National Refill Day

Today, 19th June, marks National Refill Day, a day set up by City To Sea, encouraging us all to switch from single-use plastic bottled water and instead invest in a reusable water bottle and refill. There has been some interesting stats thrown out by the BBCs documentary War On Plastic, where Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall also launched his #refillontheroad campaign to encourage petrol stations to install refill points across the UK.

Disappointingly, despite our increased awareness of the damage being caused by plastic pollution bottled water sales saw an increase of 7% last year with the industry currently worth 2.4 billion pounds in the UK alone. In the UK we buy more than 35 million bottles a day with 16 million of those being discarded every single day, not recycled but instead sent to landfill, incineration or littered.

During the first episode of War On Plastic scientific data revealed that there is no evidence that bottled water is any better for you than the clean tap water freely available, with tests showing similar and in some cases better mineral levels (such as Calcium and Magnesium) in tap water. ReFill reports that 30% of us are drinking bottled water at home, where we have access to safe and just as good water from our taps. Tap water also fairs better with regards to contamination to microplastics with reports showing 93% of bottled water tested showed contamination compared to 72% of tap water in Europe.

Thanks to the great ReFill campaign by City To Sea topping up on water while out and about has never been easier with their app showing registered refill points across the UK, with there currently being over 20,000 refill stations with over 100,000 people using the app. ReFill estimates that if 1 in 10 Brits refilled just once a week 340 million water bottles would be saved from use in a year.

Use this National Refill Day to break free from bottled water. Invest in a reusable water bottle, there are a range available in the shops, from entry price point basic bottles to more advanced insulated bottles that help keep cool water cold and even bottles with filters if you prefer a filtered water taste. If you’re a sparkling water fan take a look at soda streams so you can create and bottle your own fizzy water at home. And if you’re already a converted refiller maybe use the day to campaign for more refill points, helping Hughs campaign to get petrol stations involved too or encourage friends and family to do the same!

More info on ReFill and App

More info on City To Sea

To find BBCs War On Plastic

For more info on microplastics in water

Use ECOSIA to search for water bottles and plant trees at the same time! Or come to the van, we have insulated 500ml bottles from Qwetch

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The people looking for a solution to plastic pollution

Over the past two weeks Kathi Heusel and Bart Delember, creators of the first global online summit A Solution to Plastic Pollution, have released a series of interviews with people from all over the globe concerned with plastic pollution and what they are doing about it. We’ve put together a little summary of our key takeaways from the interviews which have been very inspiring, from seeing 9 year old Ryan Hickman set up his own recycling company to hearing all about ‘Action Nan’ Pat Smith and her campaigns against plastic waste. Be sure to check out the links throughout, there are some super informative and inspiring Ted Talks!

Dianna Cohen, CEO and Co-founder of Plastic Pollution Coalition, a Californian based non-profit organisation which is active worldwide. Since its beginnings in 2009 PPC has been on a mission to stop plastic pollution and raise awareness of its toxic impact. They have 800 organisations and businesses signed up from all around the world creating a global movement towards reducing plastic pollution. Dianna believes we need a massive systems shift and that we are passing the tipping point where companies are now realising that if they want to be leaders they have to change their ways and attitudes towards plastics. She wants businesses to make major system changes, see extended plastic producer responsibility and emphases the need to create circular models, where we mimic nature in not creating waste.

Dianna points out that we are finding plastic everywhere, it is a total disaster and we’ve caused an amazing amount of damage in 50 years. She highlights the Ellen McCarthur Foundation study that found with the current rate of plastic production and projected growth, by weight we will have more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. She also highlights the recent issue of recycling rates and how it has been projected that the already low recycling rate of 9% for all plastic in the USA will drop to 2.6% with China no longer taking recycling from the states.

Dianna herself also creates visual art with plastic. She has always enjoyed making things and sees art as a form of communication and believes that communication is important in creating awareness of the plastics issue. She started working with plastics in the early 90s, learning a lot about the material through working with it. Seeing how her art aged she also became aware of how it broke down and the issue of micro-plastics. She remembers the shift to plastics in the 70s and 80s with marketing being around saving natural resources. As an active diver and surfer she saw first hand the effects of plastic in remote and marine protected areas. She points out that plastic knows no boundaries and this is an urgent global crisis we are faced with. She encourages people to take a few steps towards reducing their single-use plastic use.

