When the Rainbow Warrior recently explored the waters around the Verde Island in the Philippines, one of the world’s most pristine marine environments, we found even its smallest inhabitants impacted by plastic.
For anyone who is familiar with Southeast Asia, plastic pollution seems to be everywhere, but the problem actually began somewhere else— it started in the boardrooms of the top multinational companies, when they decided to dump products packaged in single-use, non-recyclable plastic in places where there is no infrastructure to manage them. Simply put, these companies created a #PlasticMonster.
That’s why we’re going to ship this plastic monster back to where it was created. As part of the global #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement, we are demanding corporations take concrete, bold action to stop producing throwaway plastic.
Nestlé and Unilever were named as the top plastic polluters in the Philippines, based on a series of waste audits done there by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).
This past weekend, Greenpeace activists and volunteers paid a visit to Unilever. We danced our way to the headquarters in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and delivered a huge plastic monster.
Now we want Nestlé to get the message too: you created a plastic monster, and it’s about time you take responsibility for it.
Onboard the Greenpeace ship Beluga, we’re traveling down Europe’s Rhine River, through the Netherlands, Germany, and France, and carrying the plastic monster with us to send a message to Nestlé that they can’t ignore: it’s time to stop polluting our world with single-use plastic.
Nestlé has finally acknowledged that recycling alone won’t solve this crisis. But they are not moving with the urgency and scale needed to tackle plastic pollution and reduce throwaway packaging.
Nestlé uses 1.7 million tonnes of plastic annually. In the past five years, the company’s use of plastic in its packaging portfolio has increased by 5%. A whopping 98% of Nestlé’s products are sold in single-use packaging, and Nestlé is third in the list of top plastic polluters globally, according to global brand audits of plastic pollution.
We need Nestlé to walk the talk: start phasing out single-use plastics across its supply chain and, crucially, invest in new delivery systems of refill and reuse. Simply shifting the problem from one throwaway material to another is not a solution.
Nestlé, it’s time to take responsibility for the plastic monster you’ve created. It’s time to go beyond vague statements and small-scale trials and show real leadership.
Mountain walkers, climbers and outdoor enthusiasts could be vital aids in helping to reduce the amount of plastic pollution entering our oceans.
It comes as Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) calls on volunteers to head uphill in their fight against plastic, in a bid to reduce the amount landing in the oceans.
The environmental charity hopes that by encouraging people to take part in this year’s Big Spring Beach Clean, which has been tagged ‘Summit to Sea’, the amount of plastic pollution washing into the sea could be reduced at source.
That’s because this year’s event is taking on a unique twist – seeing thousands of volunteers not only clean the sands, but also mountains, rivers and city streets for the first time, too.
The supermarket is also the first global retailer to make a promise to commit to removing plastic from all own label food products by the end of 2023.
Richard Walker, Trustee of the Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation and Managing Director of Iceland Foods, said: “Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation and Surfers Against Sewage are passionate about tackling the scourge of plastic head on and we know that momentum is building in communities across the UK.
Iceland has a presence on high streets up and down the country, so it seems only fitting that we should engage at a community level, encouraging individuals and organisations to join us as we move towards fulfilling our own plastics commitment.”
The move has also seen welcome recognition from the outdoor community, with mountaineers urging their fellow adventurers to join the campaign, after the partnership was announced at the Kendal Mountain Festival with a short film made by Richard Walker and mountaineer and adventurer Kenton Cool.
Kenton said: “The outdoor community has truly acted as a great catalyst for change. If we don’t take action against plastics now, it will be too late, and I’m excited the see this new partnership further mobilise communities to make a difference in their local area.”
By taking the fight from mountain to coast, 2019’s clean, with support from the retail giant, is expected to be the biggest SAS Big Spring Beach Clean event yet.
Hugo Tagholm, SAS Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with the Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation to expand and celebrate the Plastic Free Communities movement across the UK.
Together, we’ll be empowering 100,000 community volunteers to tackle plastic pollution and litter in important local spaces including beaches, coastal paths, mountains, rivers, rural and urban areas.
We’ll also be celebrating the achievements of the finest plastic-free pioneers across the UK, with the first ever Plastic-Free Community Awards, which will recognise those most committed to the fight for a plastic-free future.”
Dr Catherine Flitcroft, Access and Conservation Office, The British Mountaineering Council, said: The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) is also supportive of the Summit to Sea initiative. We will be asking our members to get involved in this and other litter picks across the country as part of our own Hills 2 Oceans (H2O) campaign. As the body representing those that love and use the mountains, it is only right we play our part.
