Research reveals Coca Cola and PepsiCo responsible for 25% of packaging pollution found on UK beaches

Photo by Andy Hughes

New research has revealed how products from just a handful of companies account for more than half of packaging pollution found on UK beaches – with Coca Cola and PepsiCo named the worst offenders.

The figures, unveiled by ocean conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage, have been submitted to government as campaigners call for transparency from the UK’s ‘biggest polluters’.

We’ve sent this data to the government, now demand it acts on plastic pollution. Sign the #GenerationSea petition: Click Here

It follows the UK’s largest ever nation-wide survey of packaging pollution found on Britain’s beaches and rivers, conducted by more than 45,000 volunteers during SAS’s recent Big Spring Beach Clean series.

And, with the results now publicly released, it has been exposed that the vast majority of UK waste found strewn across the coastline is the responsibility of just a handful of companies.

During the 229 cleans in April, 49,413 pieces of pollution were picked up, of which 20,045 were branded, with Coca Cola producing the largest proportion of branded items (15.5%), PepsiCo, which owns Walkers, made 10.3 per cent, followed by Mondelez International, which owns Cadbury, at 6.8 per cent and Nestle 5.5%.

Hugo Tagholm, Chief Executive of Surfers Against Sewage says:

‘Our survey clearly shows that big business is responsible for the scourge of plastic and packaging pollution.

Just ten companies were responsible for over half of the packaging pollution recorded. Unsurprisingly, the high street brands had headline appearances with Coca Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle and McDonald’s all gracing the top ten.

These companies must invest more in the redesign of packaging, alternative ways of product delivery and ramping up packaging re-use to truly turn the tide on the plastic pollution that is sweeping our world.”

The research has been submitted to the UK government as evidence in the consultation underway on plastic packaging and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in a bid to make producers (parent companies) take more responsibility for the costs of dealing with their packaging once it has been discarded.

Under the present EPR guidelines, producers ‘that handle over 50 tonnes of packaging annually and have an annual turnover over £2 million’ should be accountable for the cost and system for dealing with the packaging they create and sell.

But, currently, parent companies do not share information on the packaging they produce, hiding the scale of their damage to the environment – and paying less than 10% of the costs of dealing with it. The result is that the cost of this waste is then left in the hands of local councils, tax payers and, finally, the environment.

Each parent company has a specific brand that accounts for between 75% and 100% of its total share of branded items found on beaches and rivers.

And it turns out that every company in the top 50 polluters list – responsible for 91.6% of the branded items – has an annual turnover far greater than the £2 million threshold.

Now, SAS is urging the Government to put in place stricter rulings, saying it is critical that new EPR regulations ensure transparency in the amount of all producers packaging in order to fully hold the to account for the pollution they create.

A total of 49,413 items were recorded at 229 cleans across the UK. Photo: Richie Graham

Hugo Tagholm said:

“Producers must offer full transparency and disclosure on the amount and type of packaging they use in order that new extended producer regulation can be truly effective. Our environment is in peril and plastic pollution is a clear indicator that business as usual just won’t do.

“This is not a littering issue – business needs to provide radical and responsible new systems that drastically reduce their impact on our oceans, forests and nature at large.

“People and planet need these companies to change how they do business. At the moment, the cost of this waste is left in the hands of local councils, tax payers and, finally, the environment.

The analysis of the information collected was undertaken by independent environmental consultancy Eunomia Research & Consulting.

They found that while the top 50 companies are predominantly food and beverage manufacturers, a number of tobacco companies and companies with a wider brand portfolio – such as Unilever – also fall within the top 50.

We’ve sent this data to the government, now demand it acts on plastic pollution. Sign the #GenerationSea petition: Click Here

The analysis showed the top five parent companies tended to be made up of a small number of major polluting brands including Walkers, Cadbury, McDonalds, Coca Cola, Nestle, Pepsi and Costa Coffee.

Of the 799 brands reported, 496 had only one or two pieces of litter associated with them and were disregarded in further analysis, due to only constituting 3% of the total items. The remaining 303 brands can be mapped to a total of 171 parent companies, with the top 50 companies are responsible for 92% of the branded packaging pollution.

The remaining unbranded items collected included things like cotton buds, cigarette butts and bottle caps, as well as sweet wrappers and baby wipes – no less important, but harder to track.

