We will stop the plastic tide

Date posted: 13 June 2018

In less than three months over 26,000 signed our petition to the Governments of the UK and to pubs, supermarkets and fast food chains. Time to ditch single-use plastic items

Plastic tide billboard

From stark messaging on electronic billboards nationwide to cotton bud bans, proposals for a ‘latte levy’ and almost 3,000 mentions in the media, online and on social media, it really seems like our three-pronged appeal is doing the business. Back in November we asked you to back our #STOPThePlasticTide appeal. We launched the appeal to raise the issue of the rising tide of plastic pollution in our oceans.

We asked you to write to ministers to impose charges on single-use plastics and to the big fast food chains, pubs and bars to stop handing out disposable plastic items, and you did, in your thousands – more than 26,000, in fact – and you donated over £27,000. Momentum has been building ever since with numerous voices being raised. Last but not least that of Sir David Attenborough, with BBC’s unforgettable Blue Planet II series.

Ever since, it’s been a true avalanche of good news on this front. Supermarket chain Waitrose has announced that it is getting rid of hard to recycle black plastic packaging. Iceland (the supermarket, not the country) will cut out or dramatically reduce its own brand plastic packaging by 2023. Leading supermarkets have lent their support to deposit return schemes. And Blue Planet II inspired the corporation that made it to ban single-use plastic: the BBC announced it would remove all single- use plastic from its operations in three stages between now and 2020.

THINGS ARE LOOKING UP, LITERALLY Our message has been getting to a brand new audience too. Ocean Outdoor, one of the largest and brightest outdoor ad companies around – they own ‘the light’ in Piccadilly Circus – asked us to team up with them in an exciting campaign called ‘Ocean for Oceans’. We were given the chance to feature our campaigns on their billboards. At the end of January we started a two week stint showing a nine-second video, featuring the fantastic, eye catching graphics promoting our ‘Would you care more if it was you’.

Plastic tide billboard

These wonderful, arresting images were designed by design agency Daughter and shot by photographer Guy Farrow. For quite some time now we have all been shocked by the flow of images depicting animals injured or killed by plastic objects as insignificant as straws or cutlery, so we have decided to reproduce those images using human models, to bring the issue ‘closer to home’. People, we know all too well, tend to be selfish and still struggle to understand the damage, pain and injuries that plastic pollution causes to marine life.

Our campaign was everywhere, including Manchester Piccadilly station, Birmingham’s Bullring, Leicester Square in London, Westfield Shopping Centre at Stratford, heavy traffic roads around Bristol, Bath and Birmingham, Canary Wharf and East London plus many more. Ocean Outdoor estimated that some five million people would see the MCS #STOPThePlasticTide message in just two weeks! Never before have we been so visible, never before have you been so responsive. A simple thank you is just not enough.

Plastic tide billboard

THE POLITICS OF PLASTIC. NEXT STEPS Politicians are definitely listening now. In Westminster, the Environmental Audit Committee recommended a 25p ‘latte levy’ on throwaway coffee cups. In Scotland, where the fight against single-use plastic is one step ahead of the rest of the UK, a ban on plastic cotton bud sticks was announced and the Scottish Government has pledged to be rid of single-use plastic by 2030. But this is getting somewhat ‘personal’: several Cabinet members are now visibly carrying reusable cups after too many were spotted (and shamed publicly) with single-use ones.

Plastic was also mentioned in Theresa May’s 25 Year Plan, but the real chance to make a true, radical, long lasting change is about to materialise. The UK Government is about to launch a public consultation on a ‘plastic tax’. If successful, the tax (or levy or charge) will be introduced in this year’s budget. This is not about people’s or corporates’ goodwill anymore, we are looking at the possibility that single-use plastic items are treated like cigarettes or other harmful products.

We are, effectively, looking at the possibility to stop this problem at its source and file plastic straws, stirrers, lids, cups and cutlery among the stupid things we did… in ‘the past’. MCS will be engaging politicians, in all appropriate forums, to make sure that the ‘plastic tax’ becomes a reality. More campaigning to come. Stay tuned.

This article was written for our Spring 2018 membership magazine ‘Marine Conservation’. If you’d like to receive our fantastic quarterly magazine straight to your door, you can become a member from as little as £3.50 per month.

Actions you can take

  1. Join a beach clean
  2. Visit the beachwatch website
  3. Help stop the plastic tide
  4. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2019
  5. Organise a beach clean
  6. Help us stop the plastic tide

Did you know?…

On UK beaches levels of litter have doubled in the past 20 years

MCS launched its Beachwatch programme in 1994

Over time, one plastic bottle bobbing along in the ocean can break down in to hundreds of tiny plastic pieces

Why not join a beach clean ... or organise one?

To date, our beach clean volunteers have removed 6 million pieces of litter from our beaches and collected marine litter data to support our campaigns for cleaner seas and beaches.

Learn more and join a beach clean