Communities across the UK are being urged to spread grass roots resistance to single-use plastic to reduce the millions of tonnes of it seeping into the oceans.
Local councils, schools and businesses will be targeted in the Plastic Free Coastlines campaign that aims to ape the movement to end the use of plastic bags.
In a film released today by Surfers Against Sewage, narrated by the actor Imelda Staunton, the scale of the plastic waste which coalesces in five major ocean circulation currents in the world is compared to a global nuclear security threat. The UN estimated this year there were 51tn microplastic particles in the ocean today – 500 times more than the number of stars in the galaxy.
Hugo Tagholm, from Surfers Against Sewage, said: “Plastic persists in the environment for hundreds of years – hence the nuclear comparison. The ‘fallout’ from single-use plastics today will most probably still be felt in 500 years. Whilst controversial, we think it’s a powerful metaphor for how plastics are attacking all of our environments. The sheer scale of plastic production is terrifying.”
The call to resist plastic use comes as new figures show more than 8.3bn tonnes of plastic has been produced since the 1950s – resulting in a “near permanent contamination of the natural environment”, according to a report by US academics.
In June, United Nations secretary general António Guterres called for a global step change to reduce plastic pollution in the marine environment, from local and national initiatives to an urgent, coordinated international effort.
“As individuals and communities, we’ve never had so many opportunities to respond,” said Tagholm.
“We are not powerless … we are calling on people to unite to tackle plastic pollution and #JoinTheResistance for Plastic Free Coastlines.”
Individuals are being asked to adopt a five point plan to help create single-use plastic free towns and cities.
The plan includes:
- urging local government to lead change within their areas,
- get at least three single-use plastic items, such as straws, plastic bottles or condiment sachets, removed from local businesses and replaced with sustainable alternatives
- get other organisations to adopt the plastic free message; from Scouts groups to churches and schools
- arrange community events, for example street or beach cleans and
- set up a steering group to coodinate the actions.
In north Wales, Aberystwyth town council will discuss a motion on Monday to reduce plastic in the area. Councillor Alun Williams has put forward a motion supporting the campaign and calling on the council to minimise the use of throwaway plastic by shops and vendors in the town.
Williams said: “One of the things we are looking at is trying to get the local traders to stop selling thowaway plastic in their takeaways – already some of them don’t have plastic but its a question of getting everyone on board.
“I hope and believe there will be a lot of support for this motion on Monday.”
Towns and cities who act to carry out the five point plan can become Plastic Free Coastlines certified areas – similar to the fair trade towns movement worldwide.