Dear friends,

‍We hope you are safe and doing OK. We know that, like us, you may be stuck at home, worried about loved ones, or your job, or about having enough food and toilet paper. Right now, many of us are without childcare, without community, and with a lot of worry and anxiety.

The next several months and possibly even longer will be really hard for everyone around the world. But we’re in this together, and we know this time will end. We will come out the other side looking to rebuild the connections that sustain our communities and economy. In the meantime let’s stick together in the ways we can – sharing information, keeping safe, making soup, and washing our hands.

At UPSTREAM, we want to support you and add value to your lives during this time of crisis. We’ve been getting lots of questions from the UPSTREAM and Break Free From Plastic communities about reuse in a time of pandemics like COVID-19. Here are some thoughts on the common questions we’ve received:


1. Are reusables safe?

– Yes, the short answer is that soap and hot water are effective at killing coronavirus, other viruses, and bacteria. Home and commercial dishwashers are more effective than hand-washing because of the added benefit of high temperature and prolonged washing.

– State health codes ensure that commercial dishwashing will kill all pathogens, and the coronavirus is especially sensitive to soap and heat.

– As Dr. Vineet Menachery, a microbiologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch recently said, “I wouldn’t expect any virus to survive a dishwasher.”‍

2. Aren’t disposables safer?

– No, they’re not when compared to properly washed reusables. Single-use disposables can harbor viruses and pathogenic bacteria. They are subject to whatever pathogens have settled on them from manufacture, transport, inventory stocking, and eventual use.

– In addition, according to a recently-released peer-reviewed scientific consensus statement, over 12,000 chemicals are used in food packaging, and many of them are hazardous to human health. Migration of these toxic chemicals out of disposables into our food and drinks is not an issue with non-plastic reusables. ‍

3. Can I use my reusable water bottle or coffee cup?

– Absolutely. Coronavirus mainly spreads through coughs and sneezes, not your reusable water bottle or cup.

– The best water refill options when you’re out and on-the-go are hands-free electronic water refilling stations like you see at the airport. If you don’t have easy access to one of these, then you can use the tap or the water cooler. Just don’t let your water bottle directly touch the spigot, and be mindful about washing your hands after touching communal surfaces.

– The same logic applies to your coffee cup. Just don’t touch your cup directly to the spigot or coffee pot, and wash your hands.

– Also, don’t forget to wash your bottle or cup with soap and water, preferably in a dishwasher.

4. Large coffee chains (like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts) recently announced they are no longer allowing customers to bring their own cups to use and refill in its stores. Do you think this will continue, and what does this mean?

– Today, businesses like Starbucks are rightly focused on how to keep us all safe. But when the coronavirus passes, plastic pollution will continue to be a huge environmental issue.

– The coronavirus crisis is showing us that we don’t have the systems we need for reusable to-go, take-out, and food delivery. Because of this, there is likely to be an explosion of single-use products as restaurants scramble to shift to food delivery to survive, and people shift to dining at home instead of eating out.

– But in parts of the world, companies have already developed reusable to-go services for take-out and food delivery. These businesses provide clean, sanitized reusable cups and to-go containers to restaurants and cafes. The dirty ones are collected, washed and sanitized in commercial dishwashers, then put back into service.

– Imagine a future with food delivery systems built on clean, sanitized reusable to-go containers and cups. How great would it be if we had reusable food delivery systems in place all over the United States like Green Tiffin and Planted Table in San Francisco, and Superfine Tiffins in New York City? Imagine how much less waste would be generated in this crisis if we had all this in place already.

– And so, we’re going to continue to focus on how to help restaurants, cafes and venues – who are going to be greatly impacted – to be empowered and ready to make these changes. Especially because doing so can help them save money.

5. Will coronavirus kill the growing zero waste lifestyle, built on bring-your-own (BYO), reuse, and bulk shopping?

– No, the zero waste lifestyle is here to stay and is gaining more traction every day. While the coronavirus will change many things in our lives for a time, it won’t change our core values like working for healthy people, a healthy planet, and a sustainable economy.