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Taylor Leigh Cannizzaro, Chief Alliance Officer at Plastic Bank, an economic development firm on a mission to stop ocean plastic and reduce poverty. Set up in 2013 looking to tackle the issue of how we disregard the value of plastic and waste. They operate in areas of extreme poverty, understanding that relieving poverty is a key part of the solution to plastic pollution. They create a waste management system where local people can earn a living by collecting plastic waste. Plastic Bank then process the plastic in location and sell on to various companies looking to invest in recycled plastic. They believe there is no need to produce new plastic, with 8.3 trillion kilos of plastic on Earth, they believe we need to do something with this and as founder David Katz says ‘ turn off the tap’. They believe the key to solving plastic pollution is to create a working infrastructure for collection of plastic waste, invest in circular systems and ideally look for in country bottle to bottle solutions, creating a never ending loop.

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Melati Wijsen, inspirational 12 year who set up Bye Bye Plastic Bags in 2013 together with her sister and school friends to campaign for the ban of plastic bags in Bali. Describing herself as a 'change maker’ Malati had seen first hand the negative impacts of plastic and having learnt that 40 other countries had already banned plastic bags set off on a mission to do the same in Bali. She talks about the importance of team and working together. Through Bye Bye Plastic Bags she brought people together and collaborated with businesses and government to achieve the ban in 2018. She emphasised how every single choice and decision creates an impact and that in tackling a problem you need to inform yourself, do research and ask questions. Bye Bye Plastic Bags has spread to 29 countries, with Malati positive about the future of plastic pollution believing we live in a time of possibility, where we get to decide but we need to act now.

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Susan Kim-Chomicka is co-founder and CEO of Handerek Technologies, who turn plastic waste into fuel. They focus on waste that can’t be mechanically recycled and chemically recycle it instead. In a process that uses no water, creates no emissions and uses little outside energy they produce 1 litre of fuel for every kilogram of waste recycled. They believe they are creating a commercial, self-sustaining solution, where waste is processed and used in location, and are hoping to create an industrial scale solution to really make a difference. Susan explains how they know they are still producing a petrochemical product but the carbon footprint of this fuel is considerably less than virgin extraction. Through their chemical recycling they are creating better energy than seen via incineration where the energy conversion is low.

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Natalie Fee, founder of ReFill and City to Sea, became concerned about plastic pollution after watching Chris Jordans film Albatross. She believes we have power as citizens and consumers to act on plastic pollution.

The ReFill campaign began in 2015 when Natalie learnt that in the UK alone 16 million bottles are discarded a day, that’s 16 million not recycled but instead sent to landfill, incineration or littered. In 2016 an app was developed and there are now over 16000 refill stations with 100,000 people having downloaded the app.

Through City to Sea Natalie has launched a number of campaigns tackling plastic pollution. There has been ‘Switch the Stick’ petitioning to stop plastic cotton buds, ‘Bog Standard’ promoting positive toilet behaviour to stop ‘unflushables’ going down the loo and ‘Plastic-free Periods’ highlighting plastic in menstrual products.

Natalie believes we need a break-free from plastic movement, refusing and reusing, switching from a disposable to a reusable society. She has seen how actions do make a difference and how all small steps add up. We need to challenge industry to change their investment in plastic and we can use our power as a citizen and consumer to do this.

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Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff began her blog Mommy Greenest in 2008. She uses her blog as a way to share information. She advises to try to stop using so much plastic, investigate waste management systems, look to stay informed of new legislations and to let your local mp/councillor know what you support to get wider government action.

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Jo Ruxton created A Plastic Ocean to talk about the issue of plastic pollution in our oceans. As a lover of the ocean, a diver and having been involved in ocean documentaries such as Blue Planet she had seen a lot of changes in our oceans and felt that the original Blue Planet series didn’t show the true picture of what was going on. Together with the film she also set up charity Plastic Oceans who produce evidence based, scientific reports to educate on the plastics issue.

She believes the biggest solution is understanding and behaviour change. Moving away from our wasteful habits and getting rid of disposable single-use items. She advises looking at our own plastic footprint and asking if you really need it, start with changes that you can make and go from there. If we each make changes, tell 3 people, share the knowledge so it spreads, we are all responsible.

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Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation grew up around the ocean and has seen the effect of plastic on our oceans since its widespread use in the 50s. In 1997 in his self-built research vessel he discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by accident. Having previously been monitoring coastal pollution he was amazed that the issue was so far away from human population and through research made the connection with currents and the movement of ocean pollution. His research in 1999 found that there was 6 times more plastic than plankton in the ocean. He believes science is the key in sharing the message and for it to be taken seriously.

