Surfers Against Sewage calls for volunteers as it prepares to ‘Mass Unwrap’ the UK

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

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Published: 21 December 2019

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod

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Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) is asking communities to make a stand against pointless plastic packaging as it launches the UK’s biggest ever Mass Unwrap.

Volunteers across the country can get involved by organising an event or taking part as shoppers, to hand avoidable plastic straight back to the supermarkets.

Family-friendly action on plastic

Mass Unwraps are awesome, fun and high-impact actions that show the sheer scale of plastic packaging used by supermarkets. They put pressure on supermarkets, from community level, to change.

The non-confrontational and family-friendly events are a unique opportunity for us as consumers to be able to raise awareness of excess packaging, and they’re a great way to visually call out the problem.

After the success of the 2019 National Mass Unwrap, involving SAS Plastic Free Community Leads, SAS are now rolling the event out so anyone, wherever they live and whoever they are, can take part and get food naked.

Plastic packaging in supermarkets

To kickstart this new wave of action, a week-long National Mass Unwrap will be held between 22 February and 01 March 2020.

Research shows that 59 billion pieces of plastic packaging are distributed by the supermarkets every year, that’s 112 thousand pieces each minute!

The total plastic packaging used by the UK’s biggest supermarkets rose from an estimated 886,000 tonnes in 2017 to 903,000 tonnes in 2018.

In 2019 SAS Mass Unwrap events collected up to nine pieces of unwanted plastic a minute. 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.

Mass Unwraps are not designed to cause disruption to supermarket staff, but instead raise awareness and gather unwanted plastic as shoppers leave the store. This year volunteers will also gather evidence of shoppers’ top Pointless Plastic Peeves.

Call for solutions from supermarkets

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.

‘All the main supermarkets have made pledges to cut single-use plastic and many are on track to hit initial aims, such as banning black plastic, by 2020.

‘But we are all still faced with a sea of avoidable, throwaway plastic every time we enter a store, from shrink wrapped coconuts to plastic toy giveaways.

‘Mass Unwrap is a chance for customers and their communities to send a strong message to supermarket bosses that more change is needed – and faster.’

RACHEL YATES
SAS Plastic Free Communities project officer

Surfers Against Sewage is calling for supermarkets to be part of the solution and calls for them to cut out avoidable single-use plastic and redesign packaging; implement refill solutions; use recycled content and stop using virgin plastic and take responsibility and invest in proven systems technology such as an ‘all in’ deposit return schemes for drinks containers.

‘Retailers have a massive part to play in stemming the flow of single use plastic and pointless packaging. Our supermarkets in particular can be hugely influential both in their own brand products and by putting pressure on their supply chains.

‘This year, we have seen some great commitments made and now it’s time for action to be taken. It’s critical that commitments result in a real reduction in the amount of plastic packing used and more refill solutions being put in place, not just focused on recycling.

‘This year, by taking part in a Mass Unwrap, you can help highlight where action is still needed to reduce packaging in our supermarkets by collecting your ‘Pointless Plastic Peeves’.’

AMY SLACK
SAS project manager

Take part in the Mass Unwrap

You can get involved with the Mass Unwrap as an organiser, by setting up your own Mass Unwrap event, or as a shopper. Simply shop as normal during the event, pay and smile at the tills, then look for a volunteer who will help you remove unnecessary plastic packaging and take part in the SAS Citizen Science project.

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. It is now active in more than 650 communities across the UK.

Click here to read our article about poor plastics progress in supermarkets.

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