The charity now hopes that this latest study will push the UK Government into making the right decision for the future of the beaches and oceans for generations to come – while also sending an important message to the companies responsible for the pollution.

To support SAS and its #GenerationSea campaign, a petition calling on Government to take stronger action against things like plastic pollution and climate change under the new Environmental Bill, click here.

Article by Hazel Murray on behalf of Surfers Against Sewage

 

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Fight to crack down on plastic pollution steps into the classroom with new lesson plans

 

Surfers Against Sewage visit to Flora Garden Primary School Hammersmith Plastic Free Schools

Flora Garden Primary School Hammersmith talk single-use plastics as they work towards Plastic Free Schools Status – (C) Barry MacDonald

 

New lesson plans encouraging children to think about plastic pollution and lead the way on climate change are being taken to the classroom.

Here at Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) we have created five lesson strategies, following requests from students and teachers to expand on the Plastic Free Schools programme.

Up until now, the programme has seen schools across the UK take action by ditching single-use plastics around their sites and promoting the issues that plastic pollution causes in their local communities.

But it is hoped that by bringing the fight directly into the classroom as well, we will be able to encourage young people think about these key environmental issues in a ‘real world’ perspective.

Each lesson will cover various topics in the environmental sector, exploring how and why we use plastic, what happens to it once we’re done and how it’s affecting our coastlines, within the context of regular school lessons – from maths and English, to science and geography.

Ben Hewitt, SAS Director of Campaigns and Projects, said: “It’s so inspiring to see students lead the way on tackling plastic pollution and climate change.

We’ve had lots of requests for lesson plans about plastic to further bring this conversation into classrooms.

Every piece of new plastic is made from precious oil, a fossil fuel which should remain in the ground, not be used to make a product which will be used for a few minutes and then be thrown away.”

Surfers Against Sewage visit to Flora Garden Primary School Hammersmith Plastic Free Schools

Flora Garden Primary School Hammersmith – (C) Barry MacDonald

The lessons have been curated for pupils studying within Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 (ages 7 to 14), with five key themes:

  • The Science of Plastic – a science lesson on discovering what plastic is, why it was created and how it is made. Pupils will then conduct a scientific enquiry into single-use plastic products, identifying their properties, uses and environmental implications.
  • The Great Plastic Debate – an English lesson focused on debating the theoretical motion that the concept of Plastic Free Schools should be disregarded until 2042. This aims to help pupils recognise the importance of seeing issues from different stakeholder points of view, whilst finding out more about the impact of single-use plastics.
  • Talking Rubbish – an English lesson where pupils will compare linear and circular economies, particularly in relation to single-use plastic, pollution and climate change. They will then write and deliver a speech aimed at encouraging businesses and local councils to move towards circular economies and build in systems such as a Deposit Return Scheme to capture plastic waste.
  • Plastic Persuasion – an English and maths lesson which will encourage pupils to use real life statistics as a persuasive device. They will then compare the results of their own clean-up to SAS’s Dirty Dozen data, collected during the charity’s recent Big Spring Beach Clean, and use their findings to write a persuasive letter to a brand which has been identified as a leading cause of plastic pollution via packaging.
  • On the Plastics Trail – a Geography lesson where pupils will discover how plastic pollution is caused and use their geographical skills to investigate how and where plastic pollution is affecting UK coastlines.

The launch of the new lesson plans coincides with Sir David Attenborough’s 93rd birthday – a mark to the legendary naturalist and nature documentary producer, who has been leading the fight on plastic pollution on an international basis.

To bring these lesson plans to your classroom click on the links below:

Access SAS’s lesson plans for key stage 2

Access SAS’s lesson plans for key stage 3

We’re so pleased to be able to share these resources and we can’t wait to see the results so if you’re a teacher taking this conversation to your students, we’d love to hear how it goes! Please let us know and drop us an email to education@sas.org.uk  .

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CAMPAIGN WIN: SCOTLAND SETS OUT AMBITIOUS PLANS FOR DEPOSIT RETURN SCHEME

Plastic bottles found on Isle of Arran. Photo credit: Plastic Free Arran

Scotland is set to become the first country in the UK to introduce a deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks cans and bottles. The new scheme includes a 20p cost on drinks, which is refunded if the customer returns their container to a collection point. 