If you’re interested in joining a clean on the coast, up the mountains, on the rivers or along the city streets, find your local event on the SAS website – or set up your own by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mass Unwrap organisers were inundated with unwanted plastic as shoppers left UK supermarket tills, collecting up to nine pieces of avoidable packaging every minute
· Shoppers handed back up to four shopping trollies worth of packaging an hour, highlighting the scale of avoidable plastic waste
· In one case at Tesco in Braunton, North Devon 1,660 items were handed back. It was estimated that less than 10% of the plastic packaging could be recycled
· The majority of customers supported the action, saying they wanted to reduce plastic but were not being given plastic-free options and they were confused over recycling
· 33 supermarkets across the UK took part in the action, supermarkets flood Britain with 59 billion pieces of plastic each year*
· In the UK the burden of plastic waste is put onto consumers, tax payers, and ultimately the environment as businesses contribute just 10% of the end-of-life disposal costs of their product and packaging
Marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage is calling on supermarkets to urgently and radically reduce and redesign packaging and take full responsibility for its business practices, after a series of Mass Unwraps across the UK revealed the true extent of plastic waste being sold.
Mass Unwrap is a fun, high-impact action that highlights how much plastic waste is produced in UK supermarkets after every shop. It is a non-confrontational opportunity for customers to leave excess plastic at the till, instead of taking it home.
33 Mass Unwrap events were co-ordinated across the UK by volunteers taking part in the Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Free Communities campaign. These community leaders gathered teams to help customers hand back unnecessary plastic wrap as they left the store, raising awareness while causing minimum disruption to checkout staff. All had the support of their local store managers, some of whom provided paper bag alternatives and recycling to help deal with the waste created.
Rachel Yates, Plastic Free Communities Project Officer at SAS, said “So many customers want to reduce plastic but are given no options. Others didn’t realise that a lot of the plastic packaging in their trolley couldn’t be recycled. We now need to send a strong message back; the way we use packaging needs to change, and fast. Supermarkets must radically reduce waste, redesign packaging and take more responsibility”
Big brands are accountable for a disproportionately large amount of plastic pollution, placing vast quantities of avoidable and pointless single-use plastic on the market without a system in place to capture and reuse material.
Under current systems the vast burden of all this plastic is put onto consumers, tax payers and ultimately the environment, while businesses contribute just 10% of the end-of-life disposal costs of their product and packaging.
Surfers Against Sewage is calling for supermarkets to be part of the solution and calls for them to:
Cut out avoidable single-use plastic and redesign packaging
Use recycled content & stop using virgin plastic
Take responsibility and invest in proven systems technology such as an ‘all in’ deposit return schemes for drinks containers.
Mass Unwrap is part of Surfers Against Sewage’s award winning Plastic Free Communities campaign to free where we live from avoidable single-use plastic, which is now active in more than 450 communities across the UK.
Rachel Yates continued: “These communities are leading the way, as they start the journey to tackle single-use plastic where they live. We have a huge thank you to say to all of the volunteers and shoppers who took part in our first national Mass Unwrap. The voice of our network of Plastic Free Communities is growing and together we can kick our addiction to throwaway plastic and change the system that produces it.”
UNEA-4 Agreement Does Not Deliver at Scale and Urgency Needed
Nairobi, Kenya – At the 4th session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-4), member states of the UN Environment Programme failed to meet expectations to confront the ever-growing plastic-pollution crisis threatening our waterways, ecosystems, and health.
At UNEA-4, member states considered several resolutions designed to increase international action to halt plastic pollution. The first, proposed by Norway, Japan, and Sri Lanka, sought to strengthen international cooperation and coordination on marine plastic litter and microplastics, including through considering a possible new legally binding agreement. The second, proposed by India, sought to promote the phase-out single-use plastics worldwide.
Despite sweeping agreement by the majority of countries that urgent, ambitious, and global action is needed to address plastic across its lifecycle – from production to use to disposal – a small minority led by the United States (US) blocked ambitious text and delayed negotiations. Backed by a strong industry lobby with over $200 billion invested in petrochemical buildout to drastically expand plastic production, the US delegation was able to thwart progress and water down the resolutions, actions that were strongly opposed by many countries, including those most affected by plastic pollution, such as the Pacific Island States, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Senegal. Action-oriented member states did secure, however, the basic elements that will allow the building of future actions, based on the common vision that emerged among the vast majority of countries during the discussions. Most importantly, the mandate of the expert working group established at UNEA-3 was extended to continue its work, including by identifying technical and financial resources or mechanisms, and to report on its progress in considering response options at UNEA-5 in February 2021. The extension of this mandate keeps plastic on the international agenda and provides an opportunity to consider a future legally binding agreement.
Despite the overall disappointing outcome in not making progress at the speed and scale needed, countries remain committed to pursuing international cooperation and coordination to address the plastic-pollution crisis.
