Plastic Free Communities Call for #LessPlasticPlease


Mass Unwrap 2020 calls on communities across the UK to highlight the scale of pointless plastic packaging in supermarkets. This high impact, fun and non-confrontational action is a way for shoppers to send a clear message to supermarket bosses, while leaving staff undisrupted.

Our Plastic Free Communities hold Mass Unwraps as part of their five-step plan to start freeing where they live from single-use … so we thought we’d share some of their top moments to inspire this year’s National Week of Action. Details on how to organize your own Mass Unwrap are at the end of this article.  First up …

Plastic Free Nantwich, Cheshire

The team at Plastic Free Nantwich can’t get enough of Mass Unwraps and are among a band of communities including Totnes, Wandsworth and Lincoln who hold regular events. These are great ways for our Plastic Free Communities to raise awareness and get everyone involved in their local campaigns. Now it’s time for some coordinated national action – where we will also collect shoppers’ top pointless plastic pet hates to call for #LessPlasticPlease! Everyone who signs up to Mass Unwrap 2020 will get a Citizen Science Kit to help them record what they collect and customers’ demands over pointless packaging.

Plastic Free Uffculme, Devon

Plastic Free Uffculme did a great job of making sure everyone shopping at their local Co-Op knew exactly why they were there, on the day of their Mass Unwrap. They teamed up with the Amateur Dramatic Society ensemble, which performed a song called ‘DO IT NOW!’ Weeks later the community was awarded Plastic Free Communities Approved status for their great work on raising awareness and kick starting work in the community to reduce single-use plastic.

Plastic Free Newquay, Cornwall

Another community making sure they get seen is Plastic Free Newquay. The team dressed up for their Mass Unwrap at Morrisons in the town, declaring ‘Single-Use is Bananas’. Plastic Free Newquay were instrumental in drawing up the SAS Mass Unwrap Toolkit, having piloted the Mass Unwrap in Cornwall on Earth Day 2018. Seven locations took part, paving the way for a new movement. You can read more here

Credit: Clare Ball/Plastic Free Newquay


Plastic Free Kenilworth, Warwickshire

Getting local decision makers and authorities on board is a key part of becoming a Plastic Free Community. Plastic Free Kenilworth took the opportunity to get their Mayor, Alison Firth, involved and she co-leads their campaign. She was centre stage of the town’s most recent Mass Unwrap, meeting and chatting to shoppers. During Mass Unwrap 2020 we want to send a strong message to decision-makers over pointless packaging …. that’s why we’ll be collecting shoppers’ top plastic pet hates to send straight to industry bosses.

Plastic Free Mold, Wales

The team in Mold again love a Mass Unwrap and have organised several in their community, as well as linked with other communities to encourage a Mass Unwrap movement in the local area.  One event saw them collect a two-metre-high cage of packaging with a great response from shoppers, local town and county councillors and schools, who also joined in. Linking up with local churches and community groups can also boost your impact – check out the Mass Unwrap Toolkit here for more tips

Feeling inspired? We want to create our biggest ever National Mass Unwrap in 2020 and it’s easy to get involved as a lead volunteer or shopper. Get all the details here.

Also check out our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts and share your top pointless plastic pet hates with the hashtag #LessPlasticPlease

To find out more about Plastic Communities click here

Get your own Plastic Free Individual Action Plan here

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China Intensifies Campaign Against Plastic Pollution

Though experts describe the new policy as a “milestone,” they also believe encouraging the use of biodegradable plastics is equally damaging to the environment.

China plans to ban the production of certain single-use plastic items by the end of this year to curb the amount of waste clogging the country’s landfills and waterways.

According to the guideline co-published Sunday by China’s National Development and Reform Commission and Ministry of Ecology and Environment, the country aims to gradually limit the production, use, and sale of single-use plastic items — from plastic bags to delivery packages — while also promoting alternative means to improve the recycling rate of plastic and reduce the amount of plastic sent to landfills.

Mao Da, founder of the nonprofit group Zero Waste Beijing, sees the long-awaited guideline as a “milestone policy” to replace the previous 2008 plastic ban and set new five-year goals combatting plastic pollution. However, he added that encouraging individuals to use biodegradable plastic, rather than reducing plastic use, would only hurt the environment in the long run.

Biodegradable plastics can break down into water, carbon dioxide, and biomass through a specialized treatment process, but experts say China doesn’t have enough treatment facilities. If improperly disposed of, biodegradable plastics can damage the environment.