The ambitious scheme is based on successful international equivalents  – which can deliver around 97% recycling rates – and will be widely accessible, with all shops which sell drinks offering deposit refunds to customers. It is set to be introduced within the lifetime of this parliament – so before March 2021.

The scheme design has been widely welcomed by environmental campaigners including Surfers Against Sewage, recognizing that the Scottish government has rejected the pressure from big business actively lobbying to undermine the success of the scheme.

Hugo Tagholm, Chief Executive of Surfers Against Sewage says:

“The bar has been set appropriately high to deliver a world-class system and a powerful right-hook to the scourge of plastic and packaging pollution. It also ensures that long-overdue responsibility is moved back onto big business, to address the full impact and life-cycle of the packaging they produce. “

Scotland’s new Deposit Return Scheme will include aluminium and steel cans as well as drinks containers made of glass and Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic with a 20p deposit as part of plans to combat climate change.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said:

“Scotland was the first part of the UK to commit to a deposit return scheme as part of our wider efforts to prevent discarded drinks containers from ending up in our streets and seas, and is now the first to outline its design – one that is ambitious in scale and scope, and which gives the people of Scotland a clear and straightforward way to do their bit for the environment.

“There is a global climate emergency and people across Scotland have been calling, rightly, for more ambition to tackle it and safeguard our planet for future generations. I am therefore delighted to confirm that I intend to implement a system covering PET – the most common form of plastic packaging – aluminum and steel cans, and glass, with a deposit refund set at 20p.

“Supported by international evidence our plans for Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme are gathering pace with widespread consensus demonstrating that a well-run, appropriately-targeted scheme could improve the environment, change attitudes to recycling and litter, and support a more circular economy.”

Hugo Tagholm continued: 

“We welcome today’s announcement for an ambitious and far-reaching Deposit Return Scheme for Scotland, including all sizes of bottles and cans, and covering materials including plastic, glass and aluminium. It’s encouraging to see politicians driving the sort of radical thinking and systems redesign our environment desperately needs.

This ambitious scheme is what hundreds of thousands of citizens joined us in calling for over the past two years and will have a huge impact in the fight against plastic and packaging pollution that is choking our ocean and wider environment.

 We’d like to congratulate our fellow NGOs and campaigners, and the people-powered movement supporting us all, which pushed so hard for a world-class deposit return scheme for Scotland. This is a big win for people and planet. 

Surfers Against Sewage has worked with a range of NGO partners as part of the ‘Have You Got The Bottle?’ campaign, which launched in 2015 to press for deposits on drinks containers in Scotland.

Campaigners have long argued for a system which includes as many materials as possible. Not only do such systems reduce packaging pollution and boost recycling, but they also reduce the risk that producers will switch to less sustainable materials in order to avoid having to take part in the system.

Research commissioned by the campaign indicates that the system proposed by Scottish Ministers today will, when operational, divert around 140,000 empty cans and bottles from waste to recycling every day.

Jenni Hume, Campaign Manager for the Have You Got The Bottle? campaign, said:

“The deposit system set out today is a major step in the right direction. Now we know how the system will work initially, the key will be to persuade the rest of the UK to adopt the Scottish model. It is in the interests of the environment, the public and business for the other administrations to adopt an approach that is just as inclusive.

“Introducing deposits will be a complex process, and the setup phase must be very robustly organised. We are hopeful that Scotland will continue to draw on the experiences of our friends and neighbours in Scandinavia and the Baltics and build an efficient system that captures as many empty drinks containers as possible.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Nestlé’s plastic monster spews pollution at company’s U.S. headquarters

Washington, DC – Greenpeace activists joined a 15-foot tall monster in a visit to Nestlé’s U.S. headquarters in Arlington, VA today (link to be updated with photo and video), delivering Nestlé plastic pollution gathered from streets, rivers, and beaches across the country and demanding that Nestlé take responsibility for the over 1.5 million metric tons of single-use plastic it produces annually. The delivery was part of a global day of action against the company, which includes activities in Switzerland, Slovenia, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Canada, and the Philippines.

“It’s time for Nestlé to end its reliance on single-use plastics and move toward systems of reuse,” said Greenpeace Plastics Campaigner Kate Melges, who helped return the plastics to the company. “Nestlé has created a monster by producing endless quantities of throwaway plastics that persist in our environment for lifetimes. It’s time for the company to own its mess and stop pushing false solutions that will never solve this crisis.”