Having not seen positive change in 20 years he explains how we live in a system that cannot take us where we need to go but explains how history shows us systems do change. He thinks the solution is inside each of us, that we need to raise consciousness and awareness. Having found plastic all around us he advises that the real solution is reduction, less is more and that we need to figure out how to survive with less stuff and come together as a community and share.

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Maren Hoval went to volunteer with Maldivian project Marine Savers which plants corals and rescues Sea Turtles. She explained how turtles show the health of the oceans and how during her time at Marine Savers each turtle rescued had plastic in its digestive system. All 7 species of sea turtles are facing extinction with plastic pollution effecting the turtles in numerous ways, she encouraged everyone to collect rubbish they come across to prevent it from entering the ocean.

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Ben Lecomte learnt to swim in the Atlantic Ocean and had become aware of plastic pollution over the years, to raise awareness of the issue he plans to swim from Tokyo to San Francisco. Having already attempted this in 2018 the swim is offering so much more. During the trip Ben and his team observe plastic debris, trawl to collect micro plastics and record the data found. During his first attempt over their 6 month collection they collected an average of 2-3 pieces of micro-plastic every minuet, with the biggest collection being 600 pieces in 30 minuets. 80% of the plastic found was everyday plastic items such as food wrappers, cleaning product bottles etc. He believes we need to change our habits and move to a more natural way of living but we need a critical mass of change. He advises looking at what plastic you use and questioning if you need to use it and make a change if possible. Share the changes you have made so to educate and encourage others. The swim relaunches June 2019.

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At age 4 Ryan Hickman noticed ocean plastic, learnt about recycling and then decided he wanted to set up his own recycling company Ryans Recycling. Since its launch in 2012 he has recycled half a million cans and bottles, encouraging first friends and neighbours to save their recyclable waste so he could take to the recycling centre. Ryan also does beach cleans, finding 1-2 buckets of trash at a time with common items being cigarette butts, zip ties and bottle tops. He encourages everyone to recycle!

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Dr Federica Bertocchini is a molecular biologist at the Institute of Bio-medicine and Biotechnology at the University of Cantabria in Spain currently working on a study ‘Plasticentropy’. Over 7 years of research and observation of wax worms has found that they are biodegrading polyethylene, a type of plastic commonly used for single-use items such as plastic bags. Research has shown they are changing the chemical structure of the molecule but researchers still have to investigate what bi-product is created.

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Pat Smith, aka ‘Action Nan’ who founded Final Straw Cornwall was inspired and pulled into action after watching Jo Ruxtons A Plastic Ocean. Her mission is to make Cornwall Plastic Straw Free and in 18 months of the campaign 600 businesses in Cornwall signed up to stop using plastic straws. She advises us to look at nature and the beauty that surrounds us, learn about it, look after it and love it. A change in our behaviour is a start, raising awareness from the grassroots but she recognises that Government needs to act to make huge change. Pat herself is looking to embrace the old school habits of her childhood, driving less, shopping local, looking to refill where she can and always taking reusables out and about with her to avoid single-use plastic.

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Madison Stewart, known as ‘Shark Girl’ creates conservation films about sharks. As an ocean dwelling creature sharks have been impacted by plastic pollution via their habitat and food source. Madison encourages people to find out what they are good at and passionate about and use that to help, starting with local issues. She herself finds avoiding plastic hard as she travels a lot with her work and it can be all about convenience when you are on the road but says that people can start anywhere and have the mentality of trying rather than looking for perfection/success, not now, nor has it ever been impossible for one person to make a difference.

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Molly Steer started the #StrawNoMore movement in Australia after watching A Plastic Ocean. Completely shocked by the film she wanted to do something about plastic pollution and decided to start small and focus on straws. Since launching the campaign 900,000 people have taken the pledge to stop using plastic straws as well as 850 schools, 600 businesses and 6 local governments. As the campaign has grown Molly has widened the focus to include all single-use plastic items. She counts the success of the project down to talking and thinks conversation is key. She doesn’t think we need single-use plastic and alternatives are available as a solution.

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Dr Colin Janssen, Professor of Ecotoxicology at Ghent University in Belgium explains how plastic is the first time people have been visibly confronted with the pollution they are causing. He explains that plastic pollution has become an issue because we have produced it in enormous amounts, 345 million tonnes per year, which is huge, to visualise it Dr Janssen measured that if you filled trucks with plastic and put them around the equator the trucks would go around 6 times bumper to bumper. Of that 5 - 12 million tonnes ends up in the ocean. With plastic simply breaking up rather than breaking down we are continuously adding to the issue.