David Azoulay, Environmental Health Director, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL): “At UNEA-4, the vast majority of countries came together to develop a vision for the future of global plastic governance. Seeing the US, guided by the interests of the fracking and petrochemical industry, leading efforts to sabotage that vision is disheartening. But the growing appetite for better global plastic governance is evident, and this UNEA ensured the continuation of a process on which countries can build the future global framework to stop plastic pollution”
Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator, Break Free From Plastic: “Corporations should hear the call coming out of UNEA-4: Requirements for reduction are coming. They should support community zero-waste systems around the world by reducing the production of unmanageable waste and reinventing delivery structures for products to eliminate plastic packaging. We have a lot of collaborative work to do in the coming years to create policies and markets that are healthy, responsive to local needs, and based on systems of refill and reuse.”
Christopher Chin, Executive Director of The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE): “Waste management is an important part of the conversation, but it cannot effectively address the deluge of plastic pollution we all face. We cannot recycle our way out of this problem. While we are certainly disappointed that progress was stifled by industry-embracing obstacles imposed by a distinct few member states, we are encouraged by the otherwise near-universal support for forward action towards upstream solutions and discussions towards solutions considering the full lifecycle of plastics, including a potential new legally binding framework.”
Fabienne McLellan, Director International Relations, OceanCare: “One cannot help but note that we are heading for yet another failure by some governments to take real action due to nationalistic agendas. The problem is easy to understand, there is enough data, but the blockade of a few, powerful countries isn’t. We are leaving UNEA-4 without a strong decision and are sending a weak signal to the private sector. This is troubling as there should be clear guidance from international bodies towards a sustainable circular economy, a full lifecycle approach, and a call for a global governance architecture.”
Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and Zero Waste Europe: “The need to confront marine plastic pollution and single-use plastics are undeniably at the top of the global policy agenda, and Zero Waste initiatives at the local level have received recognition. The details of the final resolutions may be weak, but governments have real policy examples to follow, including the recently-adopted EU Directive on single-use plastics and bans on wasteful plastic products at the local and national level. These policies address the production and consumption drivers of plastic pollution. We salute the efforts of the countries and regions who stood strong in this debate in seeking equally ambitious action at the global level.”
Tim Grabiel, Senior Lawyer, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA): “Future generations will confront many indescribable problems due to a lack of political will to tackle head on the environmental issues of our time. We do not need to add plastic pollution to that list. Although we regret the lack of urgency displayed by a few bad-faith actors, we are encouraged that the expert group will be reconvened and expect progressive countries to use it as a launch pad for meaningful action at the next UNEA in February 2021.”
Tadesse Amera, CoChair, International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), Ethiopia:
“As the oil, gas, and petrochemical industries are gearing up to escalate plastic and chemical production, governments at UNEA-4 could not curb the power of these private interests. This is concerning as the volume of plastic pollution will grow too. Plastics are toxic. Toxic chemicals -linked to cancer and early puberty in children- are used to make plastics, yet this issue was neglected in the final UNEA-4 outcome. These toxic chemicals additives in plastic are released later, creating toxic liabilities for chemical and plastic producers. In Africa, imported plastic products and plastic waste should be returned back to the producers to protect us from the toxic chemicals in the plastic materials. The industries producing these harmful chemicals should have an extended producer responsibility, and they should pay the costs related to their toxic plastic waste mess. In the big picture, toxics in means toxics out. We can’t recycle toxic plastics and pretend that the marine litter chaos is a waste issues; it’s a toxic product issue.”
Jane Patton, Director, No Waste Louisiana: “Plastic is pollution the minute it is made. We must reduce the production and use of plastic across the board to protect communities and health. No people or places should be sacrificed to corporate profit or a culture of consumption, and we can avoid that by taking into account the full lifecycle impacts of plastics. We are optimistic about the ambitious steps our governments will take to prevent plastic pollution, including production reduction, phase out, and investment in zero-waste systems.”
David Sutasurya, Indonesian Zero Waste Alliance: “The plastic industry is polluting developing countries, where they have fewer options of non-plastic alternatives and are directly exposed to plastic pollution every day. Multinational corporations have systematically pushed out local industry that uses much less plastic, in addition to facilitating the import of waste into developing countries from the high-consumption Global North. It is unfair that developing countries are using taxpayers’ money to manage these wastes that can neither be recycled or composted. Framing marine litter as only a waste management problem is nonsense when it’s actually a reflection of the industry’s refusal to take responsibility on the plastic pollution crisis. Multinational companies, together with national plastic industries, are now actively blocking any government effort to hold them accountable and responsible for the waste of their product, including significant reduction of its uses. Developed countries and industries have to be responsible for the waste problem that they create in developing countries and should support legally binding measures on reduction of global plastic production and consumption.”
