Revolutionary: Zlarin becomes the first Croatian plastic-free island!

Article from #breakfreefromplastic group Zelena Akcija.

Motivated by the European Single Use Plastic Directive, a group of local activists from the island of Zlarin in Croatia had an idea of Zlarin becoming an island free from single-use plastic. They won a contest for the most innovative solutions that will help prevent further plastic pollution entering the Adriatic Sea. Then, a few months later, the vision started becoming a reality when all shops, restaurants, NGOs and local authorities signed the declaration to replace disposable plastic with more environmentally friendly solutions to contribute to stopping plastic pollution.

The Zero Waste Croatia Network that collects and supports best practices in Croatia congratulates the island of Zlarin and all those engaged in this significant success.

“As a member of international Break Free From Plastic movement we congratulate the island of Zlarin! We have worked to get strong and motivating EU legislation to stop plastic pollution, and soon after that we already have concrete results here in Croatia. Zlarin is the first, and hopefully many other islands and municipalities will follow!”, says Marko Košak, coordinator of the Zero Waste Croatia Network, member of global Break Free From Plastic movement.

“Our goal isn’t to simply replace all single use plastic items with another single use items made of more environmental friendly materials. Our goal is to once again start using reusable items – going shopping with canvas bags, using glass instead of plastic bottles, using tap water instead of bottled water at events etc. Plastic cups and cutlery will be replaced by more sustainable solutions and straws will be completely phased out”, says Ana Elizabeta Robb from Zlarin, one of the initiators of this successful project.

After this crucial step, Zlarin won’t stop.

“We already had meeting with local activists and have planned the next actions to improve quality of life on the island. The Croatian Ministry of Environment doesn’t do much to stop plastic pollution, so we are applying pressure from bottom up. With our zero waste municipalities and plastic-free islands like Zlarin we are on the right track to transform our society and environment to be a better place for living“, concludes Marko Košak.

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Campaigner swims 26k from Snowdon to the sea collecting plastic pollution evidence

Surfers Against Sewage Regional Representative for Snowdonia Laura Sanderson collects plastic pollution and other waste during her swim, Saturday, April 6, 2019. PA photo: Rui Vieira

Surfers Against Sewage Regional Representative for Snowdonia Laura Sanderson is highlighting the issue of plastic pollution in rivers by swimming the Afon Glaslyn in Snowdonia from source to sea at Beddgelert Village, Wales, Saturday.

Laura is joining community organised river cleans along the swim route and collecting water samples throughout the swim to be tested for micro plastic at a laboratory at Bangor University during the swim between 6-16th April.

Surfers Against Sewage is calling for a giant wave of volunteers from across the UK with aims of over 30,000 volunteers taking to our 615 community organised beaches, mountains, streets and waterways to keep them clear of plastic. 


Surfers Against Sewage Regional Representative for Snowdonia Laura Sanderson collects plastic debris and other waste  PA photo: Rui Vieira

Surfers Against Sewage Regional Representative for Snowdonia Laura Sanderson will be collecting plastic and other debris and waste to highlight the issue of plastic pollution in rivers by swimming the Afon Glaslyn in Snowdonia from source to sea.

The aim of the swim is to track levels of plastic pollution from source to sea by collecting water samples throughout the swim to be tested at a laboratory at Bangor University.

Find your nearest Surfers Against Sewage clean:

The journey is part of Surfers Against Sewage’s Big Spring Beach Clean: Summit to Sea, which this year includes 615 cleans nationwide on mountain, rivers and beaches. It involves swimming the 26km stretch of river from the highest point Llyn Glaslyn on Snowdon, down to the sea.

Laura started the swim at 5.30 am on Saturday 6th April from the snowy top of Snowdon and joined a community clean in the village of Beddgelert on the first day.  On Sunday 7th April Laura joined Plastic Free Porthmadog on a clean up.