– But just like take-out and food delivery, this crisis is also showing us that we need better systems for BYO and bulk shopping. Hands-free dispensers and methods are part of the solution, as are on-site sanitizing for BYO. In addition, businesses can create new systems to provide clean, sanitized reusable containers for bulk purchasing on deposit – similar to how local dairies are bringing back the reusable milk bottle.

We hope these thoughts and tips are useful to you as you navigate these difficult times. We’re going to be working to provide helpful insights, build community, and add value to your life in the coming months.

If you’re interested, sign up to receive e-mail updates from us, connect with us on social, or stay tuned to the Indisposable Podcast. If you’ve got kids at home, check out our just-launched YouTube channel where they can learn about solutions to plastic pollution – including an episode on how kids got single-use plastic out of their school. We’d also love to hear from you! Drop us an email at or send us a direct message on Instagram or Facebook.

Most importantly, take care of yourself, stay safe and hold your loved ones close.


All our Best,

Matt, Julie, Lauren, Berna, Inder, Eva, Brooking, Erin,
Miriam, Vanessa, Samantha and the rest of the UPSTREAM Team


The post PLASTIC POLLUTION, REUSE, AND COVID-19 appeared first on Break Free From Plastic.

Maintaining social distance at the beach

Thinking about the environment could help lift our moods and contribute to improving our mental health which may be under a strain just now. The health benefits of the sea and other ‘blue spaces’ are well documented – being by the coast can help with anxiety and stress, as well as making you feel more connected to nature.


In our survey 75% of people who had visited the coast in the last year said they feel better just knowing that the coast and sea and all the plants and animals living there are thriving. But please remember, if you’re planning to go to the beach solo, do so safely and in line with current government advice regarding the coronavirus.

Read on for our tips for solo activities.

Go on a seaweed search

Contribute to important research by recording seaweed species found on your local shore. We want to know more about the seaweed species found in UK waters, identifying exactly where they are found and how this may change over time. If you’re heading to the coast, you can use one of our guides to help you to fill in a recording form.


Do a solo nurdle hunt

Nurdles are small plastic pellets about the size of a lentil. Billions are used each year to make nearly all of our plastic products, but many are spilt by industry and end up washing up on our shores. We want to find out more about where nurdles end up, and you can help by recording your nurdle sightings and submitting your data.


Try an isolation beach clean

While our events and group beach cleans have been cancelled, we encourage everyone who is taking a trip to the beach to continue helping out the environment in a safe manner. Do your own solo beach clean, but remember to wear gloves and regularly wash your hands. It’s important we don’t all forget the pollution problems facing our seas amongst the chaos – plus, time spent helping our environment is great for keeping our spirits up. Find out more from #2minutebeachclean.

Newgale beach

Explore the rockpools

If you can do so safely, rockpooling is a great way to discover the weird and wonderful marine species that live on our doorstep. Remember to make sure you don’t get yourself into any tricky situations – especially if you’re planning a solo trip – be mindful of the tide patterns and don’t end up getting stuck! Use our helpful guide to identify the things you find.


Look out for marine wildlife

We want to hear about the marine wildlife you spot at the coast and at sea, especially basking sharks, marine turtles and jellyfish in UK and Irish waters. The data we collect will go on to help our scientists come up with solutions to protect our precious marine life. If you spot any of these species, you can report your sightings here.

Compass Jellyfish - Abercastle

Remember, if you’re planning on visiting the beach please do so safely, and within the current government advice on social distancing. If you’re going solo, tell someone where you’re headed, bring a phone with plenty of charge and check that there will be signal at your destination.

Actions you can take

A Message from Hugo Tagholm, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage

Surfers Against Sewage is proud to deliver campaigns that bring people together, empowering communities to create positive change for our ocean. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for being part of our movement of ocean activists, protecting our ocean and beaches for everyone to enjoy. Our shared experiences of the coastline are what bring us together. Our beaches are where we create experiences, draw inspiration and unite. They are also places we can seek solace, comfort and sea air during this time of global crisis.