At Nestlé’s U.S. headquarters, activists arrived at the building alongside the monster, and asked to speak with a company representative. The monster then repeatedly spewed Nestlé plastic pollution gathered from across the country. Activists left the building, leaving behind the plastic pollution for the company to take responsibility for.

Nestlé has started to acknowledge the impact of its throwaway plastics in recent months, but has failed to act with the urgency or ambition needed to address its role in the global plastic pollution crisis. Nestlé was named one of the worst three plastic polluters following 239 cleanups and brand audits in 42 countries last October. The company was also named the worst plastic polluter following 2017 and 2019waste and brand audits in the Philippines. Nestlé sells non-recyclable sachets throughout Southeast Asia that frequently end up polluting waterways and our oceans.

Earlier in the day, activists accompanied a 65-foot long and 20-foot high monster to Nestlé headquarters in Switzerland, demanding accountability for its global plastic pollution. The action in Switzerland followed a 7-week long Greenpeace ship tour from the Philippines to Unilever headquarters in the Netherlands, and then on to Nestlé. The tour has called attention to the impacts of companies like Unilever and Nestlé’s plastic pollution, particularly to communities in the Global South.

“The consequences of Nestlé’s heavy reliance on sachets and single-use plastic packaging, especially in the Global South, can no longer be denied,” said Von Hernandez, global coordinator of the Break Free From Plastic movement. “It is unconscionable for a multibillion dollar company to be shifting the burden of what is essentially unmanageable waste to developing countries, and then argue that they are trying to help the poor. We never asked for this pollution, and we never wanted to see our oceans ravaged by throwaway plastic. We want Nestlé to be accountable and clean up its act by reducing its plastic footprint and investing in alternative delivery systems immediately.”

Greenpeace activists joined a 15-foot tall monster in a visit to Nestlé’s headquarters in Arlington, Virginia delivering Nestlé plastic pollution gathered from streets, rivers, and beaches across the country and demanding that Nestlé take responsibility for the over 1.5 million metric tons of single-use plastic it produces annually. “It’s time for Nestlé to end its reliance on single-use plastics and move toward systems of reuse,” said Greenpeace Plastics Campaigner Kate Melges, who helped return the plastics to the company. “Nestlé has created a monster by producing endless quantities of throwaway plastics that persist in our environment for lifetimes. It’s time for the company to own its mess and stop pushing false solutions that will never solve this crisis.

Last week, activists interrupted the company’s AGM by confronting executives with plastics found polluting the world’s oceans. Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan urged Nestlé executives and shareholders at the AGM to show true leadership to solve the plastic pollution crisis, stating:

“People can see with their own eyes the damage plastic pollution is doing to our oceans, waterways and communities. We’ve all witnessed the way plastic is contaminating our precious biodiversity and are only just beginning to understand how it is impacting us … It’s time for Nestlé to really take some responsibility for the magnitude of its contribution to the problem: it must be transparent and put forward a concrete action plan, with ambitious timelines, on how to reduce the production of throwaway packaging and invest in truly sustainable refill and reuse delivery systems.”

Additional information about Nestlé’s plastic pollution footprint can be found here: https://www.greenpeace.ch/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Nestle%CC%81-A-giant-plastic-problem.pdf

Photos from the action at Nestlé’s U.S. headquarters are available here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/greenpeaceusa09/sets/72157708181133464

Additional photo and b-roll footage will be available here later today: https://www.media.greenpeace.org/shoot/27MZIFJWZW23G

Photo and video from actions on Nestlé around the globe are available here: https://media.greenpeace.org/collection/27MZIFJWG2RA3

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Contacts:

Perry Wheeler, Greenpeace USA Senior Communications Specialist, +1 301 675 8766

For interviews on the ground in Virginia: Myriam Fallon, +1 708 546 9001

 

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Six-decade plankton study charts rise of ocean plastic waste

A trove of data showing when the Atlantic began choking with plastic has been uncovered in the handwritten logbooks of a little-known but doggedly persistent plankton study dating back to the middle of the last century.

From fishing twine found in the ocean in the 50s, then a first carrier bag in 1965, it reflects how the marine refuse problem grew from small, largely ignored incidents to become a matter of global concern.