Laura Sanderson said “Swimming in rivers, lakes and seas enables an unrivalled closeness to watery environments. The chance to swim from summit to sea is exciting as we will meet communities along the journey who support cleaning up plastic pollution, and we will also be tracking the levels of plastic in the river for the first time to help give us more information on the scale of the plastic crisis impacting precious river life”

Surfers Against Sewage Regional Representative for Snowdonia Laura Sanderson prepares brown bottle used to test microplastics, Saturday, April 6, 2019. PA photo: Rui Vieira

Dr Christian Dunn is Associate Director of the Bangor Wetlands Group at Bangor University and the Surfers Against Sewage representative for Chester and said: “This research will give us a greater understanding of levels of microplastics through a water catchment system. It is very worrying to discover microplastics are present in even the most remote river sites and quite depressing they are in some of our country’s most iconic locations”.

The swim, taking place between 6th-16th April, will include local community cleans along the journey. Lakes and rivers become contaminated when plastic rubbish blows into them and, over time, is broken down into smaller microparticles. Along the route Laura will be collecting plastic and debris that has entered the waterways as well as carrying out a river community clean up as swimmers pass through the villages of Beddgelert and Porthmadog. The aim of the swim is to track levels of plastic pollution from source to sea collecting water samples throughout the swim to be tested at the laboratory at Bangor University.

Surfers Against Sewage Regional Representative for Snowdonia Laura Sanderson, with Ruth Bulleyment, and Dannielle Hicks collect plastic pollution whilst swimming the Afon Glaslyn in Snowdonia from source to sea, Saturday, April 6, 2019. PA photo: Rui Vieira

Surfers Against Sewage is calling for a giant wave of volunteers from across the UK with aims of over 30,000 volunteers taking to our beaches, mountains, streets and waterways to keep them clear of plastic.

Jack Middleton, Community Manager at Surfers Against Sewage said “The swim by Laura is amazing, it will encourage people to join river cleans along the journey and also provide crucial data on the scale of the plastic crisis in our rivers here in the UK.”

The Big Spring Beach Clean has been made possible with the kind support from the Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation (IFCF) and the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.

Find your nearest Surfers Against Sewage clean:

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Surfers Against Sewage Calls For Giant Wave of Volunteers To Join Its Biggest Ever UK Spring Clean, From Summit To Sea!

  •  Urgent call for volunteers to join more than 600 mountain, river and beach cleans across the UK between April 6-14.
  • Surfers Against Sewage Reps across the UK warn of the scale of the plastic crisis in the aftermath of Storm Gareth.
  • Growing awareness of the plastic crisis and the “the Attenborough effect” has led to this being the biggest year of cleans ever.
  • Volunteers will track the brands they find during the cleans as part of a UK wide Plastic Pollution Brand Audit to share with government and industry.

Find your nearest clean:

Emily Whitfield-Wicks/PA Wire

Across the week of the 6th to the 14th of April, Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) is organising its biggest ever Big Spring Beach Clean. Encompassing the full Summit to Sea message, SAS has over 600 events taking place from mountain tops to rivers and beachfronts across the UK.

SAS is now calling for a giant wave of volunteers from across the UK with aims of over 30,000 volunteers taking to our beaches, mountains, streets and waterways to keep them clear of plastic.

With the effects of Storm Gareth being felt nationwide, SAS hopes this united front created by armies of volunteers will be able to urgently remove tonnes of plastic pollution and waste from our environment.

The clean locations include:

  • Most Northerly – Skara Brae, Orkney
  • Most Southerly – Le Braye, Jersey
  • Most Easterly – Lowestoft, East Anglia
  • Most Westerly – Enniskillen Island, Northern Ireland
  • Most Rural – Arnol, Outer Hebrides
  • Most Urban – Royal Docks, London
  • Most Daring – Surfers Against Sewage Rep Laura Sanderson will be swimming the 26kmn Afon Glaslyn in Snowdonia from the highest point Llyn Glaslyn on Snowdon, down to the sea. Laura will be collecting plastic and water samples throughout the swim to be tested at the laboratory at Bangor University where the research will give us a greater understanding of levels of microplastics through a water catchment system.