The global pandemic means that we need to change the way we work for the time being. Rather than coming together, we need to work together in new ways, at distance. Social distancing doesn’t mean that we can’t stay connected. Our digital connections and actions will be more important than ever, to support each other, to share concerns, and to drive our campaigns forward for a safer and healthier Planet Ocean. We need each other more than ever before.

Our live activities are on hold at the moment to help keep you safe. Beach cleans, campaign actions, social meet-ups are on hold until further notice. We must all follow the advice of scientists to stay apart wherever we can. Your safety and well being is our priority. We also need to be conscious and support the most vulnerable in society at these challenging times.

We are taking the time to innovate and evolve our community campaigns and projects – finding new and improved ways to empower communities and drive change when we come through the crisis. In the meantime, below are a few actions that you can take with us from the comfort of your home or at a quiet beach.

We will come through this together and we look forward to seeing you back at the beach for an Autumn of Ocean Activism.

Remember to stay safe out there and look after each other.

Thank you for all your support.


Actions you can take

  • Do an #IsolationBeachClean to counteract the pandemic-induced anxiety with some Vitamin Sea.
  • Read one of our many reports on ocean health, oceanography & sustainability.
  • Watch out for the latest news about our campaigns, special broadcasts and much more.
  • Head to the SAS Shop for ethical clothing and plastic-free items. All profits help fund SAS campaigns!

The post A Message from Hugo Tagholm, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage appeared first on Surfers Against Sewage.

Plastic straws, cotton buds and balloon sticks could be outlawed in Wales by 2021

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 18 March 2020

Plans to scrap a number single-use plastic items have been announced by the Welsh government. A ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds is set to come into force in England in April, but the Welsh measures focus on a longer list of single-use plastics recently banned by a new EU directive and so could go further.

Plastic straws found on beachclean
© Natasha Ewins

We want them to be able to go further than other countries and ban other single use items in the future, such as other forms of food and drinks containers like coffee cups and sachets.

Gill Bell,
MCS Head of Conservation, Wales

MCS, Head of Conservation, Wales, Gill Bell, welcomed the announcement, saying: “MCS has been working towards this for over ten years so it is fantastic news that the Welsh Government has decided to ban these single use items. We need this to come into effect as soon as possible.”

In England, legislation is currently making its way through parliament with a ban on straws, stirrers and cotton bud sticks due to come into force next month. Under the Welsh plans, plastic straws, cotton buds and polystyrene food and drink containers will either be banned or have their sale restricted and there will also be a focus on a longer list of single-use plastics recently banned by a new EU directive. Scotland has already banned plastic-stemmed cotton buds and, like Wales, intends to match the recent EU directive.

On the plans in Wales, Gill Bell added: “We want them to be able to go further than other countries and ban other single use items in the future, such as other forms of food and drinks containers like coffee cups and sachets. Now we need an effective ‘all in’ Deposit Return System’ to compliment these actions and work towards delivering a true circular economy for Wales.”

The minister in charge of recycling, Hannah Blythyn, said the Welsh Government would carry out a public consultation “to understand the impact of this proposal, particularly on any citizens who may be reliant on some of the items we have included, to make sure we get it right.”

The minister added: “The single-use plastics we want to ban are hard to recycle and often found on the beaches and seas around our coast, blighting our beautiful country and harming our natural and marine environments.”

The announcement comes hot on the heels of a new study by researchers at the University of Plymouth which suggested that Lego could survive in the ocean for up to 1,300 years. They compared bricks that had washed up on the coastlines of south-west England to unused pieces and said they were surprised how durable the children’s toys were. The study, published in the journal Environmental Pollution, estimated that the plastic bricks could last for between 100 and 1,300 years.

Actions you can take


His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales becomes Patron of Surfers Against Sewage as the Charity Celebrates its 30th Anniversary

London: National marine conservation and campaigning charity Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) is thrilled to announce His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, as its Patron. His Royal Highness holds the title of Duke of Cornwall and has very strong links with the county, where the charity was founded and still operates from today. This year the charity also celebrates its 30th anniversary and the Patronage is incredible recognition of the progress and achievements the organisation has made over the last three decades to protect our ocean.