The unique dataset, published in Nature Communications, is based on records from the continuous plankton recorder, a torpedo-shaped marine sampling device that has been towed across more than 6.5m nautical miles of ocean over the past 60 years.

Based firstly in Hull, then Edinburgh and Plymouth, the long-running programme was initially designed to collect pelagic plankton, which are an indicator of water quality and also a source of food for whales and other marine life.

But the operators have also kept a chart-and-counter track of entanglements that disrupted their work: what snared the equipment, where it happened and when. This has proved a valuable source of data on plastic waste, according to contemporary researchers.

plastics graph 1

“This consistent time series provides some of the earliest records of plastic entanglement, and is the first to confirm a significant increase in open ocean plastics in recent decades,” the paper notes.

Q&A

What are microplastics?

Microplastics, defined as pieces of plastic smaller than 5mm in size, are shed by synthetic clothing being washed, vehicle tyres, and the spillage of plastic pellets used by manufacturers. The physical breakdown of plastic litter also creates them. Rain washes them into rivers and the sea, but they can also be blown by the wind, spread by flying insects, and end up in fields when treated sewage waste is used as fertiliser.

Studies have found microplastics in bottom-living sea creatures and sediments taken from the North Sea. Once ingested by small creatures, the microplastics move through the food chain. A study found microplastics in every one of 50 marine mammals washed up on UK shores, and the pollution is also ending up in humans.

In 2018 the World Health Organisation announced a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water after analysis found that more than 90% of the world’s most popular bottled water brands contained tiny pieces of plastic. The UK banned plastic microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products in January 2019, and the EU has proposed new measures to curb their use.

The start of the problem was so slow it was barely noticed. The log shows strands of fishing twine found off the east coast of Iceland in 1957, then a carrier bag in waters to the north-west of Ireland eight years later. The paper states this was a couple of years before the first reports of turtles and seabirds becoming ensnared in plastic.

Over the following decades the problem grew steadily. In the 50s, 60s and 70s, fewer than 1% of tows were disrupted by entanglements with synthetic materials. By the 90s it was almost 2%, and in the first decade of this century the increase “was of an order of magnitude”, according to the paper. The figure is now hovering somewhere between 3% and 4%.

Almost half of the interruptions are caused by discarded nets, lines and other fishing equipment. Other plastic objects account for the rest. The paper said this highlighted the dangers to sea life because the sampling device was towed by ferries and container ships at a depth of about 7 metres, where many fish and marine mammals can be found. The number of entanglements was particularly high in the southern North Sea, but the authors said the problem was evident across a very wide range of ocean.

plastics graph 2

Clare Ostle, of the Plymouth-based Marine Biological Association, said: “The message is that marine plastic has increased significantly and we are seeing it all over the world, even in places where you would not want to, like the Northwest Passage and other parts of the Arctic.”

She was encouraged that the number of carrier bags snagged by the equipment appeared to have stabilised in recent years, and speculated that this may be a result of increased consumer awareness. But she cautioned that the data did not have a precise correlation with the amount of plastic in the ocean and was better seen as a guide to broad trends.

This is the second time the continuous plankton recorder has provided essential data on marine plastic. Since 2004, samples have been retrospectively analysed for microplastics, revealing a significant increase from 1960–70 to 1980–1990.

Ostle said the plankton recorder – which has been running since 1931 – continued to produce important new data because it offered a longer timeline than other, more sophisticated studies.

“I was inspired by the history, the legacy of all the people involved,” she said. “It is impressive when you consider how they have kept it going for so long in the face of many challenges.”

The sampling operation almost collapsed as a result of government cuts in the 80s, when monitoring of this type was out of fashion. According to one history of the project, “It was considered to be weak science, akin to stamp collecting.”

The scientists behind it kept it going, however, modernised the procedures, and the project’s value is now recognised.

Can you make a difference to ocean plastic?