Hugo Tagholm, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage said “We are just emerging from a series of heavy storms battering the UK, including Storm Gareth a few weeks back. We have to mobilise as many people as possible to take action in the face of this plastic crisis, right across the UK, from summit to sea. Collectively we can all make a difference”

Hugo continued: “This is our biggest beach clean ever, and we’re seeing higher numbers of people than ever engaging in plastic pollution campaigns and wanting to take action due to the Attenborough effect and the awful scenes on television and in our newspapers”


Find your nearest clean:

As part of the cleans this year, Surfers Against Sewage is asking volunteers to track the brands they are finding during the cleans as part of a UK-wide Plastic Pollution Brand Audit, aimed at identifying the big businesses most responsible for plastic pollution around the UK.

Almost a decade ago, Surfers Against Sewage conducted an award-winning Plastic Pollution Brand Survey that revealed that the majority of all beach pollution (56%) was attributable to just twelve corporations, dubbed the ‘Dirty Dozen’. This included Nestle, Coca Cola, Walkers Snacks / Frito Lays, Kraft, Tesco, Mars, Unilever, PepsiCo, United Biscuits, Carlsberg, Co-Op and Asda.

Surfers Against Sewage is calling for volunteers to track the brands found on the cleans. Photo Emily Whitfield-Wicks/PA Wire

Ten years later, SAS is updating the survey to find out what has changed and will use the data to inform the UK Government’s current consultation on plastics.

Hugo Tagholm said “Every single piece of plastic we intercept is a victory for our oceans and environment, but it is vital that we concentrate on stopping pollution at source and challenge the systems responsible for its production. The evidence gathered by volunteers across the UK will be used to send a direct message to big businesses and those in power that we need to make tangible changes.”

The Big Spring Beach Clean has been made possible with the kind support from the Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation (IFCF)

Find your nearest clean:


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On the Frontlines of the Plastics Fight on the Texas Gulf Coast

Diane Wilson, San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper and fourth generation Mid-Texas gulf coast shrimper, is keeping busy fighting Formosa Plastic Corporation’s pollution. She and an engaged community of activists are protesting Formosa’s continued release of plastic pellets and powder into Lacava Bay which threatens wildlife, human health, and the fishing and shrimping industries so essential to their livelihoods.




Plastic pollution in Lacava Bay, Texas.


The situation is further complicated by the mercury Superfund site also in Lacava Bay because plastic absorbs and collects other toxins such as mercury.

Diane and San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper’s allies include local and statewide Vietnamese-American activists who’ve witnessed Formosa’s toxic pollution in both Texas and Vietnam, activists from St. James Parish “cancer alley” in Louisiana and the site of Formosa Plastics’ proposed expansion, and partners at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Last week San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper released of a 151-page document outlining the citizens’ suit against Formosa. Then last weekend Diane’s allies organized an action on kayaks and rally by the Formosa plant, and on Monday morning, they organized a press conference and rally by the courthouse where the citizens’ suit is now being argued. Diane spoke at the rally and gave tours of the creek where plastic pellets and powder have been discharged.

Local and statewide activists speak at last Saturday’s rally.

Diane and San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper do not seek money for themselves; they seek damages of $184 million from Formosa to be paid to the federal government. Their collective ask of Formosa is simple: stop the discharge of plastic powder and pellets into their bay and remediate the accumulated pollution and its detrimental health impacts to ecosystem and human health. Texas RioGrande Legal Aid is representing her in court.

Diane has been fighting Formosa’s pollution for 30 years, but in the last three and a half years she began taking daily pellet and powder samples from the water and fastidiously documenting photo and videos of the pollution. She was helped by her Lacava Bay allies and supporters, including several former Formosa employees and citizens whose health has been threatened by their pollution. Together they built a robust backlog of evidence and began organizing for legal action.

