Government urged not to flood schools with plastic period products months after challenging schools to go plastic free

City to Sea have today written to the Education Secretary Damian Hinds MP, urging him to make sure that all period products purchased by this government will either be plastic-free disposables or reusable products.

The call comes after government confirmed that they would be providing free period products to both Primary and Secondary Schools in England and months after the Government challenged Schools to give up all single-use plastics by 2022.

Most period products contain plastic. Period pads for example (including Lil-lets, Always, Tampax and most supermarkets own-brands) often contain up to 90% plastic – the equivalent of four plastic bags per pad, as well as using single-use plastic for packaging the products.

Commenting, founder of City to Sea, Natalie Fee, said:

“Following the announcement to provide period products in schools we want to ensure this momentous and welcome action isn’t a travesty for the environment by ensuring all schools are provided plastic free products. As such we are seeking confirmation from government that they aren’t planning on flooding schools with single-use plastic period products just months after challenging schools to go plastic-free. There are plenty of alternatives out there that are plastic-free, including many reusable options that can save school girls and the government money whilst having a smaller impact on our planet.

She continued, “Most people don’t realise that every single day in the UK about 2.5 million tampons, 1.4 million pads and 700,000 pantyliners are flushed down the loo and that nearly all of these will contain plastic. The result is blockages in our sewers and used period products washing up on our riverbanks and beaches. I am hoping that Government will agree with us that this is a huge problem and set a real example by making sure all the period products they procure are truly plastic-free.”

Campaigns Coordinator at City to City, Jasmine Tribe added,

“In one move Government has the chance to empower young people, protect our oceans and tackle period poverty. People can save up to 94% over their menstruating lives by switching to reusable period products. I hope to see government rolling out a modern period education program alongside this great initiative as this is absolutely vital to get the most out of the scheme.”

For further information on City to Sea’s Plastic Free Period Campaign please visit https://www.citytosea.org.uk/plasticfreeperiods/

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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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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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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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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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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.

NAT BECOMES BRISTOL’s WOMAN OF THE YEAR

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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The Toilet Tour…… It’s Bog Standard!

This World Toilet Day we bared (almost) all and hit the streets of Essex to spread the word about our Bog Standard campaign!

Research has shown that more than 8.5% of plastics found on UK beaches comes from our toilets following sewer blockages. The flushed items causing mayhem in the sewer system primarily consist of ‘the Dirty Dozen’ – baby wipes, household cleaning wipes, facial wipes, bum wipes (all types of wipes!), tampons (yep they usually contain plastic), tampon applicators, cleansing pads, cigarettes, plasters, nappies, menstrual pads and cotton wool.

You may have seen in the news a couple of weeks ago that although many businesses label their wet wipes as ‘flushable’ – none of them actually adhere to the water companies flushable standards! Wet wipes alone make up 93% of matter causing sewer blockages and overflow… It’s time to change our secret flushing behaviour!

This is why on Sunday 18th and Monday 19th November we went on a 3 day #ToiletTour around Brentwood, Chelmsford and Cambridge to raise awareness about how we can all be part of the solution. To help keep our seas plastic-free, only flush paper, poo and pee!

It’s Bog Standard.

During the tour, our amazing volunteers and partners helped us put up Bog Standard stickers in the toilet cubicles of Brentwood Kitchen, Starbucks, Pret a Manger, The Works, Nandos, Zizzi’s, Giraffe, Slug & Lettuce, Turtle Bay, Wilkin & Co, Tiptree Tea Rooms, Chicken & Frog, Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin Universities & both Cambridge and Brentwood Councils. We even got Cllr. Rosy Moore (Exec Cllr for Environmental Services in Cambridge) to sit on the bog with us!

Our founder, Natalie Fee said: “We’re facing an environmental crisis when it comes to plastic pollution, yet many people aren’t aware of just how many bathroom products contain plastic. We’re proud to be working with Anglian Water to raise awareness of a simple way that we can stop needless plastic pollution at source.”

A huge thank you to everyone that has supported this project so far – watch this space for a national campaign next year!

If you want to know how else you can help reduce plastic pollution from your bathroom check out our Bog Standard  and Plastic-Free Period campaigns.

The City to Sea team 💙

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They axed the plastic tax

In case you didn’t catch the news, on the 30th Nov Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that the UK will introduce a new plastic tax on the *manufacture and import* of plastic packaging that contains *less than 30% recycled* plastic during his Autumn Budget speech. It won’t be implemented for another four years and that’s subject to (another) consultation.

So not a visible tax on single-use items, like coffee cups, at point of sale, like you and almost a quarter of a million people asked for through this petition. And 31% of you went on to respond to HM Treasury’s consultation seeking views on tackling the single-use plastic issue – which had the highest government consultation response rate EVER in government history.

Despite your efforts, and our attempt to persuade the government to take meaningful action on plastic pollution now, they have chosen to ignore us. For now at least. Our sense is that this set-back in England creates political space for devolved governments in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland to take the lead. Again.

(When England said no to the 5p bag charge, the Welsh government went and did it anyway, followed by Northern Ireland, then Scotland. Finally Westminster got with the programme … and plastic bag use has since gone down by 86%.)

If you want to hear more, have a quick watch of my video response on Facebook or Twitter here.

 

Thanks for your support – the fight doesn’t stop here!

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