Surfers Against Sewage calls for communities to ‘Mass Unwrap’ the UK

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

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Published: 22 February 2020

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

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Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) is calling on communities to make a stand against pointless plastic packaging during a nationwide Mass Unwrap.

Volunteers across the country have been organising events to help shoppers hand avoidable plastic straight back to the supermarkets.

This year’s action will also gather evidence of customers’ top plastic pet-hates, which will be fed back to government and industry alongside a call for action.

Family-friendly events

Mass Unwraps are fun events with a high impact; they reveal the scale of plastic packaging used by supermarkets and increase community pressure for change.

The non-confrontational and family-friendly events are not designed to be disruptive, but pose a unique opportunity for consumers to be able to raise awareness of excess packaging and visually call out the problem.

Plastic in the UK

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’s estimated less than 10% of the plastic packaging could be recycled.

Community action

In the UK the burden of plastic waste is put onto consumers, taxpayers and ultimately the environment, as businesses contribute just 10% of the end-of-life disposal costs of their product and packaging.

In 2020 Surfers Against Sewage is increasing the impact of Mass Unwrap and drawing on grassroots community action to help inform its campaigns to stop plastic pollution at source.

‘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 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

Tackling plastic pollution

One of the marine conservation charity’s goals is to stop plastic pollution on UK beaches by 2030, and a defining moment in achieving this has to be a robust and effective Environment Bill.

As the Bill gets its second reading in parliament, the charity is calling for more emphasis on the reduction of packaging waste, rather than a focus on recycling and single-use product innovation.

‘As we exit the EU, we have the opportunity to put in place ambitious and world leading environmental legislation. We must insure that we put in place policy that focuses on the reduction of plastic packaging that truly tackles the scourge of plastic pollution.’

AMY SLACK
SAS campaigns and policy manager

Plastic: have your say

After the success of the 2019 National Mass Unwrap launch involving SAS Plastic Free Community leads, SAS has rolled the event out so anyone can take part, wherever they live.

To kick-start this new wave of community action, a week-long National Mass Unwrap is being held 22 February-01 March 2020.

‘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.

‘By taking part in a Mass Unwrap, you can help highlight where action is still needed to reduce packaging in our supermarkets by telling us your Pointless Plastic Pet Hates and helping us call for #LessPlasticPlease.’

AMY SLACK
SAS campaigns and policy manager

Shoppers will also be able to take part in a citizen science survey on what they think are the top pointless plastic items in supermarkets, calling for #LessPlasticPlease and contributing evidence to SAS campaigns.

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