I was looking at a pair of tiny green islands protruding from the Caribbean sea. The guide was telling us how they were far bigger below the surface – what we could see was just the tip of two underwater mountains, providing sheltered water where all manner of marine life thrived. I peered down at the shimmering sea. From where …

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‘Plastic Soup:’ Photos and Q&A with author of new book documenting plastic pollution and solutions

  • Earth’s oceans are drowning in plastic. Humans created 311 million metric tons of the stuff in 2014, and it is expected that we’ll be making four times as much by 2050 — yet only about 5 percent of plastic is currently recycled. It’s been estimated that 8 million metric tons of the plastic that goes to waste is dumped into our oceans every year — which is equivalent to a full garbage truck of plastic being dumped into the oceans every minute.
  • In a series of stunning photos and informative graphics, new book Plastic Soup: An Atlas of Ocean Pollution documents the plastic pollution crisis engulfing Earth’s seas, the impacts of that pollution on wildlife and people, and initiatives that have been created to tackle the problem.
  • The book, set to be published tomorrow by Island Press, was written by Michiel Roscam Abbing, a political scientist who reports on the latest scientific research around plastics for the Plastic Soup Foundation. Mongabay spoke with Abbing via email to get a sneak peek at what’s in the book, including a handful of its most compelling images and graphics.

Earth’s oceans are drowning in plastic. Humans created 311 million metric tons of the stuff in 2014, and it is expected that we’ll be making four times as much by 2050 — yet only about 5 percent of plastic is currently recycled. It’s been estimated that 8 million metric tons of the plastic that goes to waste is dumped into our oceans every year — which is equivalent to a full garbage truck of plastic being dumped into the oceans every minute.

In a series of stunning photos and informative graphics, new book Plastic Soup: An Atlas of Ocean Pollution documents the plastic pollution crisis engulfing Earth’s seas, the impacts of that pollution on wildlife and people, and initiatives that have been created to tackle the problem.

Plastic Soup: An Atlas of Ocean Pollution is out April 4 via Island Press. Image courtesy of Island Press.

Microplastics have been found in the guts of marine mammalssea turtle hatchlings, and humans around the globe, and plastic water bottles and snack-food packaging have even been found in the deepest parts of the oceans, at depths of nearly 11,000 meters or 36,100 feet.

Plastic Soup looks at a variety of sources of plastic pollution and the harm it causes, from the microplastics in cosmetics that so frequently leak into fragile ecosystems to the impacts of balloon releases on wildlife. But the book is also intended as a message of hope, highlighting a number of projects that have been created and actions people can take to help reduce plastic waste.

The book, set to be published tomorrow by Island Press, was written by Michiel Roscam Abbing, a political scientist who reports on the latest scientific research around plastics for the Plastic Soup Foundation. Mongabay spoke with Abbing via email to get a sneak peek at what’s in the book, including a handful of its most compelling images and graphics.

Mongabay: How did you come up with the idea for Plastic Soup?

Michiel Roscam Abbing: Since 2011 I have worked for the Plastic Soup Foundation, a Dutch NGO dedicated to fighting plastic pollution. We cover all kinds of plastic soup news items on plasticsoupfoundation.org. We started to think about a book on the topic a few years ago. With the assistance of the Dutch publishing house LIAS we developed the idea of an atlas to visually show that plastic soup is a global problem manifesting itself in many different ways. Some of the questions we set out to answer include: What are the causes and sources of plastic soup? And what are the solutions to get plastic soup off the map?

Only 9% of all plastic discarded since 1950 has been recycled. The other 91% has been taken to landfills, turned into incinerator emissions, or ended up in the oceans. Photo Credit: Shutterstock /Katacarix.

Were you trying to catalog the plastic pollution problem comprehensively? Or just highlighting the problem by examining some of the chief sources of plastic pollution and their impact?

The goal of Plastic Soup is to show that the plastic soup is not only about waste that can be cleaned up. There are many sources and effects of plastic soup — and also many possible solutions. I tried indeed to approach the issue in a comprehensive way, easy for any reader to understand.

Growing use of countless mass-produced, cheap plastic items for a wide range of short-lived applications gives rise to enormous quantities of plastic waste. Photo Credit: Shutterstock / John and Penny.
It is difficult to determine how long it takes before plastics break up. Plastics in the oceans do not degrade, ending up instead as minuscule particles. Graphic courtesy of the Plastic Soup Foundation.

What are some of the more egregious sources and/or impacts of plastic pollution that you discovered in the course of writing the book?

One is that the long-term impact of microplastics in soil can have all kinds of negative effects on terrestrial ecosystems with even greater impact than at sea. Another is that we breathe microplastics continuously without understanding if there might be negative consequences for our health in the long run.

