnt the great value of reusable products over single-use products, that you pay out for regularly only to dispose of them quickly as a waste product. Ownership makes a lot more sense to your wallet than consumption.

This is also true from an environmental perspective. Producing something that you buy once, look after, reuse, and store until your next period, instead of using up resources and creating huge amounts of landfill waste from single use products, can only benefit the environment. Menstrual cups can last up to 10 years which not only saves money but packaging, energy, materials and resources too!

Washable pads are so comfortable to wear at night that you can sleep with confidence without having all that plastic against your sensitive skin while you are sleeping. Purchasing a little pack of three or four washable pads that are designed for your flow, means you can pop the used ones in the wash the next morning and have one ready for the next night. Imagine the amount of landfill waste that could be avoided if women used reusable washable pads JUST for the night time part of their cycles.

Instagram: KittieKipper

making the switch

I will be coming into my second year of plastic free periods this March. When I first got my menstrual cup (mine’s a Mooncup) I read through the instructions, popped it on to boil and after I’d snipped the tail to the length that was right for my body, and I was off. I won’t pretend I got the hang of it first time, but Tampons took me a few tries all those years ago too, and honestly I wasn’t expecting it to be totally simple. But I got there probably by day three of my first period using it. I learnt pretty quickly that if you can feel the cup at all then it’s not in quite right.

I’ve road tested my cup in all sorts of ways from cycling to surfing. If you like to be in the water or being active, the cup is a game changer. Prancing around in a swimming costume, knickers, tiny shorts or a skirt can be done! You can also opt for jogging bottoms, a box of biscuits and a hot water bottle, but for those of you that have been held back by your periods, I seriously recommend the cup.

I’ll be transparent – reusable products don’t agree with everyone. With cups, some experience more frequent UTI’s and some people just don’t like them, how they feel, changing them, etc. Handling a used pad before washing might go against your beliefs, weird you out or make you squeamish. Nothing to be ashamed of, or shamed for, after all we are all fabulously different.

BUT if you are in a position where you can choose which products you purchase, maybe it’s time you took a look at the plastic free options out there. Disposable plastic-free tampons and pads do exist too, benefitting your health as well as the planet.

Instagram: KittieKipper

money, money, money

Ruby cup operate on a ‘buy one donate one’ scheme so when you buy a cup they donate one to a girl or woman who would benefit from it.

When you shop for reusable pads check out what some companies and individuals are offering women in need too. Mine were from Velvet Moon Pads where the maker uses the profit from selling pads to reinvest in pad for people that can’t afford them. I love that ethos!

Alternatively, if you are buying single use pads or tampons from the shops, then maybe check this idea out… The Red Box Project is spreading across the UK, the idea being that when you buy your period products you buy one extra to donate to a sister in need. It’s a wonderful program reaching far and wide so do check them out if you are in a position to do so.

I’ll keep trying out new Plastic-Free Period ideas as I go, if I stumble across anything extra special, I’ll be sure to pop back and let you know!

Kittiekipper xx

Instagram: kittiekipper
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International Women’s Day and Period Power!

Women have the power to make a difference, every single month!

This International Women’s Day we’re calling on women and girls across the globe to join the movement and go plastic-free with their periods – supporting mother nature, saving money and improving women’s health.

On any given day 800 million people are menstruating and a staggering 4.3 billion disposable menstrual products are used in the UK every year. 

A ‘conventional’ menstrual pad contains around the same amount of plastic as four carrier bags and depending on where it ends up as waste, it could have a longer life-span than the person who uses it!

What is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day is a global celebration used to help raise the voices of women, show solidarity and support, champion work being done towards equal rights and demand an end to inequality and discrimination.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter, calling for a more gender balanced world. We want to see a world where all girls and women have access to education, can afford period products and can make informed choices about what they’re putting inside their bodies.