Plastics have in been on the international policy agenda since UNEA-1, At UNEA-4, member states considered and approved four resolutions that either directly considered or referred to the global plastic crisis, especially in the form of marine litter. The preparation documents for UNEA-3 in December 2017 made clear that there are major gaps in the existing legal frameworks surrounding marine plastic litter, which have facilitated the growing crisis. Many countries and the UNEP Secretariat analyzed the failure of voluntary measures to meaningfully stop plastic pollution or marine litter in the long-term. Coming out of UNEA-3, states took a significant step to address those gaps by creating an Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group to more clearly consider the state of knowledge, gaps, and mechanisms for addressing the marine plastic litter issue. Between UNEA-3 and UNEA-4, the Expert Group created a summary of options for monitoring and for international governance to prevent and solve marine plastic litter. The Expert Group did not make recommendations for action to UNEA-4, however, as that was no included in its mandate.
At UNEA-4, the four resolutions adopted by consensus on Friday, March 15 were as follows. Largely across the board, the resolutions are missing any calls for production reduction of plastics or other chemical materials, and they largely focus on the waste management end of the problem. This ignores the significant role the plastics producers and the consumer goods corporations will be required to play in preventing plastic pollution and marine litter.
Marine Plastic Litter and Microplastics (a consolidated draft co-authored by Norway, Japan, and Sri Lanka): this was the main resolution proposing the creation of a Working Group to discuss options for action, including the creation of an international legally binding treaty with goals for both production reduction, policy change, and behavior change. Details on the scope of work, terms of reference, and meeting dates for this continued Expert Group are still lacking and will be determined by the UNEP Secretariat.
Phasing Out Single-Use Plastics Products (submitted by India): In a last-minute resolution submission, India took a bold step by proposing their planned national complete phase-out of single-use plastics by 2025 to become part of the international agenda. Chair put forward a significantly weakened compromise text that merely encouraged national action to address marine plastic litter, rather than the use and production of the plastic products themselves.
Environmentally Sound Management of Waste (submitted by League of Arab States): While again weakened from its original language, the adopted resolution calls on Member States to implement integrated waste management schemes, including zero waste, movement toward a circular economy, and minimization of packaging. As the resolution calls for significant investment and sharing of technology around waste management, there is concern that countries will adopt toxic and inefficient incineration (or waste-to-energy) schemes rather than taking preventative steps toward waste reduction.
Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste (submitted by the EU): This resolution mostly focused on strengthening international coordination on management of toxic chemicals (including Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) and other agreements). The resolution reiterated the need for a minimization of plastic packaging as a preventative measure and called for action on eliminating planned obsolescence of technology products, which often contain a significant amount of plastic.
TENS OF THOUSANDS OF SCHOOL CHILDREN TAKE THE ‘PLASTIC FREE FIGHT’ TO BIG BUSINESS.
Since the 2017 launch of the programme over 750 schools have signed-up to work towards Plastic Free Schools status. With tens of thousands of students of all ages focusing their talent and passion on freeing their schools from the grip of ‘pointless-plastics’, our inboxes are overflowing with amazing ‘single-use success stories’.
Here is an awesome example of the change that just two of these schools have been able to bring about. A story of two tiny primary schools in small villages in North Devon and The Gower, who took the plastic free fight to top company bosses and WON!
FROM CANTEEN TO CLASSROOM.
Many of our Plastic Free Schools quickly establish that milk containers are one of the major sources of avoidable single-use plastic waste on site and have been approaching their suppliers for alternative sources.
Georgeham Primary School Students and Catering Manager Kerrie celebrate campaign victory!
Headmaster of the Devon-based Georgeham Primary School Julian Thomas said: “The obvious single-use plastics are the straws attached to the cartons of milk that the government provide for our reception pupils.
“Every day the children in our ‘class one’ are given fresh milk in a 200ml non-recyclable carton, with a plastic straw attached to it, in a plastic wrapper. The cartons themselves are also held together by plastic packaging.”
When working out the figures, Julian says they found that about 100 plastic cartons, 100 plastic straws and 100 plastic straw wrappers, as well as clear plastic packaging, were being created and thrown away by their school alone every single week.
However, they then asked their supplier to have milk delivered in four-pint containers which could be decanted into reusable cups to counter this growing problem.
Catering manager Keri Lambert said: “They said yes, and it took effect from the very next delivery. Even though the four-pint container is still plastic, it’s totally recyclable, as opposed to the individual carton which was not.
“The students are amazing and have been the inspiration behind what we’ve done.