His Royal Highness, The Duke of Cornwall attended Surfers Against Sewage’s special 30th anniversary event in Cornwall on Friday 6th March, held at the Skol Nansledan, Newquay where his patronage was officially announced. As part of the event, the His Royal Highness signed a unique surfboard, created from wood from his Highgrove Estate, to commemorate the anniversary.

The charity was founded in May 1990 in response to chronic and widespread sewage pollution of the UK coastline. At that time, only a quarter of UK beaches would have passed the minimum bathing water standards we now have in place. Today over 98% of UK beaches meet these standards, which is an amazing success story for our ocean, beaches and everyone that enjoys the country’s beautiful coastline for surfing, swimming, sailing and recreation in our great maritime nation. The charity’s work represents a powerful example of positive environmental activism leading to dramatic and tangible conservation success, and provides a powerful story of hope for some of the biggest issues our ocean faces today, from plastic pollution to climate change.

Surfers Against Sewage first worked with His Royal Highness in 2015, when it organised the Ocean Plastic Awareness Day in Newquay, Cornwall. The charity was delighted to welcome The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall to Fistral Beach during their annual summer visit to Cornwall to demonstrate how community action in the county was bringing together many thousands of people to help combat the menace of marine plastic pollution. The Ocean Plastics Awareness Day gave NGOs, local and national government and industry an opportunity to commit to exploring and delivering pilot schemes to prevent the flow of plastics to local beaches and recycle plastic waste removed by local beach cleans. The event also saw the launch of a Statement of Intent signed by participating NGOs, local government, academia and businesses to explore, develop and deliver plastic reduction and circular economy initiatives including deposit return schemes; refill initiatives and the recycling of marine plastics. These projects and behaviour change campaigns have grown dramatically since the event and have become firmly embedded in society’s expectations and behaviour.

His Royal Highness has been a longstanding advocate of Deposit Return Schemes as a way of reducing plastic bottle pollution, and the charity successfully spearheaded the call for the system to be introduced in the UK, which will start to come into force from 2021, in Scotland.

The team was honoured when Their Royal Highnesses visited their headquarters in the summer of 2018, for a follow up event promoting the solutions to plastic pollution, which highlighted just how much progress is being made across society by individuals, communities and businesses.

Hugo Tagholm, Chief Executive says: “We have been thrilled to work closely with His Royal Highness over the last few years, to highlight the plight of our ocean and to promote positive, sustainable solutions for a bluer future, where the ocean truly thrives again. I would like to welcome His Royal Highness as our first Patron in such an auspicious year for us where we celebrate 30 years of positive and hopeful activism that is delivering real change to protect our beaches, coastline and ocean for everyone.

 As we start the new UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, Surfers Against Sewage is more committed than ever before to deliver a thriving ocean with our community of ocean activists right around the UK. We believe in a journey of radical hope for our seas, and to have the support of His Royal Highness will help us take our mission and impact to new levels in the coming years.

 We’d like to say a huge thank you to His Royal Highness, not just for jumping on board with Surfers Against Sewage, but also for his longstanding and pioneering work on the environmental agenda, which is truly causing waves of change around the globe. His support for the charity since 2015 has helped us deliver so much more impact, and his Patronage will certainly help us deliver even more for Planet Ocean in the years to come.”

Surfers Against Sewage is proud to work with over 100,000 community volunteers around the UK, protecting our beaches for the future. The charity founded the Plastic Free Community movement, now active in 650 locations nationwide, and the Plastic Free Schools initiative which will reach 1.3 million school children in 2020. The charity will be rolling out an ambitious programme of marine conservation in 2020, and setting out a vision for the decade ahead, tackling issues including plastic pollution, climate change, habitat loss and water pollution.


The post His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales becomes Patron of Surfers Against Sewage as the Charity Celebrates its 30th Anniversary appeared first on Surfers Against Sewage.

MCS informs research project to tackle marine litter in Wales

The first stage of the Clean Seas Wales Partnership’s action plan to tackle marine litter has been completed. MCS, Keep Wales Tidy and environmental consultants, Eunomia, have worked to drive forward research, which will form the evidence base for the next stages of this vital work.