Periods – on a global scale

Sadly, as a culture we’re still embarrassed to talk about periods! As a result of the shame and stigma around periods, many girls often don’t get the properly educated about how to manage their period, what products are available to them 

It’s a sad fact that 1 in 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa are estimated to have missed school because of their period, and last year 140,000 girls in the UK found themselves in the same situation.

Instagram: EndPeriodPoverty

The problem with plastic

Conventional brands of period pad (e.g. Always, Lil-lets, Tampax) contain a horrifying 90% crude oil plastic. And it’s not just tampon packaging and applicators that are made of plastic – tampons themselves include plastic as well! With 4.3 billion disposable menstrual products being used in the UK every year, a huge amount of avoidable plastic waste is produced as a result.

  1. 2.5 million tampons and 1.4 million pads are wrongly flushed down the loo in the UK every day. Many of these block our sewer systems and end up polluting our rivers, seas and the wildlife that lives there. Not to mention, we then eat much of that wildlife.
  2. Disposable period products are expensive and contribute to/ exacerbate period poverty. You can save up to 94% of what you would have spent on disposable products over your lifetime, by switching to reusables.
  3.  Period product manufacturers aren’t required to disclose exactly what’s in their products but have been found to contain toxic chemicals like BPA, BPS, and petrochemical additives – known endocrine disrupting substances which have been linked to heart diseases and cancer.
Instagram: Roselloydowen

What we’re doing about it

Rapid innovation and development over the past few years has made it so much easier to have plastic free periods… but information about the range of period products out there still hasn’t been spread far enough!

In the lead up to International Women’s Day we’ve launched a video to share the Plastic Free Period love with as many people as possible. Reusables and organic disposables have so many benefits over toxic, plastic, disposables and we want women and girls to be empowered to make informed choices that give us a greater chance of equality in education and health.

Find out why these women have plastic-free periods!

Did you know that a ‘mainstream’ period pad contains 90% crude oil plastic? 🌊 Find out why these ladies have switched to #PlasticFreePeriods! 💪

Posted by City to Sea on Tuesday, 5 March 2019

How can I make a difference?

We can all make a small change and switch from single use, disposable period products to reusable or organic products. Here are just some of the options available (click on a product to find more information and discount codes!):

– Reusable period pads
Menstrual cups
Period pants
Organic disposables

As women we have huge power to make a difference through our periods! Ahead of International Womens Day why don’t you pledge to go plastic-free – for your health, for your wallet and for the ocean.

If you’ve already made the switch then we salute you! If you tag us in a photo of you holding up a sign that says what you love about Plastic Free Periods by March 15th, and use #PlasticFreePeriods you could be in with a chance of winning a little plastic-free bundle from Bear and Bear!

Argan oil, bamboo toothbrush, Wild Sage & Co soap bar

Other ways to support International Women’s Day:

– Volunteer for No More Taboo or The Cup Effect
– Donate to Women for Women International
– Talk to your kids and friends about women’s rights
– Watch the 2015 film Suffragette

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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 cawleys.co.uk

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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2018 – a year of planet protecting, plastic-pollution campaigning!

As we sail into the new year, we thought it was a good time to reflect, take stock and share some of the incredible things that we’ve achieved together this year.

It’s fair to say 2018 was the year of plastic pollution – Blue Planet 2 led to widespread awareness of the issue and Collins Dictionary crowned ‘single-use’ the word of 2018. The wave of change has been rising over the past 12 months and we’re riding it, guns blazing into 2019!

Shipshape and Bristol Fashion

Flash back to 2014 when our founder, Natalie Fee wondered what would happen if she gathered together a bunch of activists, scientists, local organisations and campaigners after seeing islands of plastic flowing down the river Avon in our home city of Bristol. By early 2018 we were a small but dedicated team of 4, committed to finding practical, postive solutions to single-use plastic and sucessfully getting retailers to ‘Switch the Stick’ – preventing 478 tonnes of plastic at source.