“The items that come into our kitchen now that are non-recyclable would fit in a cereal bowl, and it hasn’t cost us a penny – in fact it’s saved money. There’s no reason why other schools shouldn’t be able to follow suit.”
However, there are still some suppliers who are resisting change – whether that comes down to cost or top-down orders from the local authority.
Knelston Primary School, in Wales, say they didn’t have a positive response from their milk supplier, despite several letters written by the school children.
Sally Thomas, who has been leading the SAS Plastic Free Status challenge at the school, said:
“The children are all very passionate about wanting to tackle the plastic pollution both locally on the Gower Peninsula and further afield.
“They did not receive a response to their first letter, so approximately eight weeks later we sent another copy and didn’t receive a response again. Our school clerk and headmaster then emailed to ask if they had received our letter and it was only then that our head had a brief email in response to our attempts to contact them.
“The email from the dairy advised our headmaster to take the issue up with the local authority as they were responsible for the milk contract.”
The school has since been looking at other ways they can approach the issue, and are even considering running the milk scheme independently (though they are still looking into the cost implications).
Sally said:“The children at Knelston are so resilient and also so determined to help make a difference and to raise awareness of plastic pollution.
“They were obviously very disappointed to not have received a response to either of their letters, but they will continue to look into other plastic free alternatives to help resolve the problem.
“Until then, we will continue to recycle all the plastic milk bottles.”
Georgeham school students celebrate achieving Plastic Free Schools status in the sun!
In 2017, we knew that Plastic Free Schools was going to be a game-changer. By empowering young people to generate change in their schools and communities in their own way we have given #POWERTOTHEPUPILS which is where it belongs!
If you had told me a few years ago that I would be involved in an environmental movement, I would have thought you were joking. I was far more interested in social inequality and minority rights. But I came to realise that the environment crisis is the biggest threat to us all, and it is people from my background – more disadvantaged, ethnic minority – who are going to bear the brunt of what is coming.
The environment is often seen as a white, middle-class issue, while people from my demographic have other things to worry about, such as putting food on the table and paying the bills. But I went along to the first Extinction Rebellion meetings and found that they were organised and people were prepared to do what it takes to make a change: sleeping on office floors, working until 4am, or running around London in the rain, blocking roads – all of which I have done.
Being part of that is incredibly inspiring – after a successful action, you can really feel the electricity in the room. But it is also emotionally draining. I was involved in the swarming protests blocking roads, and I saw that we were making life harder for people who were just trying to get to work. But when I raised that point, my voice was heard, and so we are working hard to take actions that only directly impact the elite, who are complicit in creating environmental harm .
We have a huge movement building towards Rebellion Day on 15 April and it is incredibly exciting to see it come together. I want to let people know that this is their fight too. Climate justice is tied up with fights for equality and our wider rights – if we don’t take this on, then everything else will be lost. We cannot afford to stand by and do nothing. MT
Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, London Air pollution advocate
Founded the Ella Roberta Family Foundation, in memory of her nine-year-old daughter who died in 2013. She is campaigning for a new inquest into her daughter’s death, which she believes is linked to air pollution.
My daughter suffered terribly – she would stop breathing, have seizures and I would take her to A&E – but no one could explain why it was happening. When she died, I wanted answers. I wanted to know how she became so ill, so quickly; how she died so quickly.
She died of an asthma attack, but all the doctors could come up with as a trigger was “something in the air”. She was allergic to pollen, but the consultant said there was no way that her seizure was an allergy to pollen. The first inquest did not come up with any answers.
I did not think of air pollution. This was new to me. If you’re a scientist and this is your specialist area, it might not be surprising, but I didn’t know about particulates and nitrogen dioxide.
Awareness is key, and so is education – I would say that, as I am a teacher. We should be told more about monitoring air pollution. We have a right to know. So many children are at risk – we believe that the deaths of 16 children in the past 18 months are linked to air pollution. Children continue to get ill, to die. Voices are not being heard. If parents could speak about their experiences – telling a politician not just, “I am worried about my children”, but that “My child had to be resuscitated in A&E last night” – it might make a difference.
Two weeks ago, my friend went to buy a new car, and they tried to sell her a diesel car – they told her it was “green”. Who is allowing people to say this in 2019?
I continue to be devastated [by Ella’s death], it is still unbearable. What I am learning is how I can use what I have been through to help other young children. I don’t feel like giving up. I feel very strongly that people should shout about this. FH
Julie Daniels, Blackpool Anti-fracking campaigner
The Lancashire Nanas are a group of women who have been opposing fracking at Preston New Road since 2011.
I hadn’t even heard of fracking until 2011. That’s when the energy firm Cuadrilla started fracking, just outside Blackpool, and caused a series of small earthquakes. I had been busy bringing up my three daughters – and latterly, my four grandchildren – and hadn’t really been paying much attention to where my electricity or gas came from. Then I saw an advert in the Blackpool Gazette inviting people to a meeting to learn more about fracking.
