Surfers Against Sewage take on plastic pollution

Environment News

Surfers Against Sewage’s top priority for 2017 is to counter the growing sea of plastic

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 23 January, 2017 – 2016 was a year of huge change and impressive impact. It was a year where Surfers Against Sewage brought together 20,000 volunteers to protect our coastline, delivering 110,000 hours of volunteering time, with a value of over £1 million to the health of our beaches.

The year also saw our network of Regional Reps grow, creating 125 local chapters to lead grassroots community conservation efforts across the whole of the UK, organising over 1,000 significant beach cleans and 700 education talks.

Surfers Against Sewage continues this year in their fight against Plastic Pollution.

Marine plastic pollution has sadly become synonymous with any coastal activity, from surfing to swimming, beach holidays to wildlife watching – it is simply an expected part of our experience. This is why marine plastic pollution, and specifically tackling society’s throwaway, excessive or unnecessary plastics, is now Surfers Against Sewage’s top priority.

Plastic pollution is an issue that connects the environment with all parts of society, and is something that we can take action on at every level. Indeed, it will only be through concerted collective action that we will be able to create the paradigm shift that is needed to stop the flood of plastic pollution washing over our world. It’s time that we re-wild our tidelines, restoring the natural mix of driftwood, cuttlefish bones and seashells rather than plastic bags, drinks bottles and wet wipes. 

A plastic free coastline will need a radical and progressive plastics industry, which rewards design innovation to eliminate throwaway plastic packaging and components, and one that supports new systems to trap plastic in the economy rather than the environment.

Marine plastic pollution is a symptom of ever-increasing corporate expansion and profit, which is yet to be fully accountable for the entire lifecycle of the products and packaging it manufactures.

This year we will urge businesses to dramatically reduce their plastic footprint by rethinking and innovating sustainable design, reuse, recycling and delivery systems. We will also be supporting and connecting communities in reducing their own plastic footprint, eliminating throwaway plastics. After all, we can’t tackle the plastic pollution problem with end of pipe solutions alone.

Whilst we will continue to redouble our community efforts through initiatives such as the #BeachCleanBox and our increasingly popular community beach clean movement (Big Spring Beach Clean, Autumn Beach Clean and #MiniBeachClean), we will focus even more energy on preventing plastics from getting into the ocean in the first place.

This will be done through a new SAS project called Plastic Free Coastlines; a campaign and grassroots movement to engage and connect individuals, communities and businesses in the collective effort to reduce the flow of single use plastics into the marine environment. Plastic Free Coastlines is a positive vision that our whole community can share and work towards together.

We will continue to advocate and deliver strong and progressive plastics policies and projects. Campaigning to eliminate unnecessary, throwaway plastic products. Calling for financial incentives to increase reuse and recycling. Urging business to design out waste. Collaborating with progressive businesses and NGOs brave enough to challenge plastic pollution and develop innovative new solutions. We will also continue to inspire, mobilise and connect a movement of tens of thousands of volunteers taking direct action to remove plastic from our beaches.

We already have our next campaign target – plastics drinks bottle and containers. Our Message In A Bottle campaign calls for a comprehensive one-way deposit return system in the UK. This will see a small deposit added to the purchase cost of various products, which can be redeemed on the return of the container.  It is a system that is proven to work in a number of countries, and one that places only a relatively small cost to business to introduce. 

Studies show that one-way deposit return systems not only reduce littering but they also dramatically increase recycling rates, create high-value jobs and save local authorities money through reduced cleansing and refuse collection costs. A deposit return system for the UK is the logical, effective and powerful next step in turning the tide on the marine plastic pollution crisis. With 38.5 million plastic bottles and 59 million cans being consumed every day in the UK, the need and urgency for more radical recycling and reuse action is growing by the day.

We are delighted to be a founding member of the global #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement and Plastics Movement Alignment Process, which bring together hundreds of NGOs creating solutions to plastic pollution around the world. It’s encouraging to see this movement gaining such pace and profile.

Perhaps, most importantly we can use our Waves All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) to bring together fellow NGOs, charities, campaigners and experts to urge politicians to explore and introduce the strongest possible policies to stop ‘plastic emissions’ into the environment.

It’s crucial that governments adopt new policies and legislation to accelerate this process at the necessary pace to stop our oceans succumbing to plastics. The chair of the Waves APPG, Steve Double MP, recently raised the important issue of deposit return systems with the Secretary of State for the Environment and we welcome the government’s proposal to set up an innovation fund to explore the development of a UK deposit systems to dramatically increase plastic bottle recycling rates and prevent this ‘throwaway’ plastic from polluting the marine and terrestrial environments.