We’re now a team of 20 and growing, creating award-winning campaigns and doing a pretty good job of getting people and businesses off single-use plastics and switched on to reusables. Starting an organisation is difficult and growing it comes with a whole new set of challenges, like running out of cutlery in the office kitchen… Ok, maybe that’s not the best example, but  it’s true to say that we’ve been building the ship while we’re sailing in it – so with all the exciting changes happening as we move into the next chapter, we’ve appointed our first ever SEA-eo, to help steer the ship into the future.

Our plastic pollution campaigns have reached millions!

Thanks to your support this year – we’ve reached more people than ever before, raising awareness of some of the most important challenges we face today and even better – the planet protecting solutions that make a difference.

You’ve signed petitions, written to the Government, donated your hard-earned cash, watched and shared our campaigning videos, downloaded (and used) our Refill app, taken to the streets to sign-up over 15,000 Refill Stations and supported our toilet tour. 

Nearly a quarter of a million of you signed our 38 degrees petition for a levy on single-use plastics. The government had record numbers of responses  to their consultation on a plastic tax and nearly 1/3rd of those were people who signed our petition.

You’ve had your voice heard – and most importantly, you’ve passed on single-use plastic and switched to reusable alternatives, preventing countless tonnes of plastic from landfill – or worse, making it’s way into our precious oceans.


On a personal level, it’s been an insane year for our founder Natalie Fee, who was not only nominated as one of Nesta and the Observer’s 50 New Radicals and crowned Bristol 247’s ‘Woman of the Year,’ but was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Science by UWE Bristol, in recognition of her campaigning to protect the oceans from plastics and other avoidable wastes. We couldn’t be prouder!

Natalie Fee on being a New Radical

It's been an incredible year for us at City to Sea! We couldn't have done it without our amazing founder, Natalie Fee, who was this year nominated as one of Nesta and the Observer's 50 New Radicals! https://buff.ly/2NEuDfp"Being a New Radical fills me with an incredible sense of hope that together, we are creating a better future." 🙏

Posted by City to Sea on Saturday, 22 December 2018

The Refill Revolution IS goING global!

Thanks to our amazing volunteers, partners and community, our award-winning Refill campaign has grown beyond our wildest expectations and next year, we’re going global. There is no way we could achieve so much without the support of our partners Robeco, Water UK, the national water companies and  Chilly’s Bottles.

There are now more than 15,000 Refill Stations across the UK with chains like Pret, Starbucks, Costa and thousands of incredible independent businesses signed up. Thanks to our incredible volunteers there are now Refill Schemes in 127 towns and cities across the UK and our app has been downloaded over 90,000 times! That’s 90,000 tiny waves being turned into a tsunami of positive change.  A tsunami that is now taking Refill onto a global stage.

If all of our Refill Stations are used just once a week, we’re saving more than 5 million bottles at source every year!

Plastic Free Periods

A massive 2.5 million tampons, 1.4 million pads and 700,000 panty liners are flushed in the UK each year (MCS 2015) – many of them making their way into our oceans and waterways.  This is why it’s crucial we involve people from all walks of life in the conversation around reusable period products so we can begin to reduce these shocking numbers. This year, thanks to the support of people like you, we’ve successfully reached a whopping 1.3 million people with our Plastic Free Periods campaign. 

A highlight for us, was Natalie and Jasmine speaking about Plastic Free Periods on BBC Woman’s Hour. In the 3 days following this feature sales of Honour Your Flow‘s reusable pads increased by 300%!

Sales of tampons and pads have dropped £5.6 million since 2016 and we’re seeing the big brands feel the pressure. Our founder Natalie Fee explains how TampaxAlways and Lil-lets are responding to the changing tide.

It’s Bog Standard

In November we launched our ‘Bog Standard’ campaign, in a bid to raise awareness of the almost 10% of plastic found on our beaches, which is coming directly from our toilets. We are literally flushing the health of the oceans down the pan.