I went along with my sister and the more we heard, the more concerned we became. Everything we read convinced us that fracking was not a safe or well managed industry. Around that time I was made redundant from my IT job and so my husband and I agreed I would focus on campaigning full-time, and we would just tighten our belts.
The idea of the Nanas came because we realised that the media liked to portray people raising these concerns as tree-huggers. We were just normal, everyday women concerned about something on our doorstep. There were 25 to 30 of us at the start, aged between 30 and 70. Now, there are Nanas in their 80s. Not everyone is actually a nana. We just liked the idea of portraying ourselves as matriarchs: you don’t mess with your grandma, do you?
It was absolutely devastating in October 2016 when the government gave Cuadrilla the go-ahead to frack at Preston New Road. But we didn’t give up. We were at the gates every day, doing what we could to prevent or slow down vehicles entering the site. The funniest day was when a group of women sat in the road, knitting. It all looked so innocent. The police didn’t notice until it was too late that the women were knitting themselves together. It was a total farce, watching 50 Lancashire police officers try to cut them apart, tripping over wool and pulling them left and right.
Fracking didn’t go as Cuadrilla hoped. The drilling produced seismic tremors that breached legal limits. They planned to do more than 40 fracks but only managed two. I would say I am cautiously optimistic they won’t be back. Shares in Cuadrilla’s parent company are down and finally more Tory MPs are coming out against it. And if we can end it here, we might be able to end it everywhere. HP
Holly Gillibrand, Fort William School striker
The #FridaysForFuture global school strike takes place tomorrow, inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg
It took about a month to persuade my parents that striking was a good idea. I’m 13 and I had seen a video of Greta Thunberg on Twitter, and I thought that was something I could do too. I asked some of my friends, but only one joined me; now we’re averaging about four students and 15 adults .
At the first strike, it was quite scary because I didn’t know what people’s reactions would be. It really helped having my friend there. We tried to ignore the people in cars, sitting and pointing at us, but there were a lot of people beeping in support.
My mum phoned my headteacher about a week before I started. He can’t support it and he says my school has a lot of climate and environmental education, but I don’t think it does. I get laughed at quite a bit. I’ve met quite a few climate-deniers in school. It makes me really annoyed because people don’t understand, or they don’t care when you try to explain it to them.
I’m surprised at how the movement has taken off. Education is valued and if children are sacrificing that, it must be important. The government’s response has been pitiful. At the climate change debate, 610 MPs skipped it – that’s a shocking representation of how little our political leaders care about the very existence of life on this planet.
I think there will be hundreds of thousands [of children striking on the 15th]. I wish people knew that we can’t change this unless everyone is working together. ES
Lukas Buricin, Derbyshire Vegan campaigner
Manchester Animal Action is an organisation aiming to change society’s attitude towards animals
I grew up on a little family farm in the Czech Republic and when I was a kid I was taught to kill animals. It was absolutely normal. I also worked in a chicken slaughterhouse in England when I was 25 to earn some money. That was like hell on earth.
I started reading about climate change. One day I learned that there is massive environmental damage and climate change caused by animal agriculture – 80% of deforestation is caused by agriculture. All my illusions about being an environmentalist disappeared. I thought: “I just can’t be this person any more.” I became a vegan six years ago.
Every Sunday, we have a stall on Market Street in Manchester – we put out lovely vegan food and leaflets. The ethical aspect doesn’t seem to worry people. So I try to switch the discussion to the environment – people are often shocked and start googling.
I also emailed all the  employees at my work explaining my views. I got plenty of positive feedback; I did also get people ridiculing it, but I was not offended. The fact is that laughing is better than ignorance.
My children have never eaten meat. We used to get their blood tested every six months for iron, vitamins D and B12 etc, but the doctor said we should stop coming back as the results were always perfect.
My advice to people who want to talk about veganism would be: stay calm, don’t be judgmental, and never give up trying to help people see there are good reasons for being vegan. In the future, our children will thank us. DC
Hugo Tagholm, Cornwall Marine conservationist
Chief executive of the charity Surfers Against Sewage, who turned their focus to plastic pollution 10 years ago
My love of the shoreline and ocean really spans back to the great tidal banks of the Thames, where my father used to take me mudlarking, and exploring UK beaches on family holidays. It is there that the fascination with flotsam and jetsam started. I’ve been surfing in one form or another since I was about 10. Surfing is a perfect nexus between my passion for the environment and my love of sport.