© Ingrid Taylar

In 2018 the Clean Seas Wales Partnership, made up of representatives from Welsh Government, the fishing industry and port and harbour authorities launched the Marine Litter Action Plan (MLAP) to tackle marine litter in Wales.

The project received funding of £50,000 through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, which is funded by the European Union and the Welsh Government.

MCS, Keep Wales Tidy and Eunomia have been working on gaining a better understanding of the pathways, sources and types of litter in the environment, as well as the challenges of tackling them at a local level.

The project adopted a coordinated approach to tackling marine litter by working with marine litter action groups, local authorities and higher education institutions. It is hoped the project will also encourage further research into marine litter.

Project members had discussions with every local authority in Wales on interventions, strategies, cleansing regimes and communication. Litter Strategy Workshops ran in three different regions in Wales with individuals from local authorities, public bodies and community litter groups working together to look at best practice and how to learn and adopt this in other areas to decrease litter.

Data from MCS’s Beachwatch beach cleaning and survey programme has been used to inform strategies along the way.

Now, with the first phase of the project complete, enough evidence has been gathered to inform the future direction of the Marine Litter Action Plan.

This year the project aims to work with tourism businesses and coastal attractions. There is also going to be a focus on schools, with a view to developing an education programme on the impacts of marine litter.

You can read the full report from the first phase of the project here.

Actions you can take


Local Event – How, as a business, do you reduce single use plastic?

Single use plastic is everywhere, and businesses are trying to find ways reduce their plastic waste….

About this Event

But where do you begin, can a business really make a difference?Come along to this free, informative event hosted by Plastic Free Hartlepool supported by Hartlepool Borough Council to find out more.

Plastic Free Hartlepool is a community group founded in 2018 which has recently been awarded Plastic Free Community Status from marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage. To help achieve this status Plastic Free Hartlepool worked with the business community which resulted in 37 local businesses removing at least 3 pieces of single use plastic from their business. A presentation will be made to these businesses on the evening to acknowledge their support to the cause.


5.30pm – Arrival & refreshments

6pm – Welcome and overview of Plastic Free Hartlepool aims and achievements.

6.15pm – Presentation to businesses by Hartlepool Borough Council- Chief Executive Gill Alexander & Director of Regeneration & Neighbourhoods Denise McGuckin.

6.30pm – Networking.

7pm – Close

Ocean Activists Unite for UK’s Biggest Beach Clean Weekend


  • We are organising the UK’s biggest beach clean weekend, the Big Spring Beach Clean.
  • Up to 50,000 beach clean volunteers expected to participate at beaches across the UK.
  • The events will also include the UK’s biggest Plastic Pollution Brand Audit, identifying the brands contributing the most plastic pollution to the UK’s coastline.
  • We are calling for manufacturers to take responsibility for the full life-cycle of their packaging and the damage it causes to the marine environment and wildlife.
  • Events from summit to sea – in an effort to create ocean activists everywhere, we are calling for river, rural and urban events to tackle plastic pollution before it gets to the coastline.
  • Leaders and volunteers are invited to register here.

Cornwall, England: with support from Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation and Sharp’s Atlantic Pale Ale, we are organising the biggest beach clean weekend of the year as part of our annual Big Spring Beach Clean. Up to 50,000 volunteers are expected to take action to tackle the scourge of ocean plastic pollution over the weekend.

We are calling for volunteers to register their beach, river and urban clean events at here!

We have been at the forefront of the global beach clean movement for over a decade, organising over 7,507 events, mobilising a quarter of a million volunteers who have together removed a staggering 534,012.59 kg of plastic pollution from our beaches.

Volunteers will collect vital plastic pollution data as part of the Plastic Pollution Brand Audit. Last year, the results revealed that Coca Cola and PepsiCo were responsible for 25% of plastic pollution recorded by volunteers. This important citizen science project will be published to ensure that businesses are changing their attitudes, systems, products and behaviours to better protect the ocean and wider environment. We are calling for more urgent action from manufacturers to reduce their single-use plastic packaging addiction.