Diane stands behind years’ worth of evidence of plastic pollution.

A historical lack of accountability and enforcement by state and federal agencies has allowed Formosa to continue polluting without consequence. In 2017, when pressure from Diane and San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper mounted, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) launched an investigation and charged Formosa a small fine for their unlawful discharges. TCEQ finally issued the fine in January 2019, but it lacked a requirement to halt pollution, and Formosa has not let up their illegal discharges of plastic pellets and powder.

The global plastics problem is complicated and growing; at current rates of plastic pollution, plastic in the ocean will outweigh fish by 2050. There’s a plastic island twice the size of texas in the Pacific Ocean. Researchers in the Philippines recently discovered a dying whale, it’s belly completely stuffed with 88 pounds of plastic. Scientists found microplastics and microfibers inside of the fish we eat and it’s clear that the plastic chemicals stunt fishes’ growth and affect reproductive capabilities. The effect on human health is not yet fully understood, but scientists know that microplastics degrade into nanoplastics as small as cells, and these are undoubtedly accumulating in our bodies. Meanwhile, only 9 percent of plastic gets recycled worldwide, and the U.S. faces a dilemma now that China’s stopped purchasing our trash.

Plastic pellets in Lacava Bay

Yet corporations like Formosa are ramping up plastic production; reports estimate investments of $65 billion in plastics generally in the United States. Projects such as Formosa’s proposed expansion in Louisiana actually receive tax incentives despite the well-documented burden of pollution on citizens. The plastic industry, like the fossil fuel industry, has undue influence on our laws; while several cities and some states have adopted plastic bag bans, plastics-funded legislators in many more are pushing pre-emption bans that prevent cities from banning single-use plastics. Texas is one such state with a “ban-on-bans.” Formosa Plastic is also in a political and marketing alliance with organizations that are fighting the plastic bans.

The citizens’ suit against Formosa Plastic Corporation continues. Diane and San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper’s fight against Formosa Plastics is far from over, but in battling plastic pollution at the site of production, Diane, San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper and her community reveal the power of citizen science and grassroots action and provide a model for challenging the plastic industry everywhere.

Feature image of Diane Wilson, San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper, protests Formosa Plastic Corporation. All photos provided by Diane Wilson, San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper, and Steve Jones, Media Specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Article originally appeared in Waterkeeper.


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Australia faces deepening recycling crisis as India bans plastic waste imports

Australia’s waste crisis is set to escalate, with India this month completely banning plastic waste imports a year after China’s drastic restrictions sent shockwaves through the recycling industry.

India was the fourth-largest destination for Australia’s waste in December 2018, taking 13 per cent of its total waste exports.

The Australian Council of Recycling has warned that with Asian markets closing down and some councils already sending their kerbside recycling to landfill, recycling was “greatly under threat”.

“We are back to where we started with the China crisis, but worse because we have fewer alternative markets,” the council’s chief executive Peter Shmigel said.

It led to the hazardous stockpiling of recyclable material, while rubbish collectors scrambled to find alternative overseas markets.

Countries including India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia offset the decline in waste exports to China by taking more of Australia’s recyclable rubbish.

Overall, Australia’s waste exports actually increased by 5 per cent last financial year.


A dangerous stockpile of recycling material at a site operated by SKM Services in Melbourne's north in February this year.
A dangerous stockpile of recycling material at a site operated by SKM Services in Melbourne’s north in February this year.CREDIT:JASON SOUTH 

But an analysis of Australia’s waste exports commissioned by the Department of the Environment and Energy warned several other Asian countries were reviewing their policies.

It said Malaysia and Thailand had since announced a ban on plastic waste imports by 2021 and others were taking immediate action to tighten controls on imports.

“If Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand enacted waste import bans similar to China’s, Australia would need to find substitute domestic or export markets for approximately 1.29 million tonnes (or $530 million) of waste a year, based on 2017-18 export amounts,” the analysis says.