In 1991, I entered the Surf to Save competition in Polzeath, which supported NGOs, including the newly formed Surfers Against Sewage. I met some of the founder members – gas mask-wearing, surfboard-waving activists taking to the streets of London. The early days were a true wave of people power that coincided with brilliant new European legislation to clean up our ocean from sewage pollution. The past 30 years have seen water quality at beaches improve dramatically.
But the public have been shielded from the growing extent of plastic pollution We have worked for a decade auditing plastic on our beaches, running beach cleans, calling for legislation and industry action. Blue Planet II had only 14 minutes on plastic, out of seven hours of broadcasting, but it changed how the world sees plastic. It helped to propel our work to a bigger stage.
Now, a dynamic movement of people, which we describe as #GenerationSea, has come together to help us call for new government policy and legislation, and changes within industry. FH
Sally Goldsmith, Sheffield Tree activist
Sheffield Tree Action Groups formed to stop Sheffield council felling as many as 17,500 trees in the city. In the past five years, 5,500 have been chopped down by contractors for the Labour council.
People say we chain ourselves to the trees, but we stand under them. Around Christmas 2017, we were on watch for trees we knew were going to be felled. It meant getting up very early – you never know when they are going to come – and being on the lookout all day long, in the winter cold, to get out there before the contractors reached the tree. It was just punishing hours and it was shit.
The advantage was you could see them arriving to put barriers around the trees. They employ security men, who were previously bouncers, and the police can get involved. In a lot of cases, 60 men will arrive to fell one tree.
This time it was just the barrier men and a team of security. The security man was trying to tell me it was illegal for me to be there – it wasn’t. I didn’t move and they put the barriers up around me. I was feeling a bit shaken because it is a scary situation, and I am 66 and a pensioner. But friends were gathering round to support me, and it was cold, so I thought: “Let’s sing some carols.”
I started singing The 12 days of Christmas, replacing the words with: “A goldfinch in a plane tree and 12 barrier men.” In the end, when they left without felling the tree, one of the men said to me: “Thank you, we have really enjoyed that.” SL
Indigo Rumbelow, London Climate campaigner
Grow Heathrow is an eco-squat on 30 acres of land, adjacent to the site of the proposed third runway.
I grew up on a small farm in the Gower, Wales, which is a really beautiful place and so I have always been connected to nature. But my first direct action was marching against student cuts. It was the first time I got really angry and realised that the people in charge are not always right, they don’t always know the answers and I needed to get my voice heard out there.
Two years ago, I went to my first mass action, protesting about the coal mining in a massive area of the Rhineland, Germany. Our group stopped a train from delivering to a power plant. We linked our arms and sat down on the train track. You have an adrenalin rush like you have never felt before.
It was there that I heard about the Grow Heathrow camp. Living here gives me the freedom to get involved in lots of environmental campaigns, anti-fracking and protests against open cast coal mining in the Pont Valley. We are all one movement, united in fighting for environmental justice.
The way society is living now is not sustainable. We have to act now or regret it later. SL
Gillian Lobo, London Environmental lawyer
Works with ClientEarth charity that uses the law to protect the planet and the people who live on it
I don’t feel I am a hero. I’m a lawyer. I use the law to protect the environment and people’s health. We are a legal NGO that works on climate litigation and strategic cases that can help to develop the law, to compel governments to put proper environmental measures in place.
I didn’t start out this way. I used to be a defence lawyer, representing companies that were sued. Now, I have changed sides. We are working at the cutting edge of the law. Things are moving rapidly. Before I joined ClientEarth four years ago, people I knew thought climate litigation was far-fetched. But now cases are being brought in the US, the Philippines and Europe.
In the UK, our biggest victory was over air pollution, which is closely linked to emissions cuts. The first case went all the way to the supreme court and the European court of justice.
Climate change is so amorphous that it affects everything – how much food we can grow, whether our homes are flooded, what damage payouts insurance companies have to make. All these areas involve legal risks. In the future, I think you will see more individuals seeking to hold governments to account to reduce emissions. You could see more claims against companies for not doing enough. And there will be more challenges related to human rights, by the people impacted by climate change. Lawyers will be busy.
The past four years has made me very concerned about the need to drive down CO2 emissions and how interesting and helpful the law can be. Used incisively and carefully, it can deliver change and major shifts in thinking. I’ve learned that there are opportunities to be creative. You don’t expect that with the law, do you? JW
Mya-Rose Craig, Somerset Wildlife and environmental diversity campaigner
I’m 16 and my parents have taken me birdwatching since I was a baby. It has always been part of my life. When I was seven, my parents heard that the first ever eastern crowned warbler had been seen in Britain. Luckily, I had a day off school, and we drove five hours to see it. It was around the edge of a huge quarry like an amphitheatre and I was amazed to see so many people cared about this little brown bird.