Plastic pollution evidence will also be submitted to the government to support ambitious and progressive policy and legislative interventions to stop plastic pollution at source. An ambitious deposit return scheme, extended producer responsibility, single-use plastic bans, and a more ambitious plastic bag charge should all be introduced as soon as possible.


Jack Middleton, Community Manager at Surfers Against Sewage says Tens of thousands of volunteers joining us at beaches and rivers is a huge indication of the public’s feelings towards the growing scale of the plastic pollution crisis. It also highlights the urgency of the radical action required to protect our ocean from their products. The data our volunteers collect will help inform and drive change by those who still put profits before the planet.”

Richard Walker, Trustee of the Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation said“Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation and Surfers Against Sewage share a common passion for tackling the scourge of plastic head on, and we know that this is an issue that resonates with an ever-growing number of people. Our Iceland stores are at the heart of high streets up and down the country and we recruit our store colleagues locally, making us a true community retailer. We are delighted to be backing SAS in encouraging individuals and organisations throughout the UK to help make a difference to the quality of their local environment through The Big Spring Beach Clean.”

James Nicholls, Marketing Controller at Sharp’s Brewery says Being based a couple of miles from the sea in North Cornwall, our coastal environment is deeply important to us. We have a long history of supporting the Blue Flag and community beach cleans and the whole team at Sharp’s are over the moon to now be supporting SAS on their Big Spring Beach Clean, an initiative we’ve long admired”

(c)Checkered Photography

To register for guidance on leading your own clean, visit our page here or email our team on All Clean Leaders will receive a Big Spring Beach Clean equipment pack and a step-by-step guide to organizing your clean, along with support and guidance from our team in organising your event. Participants in the Brand Audit will also receive a limited edition Hydro Flask bottle.

We would like to thank the Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation and Sharp’s Brewery and Community Partners: Canoe Foundation, Surfing England, British Canoeing, British Mountaineering Council, The Wave Project, South West Coast Path Association and the Outdoor Swimming Society.

The post Ocean Activists Unite for UK’s Biggest Beach Clean Weekend appeared first on Surfers Against Sewage.

Ground-Breaking Federal Legislation Tackles the Root of the Plastic Pollution Crisis

For Immediate Release: February 11, 2020


Shilpi Chhotray, Break Free From Plastic, +1 703 400 9986 or
Ned Adriance, Senator Udall’s Office,
Keith Higginbotham, Congressman Lowenthal’s Office,

Washington DC —  Today, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) introduced the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act – the first comprehensive bill in Congress to address the plastic pollution crisis. Drawing on stakeholder input from over 200 individuals, environmental groups, businesses, trade associations, aquariums, academics, grassroots organizations, and state and local governments, the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act reduces unnecessary plastic and reforms our broken waste management system.

Globally, the plastics industry produces over 335 million tons of plastic each year – and this volume is continuing to increase.  By 2050, global plastic production is projected to triple and will account for 20 percent of all oil consumption.  But nearly two-thirds of plastic produced becomes waste.  The materials in Americans’ blue bins are often landfilled, incinerated, or shipped overseas to countries that are unable to manage the burden of additional trash. What were once pristine agricultural communities in southeast Asia are now toxic dumpsites due to imported waste from wealthier nations like the United States.  Plastic waste finds its way into our water, soil, and air where it breaks down into microplastics that contaminate food and drinking water, consequently posing a risk to human health.

Break Free From Plastic members are supportive of the bill (learn what they are saying) as it addresses the root cause of the plastic pollution crisis.  Communities who live on the fenceline of the neighboring petrochemical facilities, in particular, face the brunt of toxic air emissions resulting in negative health impacts. In the United States, state and local governments are implementing policies to reduce unnecessary plastic products and shift the huge financial responsibility to producers for managing our waste. The Break Free From Plastic movement is calling for federal leadership to build on this momentum.



Break Free From Plastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, nearly 1,800 organizations from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and to push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. These organizations share the common values of environmental protection and social justice, which guide their work at the community level and represent a global, unified vision.


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