Our new public engagement campaign will raise awareness of the dirty dozen and educate people on what should be going down our toilets – only the 3Ps – pee, paper and poo!

We’ve been trialling a sticker campaign – on toilet doors in public spaces, Universities, cafes and restaurants in the Anglian Water region to help change flushing behaviour so that people know what they should and shouldn’t be flushing where it matters. To coincide with World Toilet Day we ran a Toilet Tour across Brentwood, Chelmsford and Cambridge and bared (almost) all in public to raise some eyebrows and awareness of the issue. Watch this space for our campaign rolling out across the UK next year.

We couldn’t have done it without your support so we wanted to say a MASSIVE thank you, from the bottom of our hearts. Here’s to 2019!

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Lil-Lets take a look at the good, the bad and the bloody greenwashing.

Sales of tampons and pads have dropped £5.6 million since 2016, Tampax have released a menstrual cup and more and more people are switching on to the amount of plastic in conventional period products. We’re seeing the big brands feel the pressure and in this latest video, our founder Natalie Fee explains how Tampax, Always and Lil-lets are responding to the changing tide … and advises how not to get your period pants in a twist. 🌊

Help us make a difference

A massive 2.5 million tampons, 1.4 million pads and 700,000 panty liners are flushed in the UK each year (MCS 2015) – many of them making their way into our oceans and waterways. This is why it’s crucial we involve people from all walks of life in the conversation around reusable period products so we can begin to reduce these shocking numbers. This year, thanks to the support of people like you, we’ve successfully reached a whopping 1.3 million people through our Plastic Free Periods campaign. Awareness is rapidly increasing around the impact that plastic period products are having on our environment and reusable items are becoming more normal! So thank you to everyone who champions the cause and helps spread the word.

As we see more and more brands start to market ‘plastic-free’ messages, it’s important to champion the innovators and highlight the greenwashers. Companies like Natracare have been innovating for decades, promoting the use of organic and natural products, much more preferable than the bleached alternatives which also contain plastic. We’ve put together a guide with everything you need to know (and have always wanted to ask!) about switching to reusable menstrual products, including a list of brands and products reviews.

Find out more about our Plastic Free Periods campaign and how to get involved here.

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Help steer the ship as a Non-Executive Director with City to Sea

Like all good businesses, we never actually set out to become anything. Actually that may not be true, we imagine lots of good businesses started out with a robust business plan and a vision of the future. And yet what started as a frustration in our founder’s head (or heart) has somehow become a thriving not-for-profit organisation, growing award-winning campaigns and doing a pretty good job of getting people and businesses off single-use plastics and switched on to reusables.

One person on a mission became 18 (soon to be 20) people on a mission. In an office. With grown-up things to think about like HR, GDPR, PDRs and all manner of things that need explaining … and all while staying true to our mission to leave the oceans and waterways in a better state than we currently find them.

11/18th’s of the team one sunny day at the office.

It’s true to say that we’ve been building the ship while we’re sailing in it (and at times it’s felt more like a speedboat than a schooner) but we’re starting to feel a bit more streamlined and the wind’s still in our sails – thanks to the continued interest in plastic pollution solutions from our supporters, companies and the media.

So, as we head into 2019, with a new Sea-EO at the helm and a bunch of exciting new partnerships, we’re appointing a non-executive board to help steer and guide us on our way.

If you’re experienced, dynamic and entrepreneurial, and if you think you’d be able to offer some of your time, expertise or guidance and really want to help stop plastic pollution at source – then we’d love to hear from you.

We’re not able to pay our Non-Executive Directors (NEDs), but we will reward you with results – you’ll be able to see the impact of your commitment. We’re planning to meet once a quarter, either here at our iconic HQ on the Bristol Harbourside or in London.

Spot the Banksy …

Have a read of the job description here to see if you think we’re a match and for how to apply, or get in touch with our founder, Natalie Fee, for a chat. Oh and before the end of January would be ideal.

Thanks for reading!

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