I’ve been very lucky to travel around the world. During half-term in Spain recently, I saw my 5,000th bird species in the world. It was a rock bunting, which is a brilliant bird.
My parents have always been very open about what is going on in the world. I was 12 or 13 and had built up a relatively large online following when I started campaigning. The first proper campaign I launched was to save the spoonbill sandpiper in Bangladesh, where my mum is from. I also campaigned over the 2014 oil spill in the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans.
In 2015, I read an American Birdwatching Association article about how the environmental sector is incredibly white. It made me stop and think. I knew I was the only one like me as a kid. I just felt sad because others should have that opportunity. Since then I’ve campaigned to bring diversity into wildlife conservation. In three-and-a-half years, I’ve seen so much change.
People forget that we are animals, too. The NHS has started prescribing going out into nature because it is good for our mental health. If we care for nature, it’s not entirely altruistic. We get benefits, too. PB
Surfers Against Sewage and Parley for the Oceans are launching a pilot project aiming to tackle marine plastic pollution on British islands by implementing innovative, community-based solutions. The initiative is part of our ‘Cold Water Islands Project’, a collaboration with Parley for the Oceans to develop a strategy that volunteer-led island communities will work to implement throughout 2019.
The plastic pollution crisis can have a disproportionate negative impact on island ecosystems, wildlife and communities from the tropics to the tundra. This new project, targeting small cold water islands around the UK, is based on the learnings from Surfers Against Sewage’s award winning Plastic Free Communities campaign’. The programme will explore plastic pollution pathways and promote community-based solutions under the Parley AIR Strategy (Avoid, Intercept, Redesign) to demonstrate how these microcosms can provide a template for global action towards a plastic-free future.
The programme connects island communities across a broad geographic spread, from the Northern Isles to the Channel Islands, each of which faces unique challenges in respect to addressing plastic pollution pathways. The list of selected islands includes:
Orkney, Northern Isles, Scotland
Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland
Skye, Inner Hebrides, Scotland
Tiree, Inner Hebrides, Scotland
Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland
Bardsey Island (Ynys Enlli), Wales
Hayling Island, England
Alderney, Channel Islands
Herm, Channel Islands
Isle of Harris, Carolyn Cluness
The selection was based on detailed applications by prospective ‘island community leaders’ – individuals who are instigators of change and ocean activists; passionate individuals who can stimulate positive change and grow a movement within their community.
Michael Cecil, the selected community leader coordinating the project on Rathlin Island said:
“Rathlin islanders are very proud of our island home and proud to be its front-line guardians. This is a great opportunity to strengthen our resolve to work for cleaner, plastic-free shorelines and oceans. If a small island can achieve a positive impact, with limited resources, then anyone can do it.”
The project aims to demonstrate how these small island microcosms can provide a template for action for transitioning to a plastic-free future on a global-scale.
Protecting marine wildlife from the effects of plastic pollution was a key theme for many of the community leaders, including Carol Campbell from Orkney
“Orkney is an inspiring collection of islands, providing clean air and diverse natural habitats. The islands are home to 15% of the world’s seal population, providing important breeding grounds for several animals. For the protection of all Orkney’s species, it is vitally important we remove pollutants to ensure a safe and sustainable home.”
Ben Hewitt, Director of Campaigns and Projects at Surfers Against Sewage says:
“Our island communities are on the front line battling the scourge of plastic pollution and we want to support the groups and individuals working tirelessly to tackle avoidable single-use plastic.”
Bardsey Island – Photo credit Myles Jenks
Cyrill Gutsch, Founder of Parley for the Oceans says:
“Islanders know that plastic has to go. It doesn’t belong on beaches and it has no place in a circular economy. Together with SAS, we’ll continue to grow our Parley AIR Strategy and SAS’s Plastic Free Communities to 10 new islands by empowering and connecting communities and their leaders, whose local actions can shape both a nationwide and global model for change”
The strategy involves a community-based approach, with local businesses, stakeholders and individuals all encouraged to participate in the project’s positive action through steering groups, events and beach cleans.
Lara Hayward, Hayling Island community leader said:
“Growing up on Hayling Island has given me a life-long love and respect for nature and the ocean. It’s really important to me that we try and preserve that environment for future generations. Being part of the Cold Water Islands project will allow me to give something back to my hometown and help grow the engagement within the community so that it’s sustainable – I can’t wait to see what happens over the coming year!”
The programme incorporates the learnings of both SAS’s community initiatives and Parley’s AIR strategy (Avoid. Intercept. Redesign.) to empower and mobilise community action against plastic. Each community leader will be supported with a toolkit resource that will be crafted to guide the island’s strategy and detail the tactics for achieving change.