In supermarkets, plastic helps cut down on food waste. Nowadays even single items like peppers and cucumbers are wrapped in plastic. Photo Credit: Harmen Spek/Plastic Soup Foundation.
Plastic-free supermarkets show that not using plastic is perfectly possbile. Dutch supermarket chain Ekoplaza opened this plastic-free shop in 2018. Photo Credit: Anna van der Vliet.

Plastic Soup also documents some efforts to reduce the amount of plastic waste we create and dump into the environment. What were some of the more inspiring projects you found?

One of the inspiring new techniques that stands out to me is natural branding, a technique in which lasers are used to mark vegetables and fruit in lieu of plastic stickers. Plastic-free supermarkets are also popping up here and there and are showing the big chains the way to follow. Other people show us how to live with zero waste.

The machines that can add the laser brand marks are getting cheaper, smaller, and better every year. This means that they are becoming more viable for increasing numbers of products. Photo Credit: Eosta.
Natural branding is the technique in which lasers are used to mark fruit and vegetables by burning a little pigment away from the outermost layer of the skin. Photo Credit: Eosta.

What are some of the top recommendations made in the book for how people can reduce their use of plastics? Is there anything folks can do to help clean up existing plastic pollution?

Try to live without plastic for a while, as promoted by Plastic Free July, an Australian initiative that developed a useful toolbox to do so. Also try, for example, to combine your daily jogging or walk the dog with cleaning up the street litter you encounter along the way.

What can you do to counteract pollution by plastic, and what has the most effect? Graphic courtesy of the Plastic Soup Foundation.

Once it’s out in the world, what do you hope a book like this can accomplish?

I hope that Plastic Soup will contribute to raising awareness about this environmental issue and make it clear that cleaning up the mess and preventing further pollution is everybody’s responsibility — including companies and authorities.

Kamilo Beach in Hawaii, 2008. Plastic fragments from all over the world don’t merely accumulate here; as time passes, they also keep getting smaller. Photo Credit: 5Gyres.
Our efforts to clean up plastic from the environment will never keep up unless governments succeed in turning off the tap. Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Asia Images.

Follow Mike Gaworecki on Twitter: @mikeg2001

FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page.

CORRECTION: This article originally implied that 8 million metric tons of plastic is dumped into the oceans every minute. It has been corrected to state that 8 million metric tons of plastic are dumped into the oceans every year, which is equivalent to a full garbage truck every minute.

Article originally posted in Mongabay.

 

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Greenpeace calls for Nestle to act over single-use plastics

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) – Environmental group Greenpeace on Thursday accused Nestle of not doing enough to reduce single-use plastics polluting landfills and oceans.

Jennifer Morgan, executive director at Greenpeace International, said the world’s biggest food group should set a target for reducing single-use packaging and invest in alternatives focusing on refill and reuse.

“Nestle is a major contributor to the plastic crisis and environmental problem that we have right now,” Morgan told Reuters on the sidelines of the company’s annual general meeting in Lausanne, where Greenpeace activists intervened shaking banners.

Nestle Chief Executive, Mark Schneider, said he thought focusing exclusively on reusable packaging was wrong. “Why rely on just one lever when you have four or five you can use,” he said, citing the importance of biodegradable packaging and recycling.

Growing concern over environmental issues – from climate change to plastic pollution – has triggered a wave of global student protests, piling pressure on policymakers and business leaders.

Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestle are the world’s biggest producers of plastic waste, according to a report last year from Greenpeace and the Break Free From Plastic movement. It analyzed 187,000 pieces of trash collected in 42 countries

Duncan Pollard, Nestle head of sustainability, said the company agreed about the need to reduce plastic use. “But we need to make sure the new packaging solutions are safe and that consumers accept them,” he told Reuters, adding it was too early to say plastic use had peaked.

Nestle has said it used 1.7 million tonnes of plastic packaging last year. Greenpeace said that was up 13 percent, but Pollard said Nestle had since changed the way it measured plastic use and the true rise was below 3 percent.

Last month, the European Parliament approved a law banning a wide range of single-use plastic items by 2021.

Nestle has vowed to make 100 percent of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025 and push the use of compostable and biodegradable materials polymers.

Greenpeace criticized Nestle’s promises as lacking transparency, clear targets and significant investment.