“Biodegradable plastics have shortcomings and should be limited in use as well,” Mao told Sixth Tone. “Replacing nonbiodegradable plastics with biodegradable ones may cause misuse and a new type of pollution, as well as increased pressure on waste-recycling systems.”

China is the world’s largest plastics producer and exporter, accounting for over one-quarter of global plastic production in 2018. However, due to high consumption and low recycling and waste-management efforts, plastic waste often ends up polluting the land and sea.

Over 88% of waste on the sea surface and ocean floor is plastic, such as plastic bags and bottles, according to a 2018 report from China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment. Another study published the year before estimated that up to 1.5 million metric tons of plastic waste from the Yangtze River is dumped into the Yellow Sea each year — the most among 10 rivers globally that together account for 90% of all plastic found in the oceans.

Authorities have now set specific timelines to minimize China’s plastic pollution.

A number of routine items — including single-use plastic straws, cotton swabs, and cosmetic products containing microbeads — as well as certain plastic soil coverings that are considered a main source of farmland soil pollution are expected to be entirely eliminated nationwide by the end of 2020.

According to the guideline, by 2025 all hotels and hostels will be banned from offering free single-use plastic items, while mail and delivery services will be prohibited from using nonbiodegradable plastic packages, tape, and single-use plastic bags. Cities will be required to ban nonbiodegradable plastic bags and aim for a 30% reduction in the consumption of single-use cutlery.

China prohibited the import of 24 types of foreign waste — including plastic and electronic waste — in 2017, and additional items were added to the list the following year. The new guideline also reinforces a blanket ban on importing any type of foreign plastic waste.

“Plastics have a close connection to chemical pollutants,” Mao said. “We use plastics indiscriminately because we think they are clean, when they actually do harm to the environment.”

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: Eyeem/Tuchong)


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Malaysia sends back 3,737 metric tonnes of plastic waste, to repatriate more this year

SEBERANG PERAI, Jan 20 — Malaysia sent 150 containers of plastic waste weighing about 3,737 metric tonnes back to its 13 countries of origin since the third quarter of 2019, said Minister for Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Yeo Bee Yin.

She said France and United Kingdom have been co-operative in the process; out of the 150 containers, 43 were sent back to France and 42 to United Kingdom.

“The repatriation of the containers did not incur any costs on us which is unprecedented as the importers and shipping companies paid for the costs,” she said during a press conference after visiting the North Butterworth Container Terminal (NBCT) at Penang Port here.

The remaining containers were sent back to the United States (US) (17 containers), Canada (11), Spain (10), Hong Kong (9), Japan (5), Singapore (4), Portugal (3), China (3), Bangladesh (1), Sri Lanka (1) and Lithuania (1).

Yeo said there are 110 more containers, from all three ports in Klang, Penang and Sarawak, that will be sent back to nine countries by the middle of this year.

“A total 60 out of the 110 are from the US and we are working closely with the US government and agencies on the process,” she said.

The remaining containers to be sent back are to Canada (15 containers), Japan (14), UK (9), Belgium (8), Mexico (1), Hungary (1), France (1) and Jamaica (1).

She said each container weighs about 20 metric tonnes so the estimated weight of the plastic waste to be sent back are around 2,200 metric tonnes.

Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Yeoh Bee Yin (centre) speaks during a press conference after a site visit to the North Butterworth Container Terminal in Penang January 20, 2020.

“We will continue to take enforcement action to stop the import of plastic waste and close down illegal plastic waste factories here, we want the world to know that Malaysia is not a plastic waste dumping ground,” she said.She said a new national action plan on illegal plastic waste importation will be launched next month so that all agencies involved will have proper enforcement procedures to follow.She said the action plan will smoothen procedures for agencies such as Department of Environment, Customs Department, National Solid Waste Management Department, port authorities and local governments.On enforcement action against illegal plastic waste factories in the country, Yeo said last year, joint operations by the police, customs, local councils, immigration and other agencies were held at a total 393 factories in the country.

“A total 218 illegal plastic waste factories were closed down and enforcement actions will continue to close down more illegal factories,” she said.

She said even if the factories were to reopen in a different state, the enforcement team will close it down again.

“We will act on any reports of these factories operating illegally in any states in Malaysia so we call on the public to be our eyes to report to us,” she said.

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