Where Australia's waste went

Where Australia’s waste went


A member of the Kuala Langat environment NGO picks up plastic waste at a shuttered illegal plastic recycling factory in Jenjarom.

A member of the Kuala Langat environment NGO picks up plastic waste at a shuttered illegal plastic recycling factory in Jenjarom. CREDIT:AMILIA ROSA

India is the latest country to slam its doors on the world’s waste, with the country completely prohibiting the import of solid plastic waste on March 1.

Waste and recycling groups have called on state and federal governments to urgently invest in the recycling industry in Australia, rather than exporting waste overseas.

“We call for a meaningful proportion of the $1.5 billion that’s raised by state governments through hidden waste disposal levies, or currently allocated by the federal government to initiatives that don’t produce regional jobs like we do, to be spent on recycling infrastructure,” Mr Shmigel said.

Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia CEO Gayle Sloan said there was no excuse for the lack of tangible government action more than 12 months after China’s ban on poor-quality recycling material began, particularly given environment ministers had met twice.

The state and federal governments had been poised to release six national targets to reduce waste late last year as part of a new National Waste Policy.

But talks broke down with the states, which refused to endorse the targets because the policy failed to specify how they would be achieved.

China's ban on the importation of lower-grade waste has hit Australia hard.

China’s ban on the importation of lower-grade waste has hit Australia hard.CREDIT:ROBERT PEARCE

Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald it was disappointing the states did not agree to the targets considering the significant amount of work that had been undertaken.

However, she said officials had since met twice to draft “targets, actions and milestones” for a “national action plan” based on priorities such as reducing plastic pollution and increasing demand for recycled materials through procurement.

Illustration: Matt Golding

Illustration: Matt Golding

The department was also consulting with industry, she said.

Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson recently asked in a budget estimates hearing how much funding had been committed to implementing the national waste policy.

He was told the national action plan would guide decisions on future funding commitments.

“The federal government has spent nothing to implement the National Waste Policy,” he said.

“The recycling industry is at a fork in the road. If we are to save the industry we have to reboot recycling and change the way we consume. But the federal government just won’t take the crisis seriously.”

Article originally posted in SMH.


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Nestlé: slay the plastic monster you created

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.

The post Nestlé: slay the plastic monster you created appeared first on Greenpeace UK.

SAS Big Spring Beach Clean Set to Climb Mountains in Bid to Stop Plastic Entering the Sea

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 new inland-based mission follows the announcement of support from the Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation, which has joined SAS in a two-year partnership to grow the ‘Plastic Free Communities’ movement across the UK – mobilising 100,000 community volunteers to work together.

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

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Shocking Volume of Unnecessary Plastic Revealed in the UK’s First Ever Nationwide Mass Unwrap


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:

  1. Cut out avoidable single-use plastic and redesign packaging
  2. Use recycled content & stop using virgin plastic
  3. 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.”

For more information on Plastic Free Communities click here:

Credit: Matt Alexander/AP


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Tyranny of the Minority Slows International Progress on Addressing Plastic Pollution


March 15, 2019

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.”


Media Inquiries:

Amanda Kistler, (Nairobi) WhatsApp +1 339 225 1623,

Jane Patton, (Nairobi) WhatsApp +1 (225) 266-5534,

Jed Alegado, (Philippines) WhatsApp +63 917 607 0248,

Background for editors:

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.



The post Tyranny of the Minority Slows International Progress on Addressing Plastic Pollution appeared first on Break Free From Plastic.

Non-recyclable milk bottles banished from plastic free schools

Old plastic milk bottle on beach

Plastic milk bottle pollution – (C) iStock


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!


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.

Single-use Plastic Success

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!

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!

Learn more about the programme and register your school TODAY.

Thank you to each and every student across the UK who is working tirelessly to protect our oceans from the scourge of single-use plastic pollution.


The post Non-recyclable milk bottles banished from plastic free schools appeared first on Surfers Against Sewage.