“Material substitution is a false solution,” Morgan said. “It will just shift the impact to the world’s forests and agricultural lands.”

Pollard said he didn’t share concerns about deforestation and thought the shift to paper would help tackle climate change. Nestle was also working on a new system of water dispensers.

Greenpeace on Wednesday launched a “plastic monster” video showing a fictional “Nestle Chief Plastics Officer” trying to buy a single-use plastic bottle of the company’s Pure Life water from a vending machine and having dead fish and slimy waste explode in his face instead.

The one-minute spot ends with the slogan “Tell Nestle to stop single-use plastic”.

editing by John Stonestreet

Article originally posted in Reuters.

 

The post Greenpeace calls for Nestle to act over single-use plastics appeared first on Break Free From Plastic.

What if we treated our oceans like they matter?

The seas provide half of our oxygen, and food for a billion people. Let’s give them the protection they deserve.

Under the restless surface of our seas, hundreds of miles from land, there’s a world of giants and hunters; ancient lifeforms and lost cities.

These waters beyond national borders are home to creatures even more varied than in the tropical rainforests. They contain the highest and longest mountain range anywhere on our planet, and trenches deep enough to hold Mount Everest. They’re the highways for whales, turtles, albatross and tuna on their cross-planet migrations.

Protecting these natural wonders is simply the right thing to do. But this isn’t just about conscience. It’s about survival.

The oceans produce half of our oxygen and food for a billion people. And because they soak up huge amounts of carbon dioxide, they’re also one of our best defences against climate change. Our fate is bound to the fate of our oceans. If they don’t make it, we don’t either.

Turtle and FAD in East Pacific Ocean © Alex Hofford / Greenpeace
Loggerhead turtle swimming around a fish aggregation device belonging to the Ecuadorean purse seiner ‘Ingalapagos’, in the vicinity of the northern Galapagos Islands. © Alex Hofford / Greenpeace

A rescue plan for our oceans

Now though, there’s a ray of hope. Scientists have drawn up a rescue plan for our oceans – and we’re going to throw everything we’ve got at making it happen.
Are you in?

The ocean rescue plan is bold and brilliantly simple: we cover the planet in ocean sanctuaries, putting a third of the oceans off-limits to fishing, mining and other destructive industries.

If the rescue plan goes ahead, it’ll be one of the biggest conservation efforts in human history, creating millions of square kilometres of new protected areas.

Here’s the problem: at the moment, there’s no way to create new sanctuaries outside countries’ national waters. We can’t protect these huge areas of the ocean without an international agreement on how this protection would work.

Governments have started work on a UN Ocean Treaty and if they get it right it’ll give us the tools we need to make these sanctuaries happen.

Krill fishing vessel in the Antarctic © Daniel Beltrá / Greenpeace
Krill fishing vessel in the Antarctic © Daniel Beltrá / Greenpeace

Join us on an epic voyage

The open oceans are some of the least studied – and least regulated – places on Earth, and to properly protect them we need to know more about what’s happening out there.

So this week, a team of scientists, photographers and campaigners is setting out on an epic journey from the North Pole to the South Pole to document a year in the life of our oceans and build the best possible case for a strong UN treaty.

Sailing on Greenpeace’s swiftest and largest ship, the Esperanza, they’ll be conducting crucial ocean research and protection – exposing the threats, peacefully confronting the villains and championing the solutions.

The team at sea needs as many people as possible on land to make sure their findings can’t be ignored. Will you join the campaign?

Walruses on ice floe at Kvitøya in Svalbard © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace
Walruses on ice floe at Kvitøya in Svalbard © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace

Ocean sanctuaries work

All over the world, wherever a proper ocean sanctuary is created, the results are dramatic. Habitats recover. The fish come back. Life finds a way.

But because sanctuaries work so well, the people who profit from dumping and plundering our seas are working hard to water down the treaty. It’s up to us to make sure nature and ordinary people have a voice in this too.

When we work together we can change the world. From stopping Shell’s oil drilling in the Arctic, to getting the world’s largest tuna company to clean up its act for people and the planet, we know how to stand up for our seas – and win.

But now it’s time to go even bigger. Over the next year, this mission will need all the courage, cunning and creativity we can find. But today, it just needs your name.

Sign the petition to get started.

The post What if we treated our oceans like they matter? appeared first on Greenpeace UK.