Plastic is now known to breakdown into micro particles not visible to the naked eye, entering our food chain, effecting organisms, with microplastics being found in every sea creature studied. He explains how there are even microplastics in the air, how we are probably breathing it and possibly eating it. Scientific studies have established that microplastics can transgress from gut to the underlying tissue but studies have yet to establish how much this will harm us.

He covered the banning of BPA in the 90s over leaching issues and studies revealing hormone disruption but he said based on the scientific research the amounts coming out where very low and based on his knowledge he didn’t think the ban was scientifically justified.

On plant based plastics he explained how they are still a polymer and not necessarily better for the environment. With the term biodegradable not having a legal value to it and most needing high temperatures to breakdown which requires a machine.

His advice would be to use less and that plastic should not be seen as something to waste.

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Hugo Tagholm, chief executive at Surfers Against Sewage has always had a love for nature. Through SAS Hugo is hoping to drive change forward, being an authentic voice for ocean conservation. Beach clean data is used to contribute to government legislation and hold companies and industries accountable to drive change. Through SAS campaigns people can be empowered, with individual voices coming together. Hugo believes we are in a plastics emergency, with plastic and climate having the same parents, the oil industry. He believes systemic change is needed and we need to find a way to live more sustainably with the planet. Radical action is needed, with Hugo citing bottled water sales rising by 7% last year despite increased awareness of plastic pollution and the need to reduce single-use plastic consumption. He advises that our individual choices and actions matter, we must live lighter on this planet and use every action we can to call for that change. Make sure your voice is part of the bigger conversations, call on governments and do what you can, every bit counts.

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Christian Weigand of Blue Awareness believes that emotions are needed to trigger action. For his master thesis he tested the assumption that increased awareness lead to increased sustainable actions and found that in fact we were going in the opposite direction. He found that everyone knew the issues, plastics, over-fishing, climate etc but that somehow we haven’t been acting as expected. He believes that due to being given scientific data and logical information of numbers, figures and facts we find it hard to relate to the issues and instead we need topics to touch our heart, to feel the emotions to prompt us into action. Through his work with Blue Awareness he collects stories to share to get people to connect to their emotions about the problem, getting people to become a part of the solution rather than being part of the problem. He advises doing what you can, when you can and to avoid an all or nothing attitude .

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Maria Westerbos is the founder and director of the Plastic Soup Foundation. Having become aware of the ocean plastic issue she has been focused on exposing the issue and looking at ways to stop it at source. During the interview she explained about microfibers caused by our clothing. With 65% of our clothing being made from synthetic, plastic based materials 35% of microplastics are from our clothing, exposed to the natural environment through our washing machines. With an expected growth from 2 billion washing machines worldwide to 5 billion in the next decade she believes we need to look at ways to stop these microplastics from entering our environment via filter systems. She wants to hold the fashion industry and washing machine companies accountable and believes they need to find a solution. During the interview she recommended Planet Care Filter which reduces 80% of shedding and offers a service where you return the fibres caught for recycling.

She is also concerned about the associated health impacts of plastics and together with a team of researchers produces scientific reports through the Plastic Health Coalition.

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Cassia Patel works for non-profit organisation Oceanic Global who have three main aims, the first being to organise grassroots action, bringing together individuals through beach cleans and film screenings to encourage responsible consumption of plastic and to raise awareness. The second is to target businesses and industry through The Oceanic Standard, working with companies to help them rethink and reduce their single-use plastic use, creating useful guides, such as this Greenwashing guide outlining the current different types of plastic. And the third is to offer creative communication to help encourage us all to be environmentalists. As an organisation they believe that our choices matter and we should all look to be a part of the solution and become conscious consumers.

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Aurora Robson is a multi media artist that founded Project Vortex, a platform for artists working with plastic debris. Aurora wanted to create a community for artists highlighting the issue of plastic pollution, she sees working with plastic waste as a great tool for education around the issue of plastic pollution. She advises budding artists to collect, sort, clean and organise their plastic waste, inviting them to slow down, notice and learn about plastic and plastic pollution.

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Angela Haseltine Pozzi is founder and Artistic Director of Washed Ashore, whose mission is to build and exhibit aesthetically powerful art that educates a global audience about plastic pollution in the ocean and waterways and to spark positive consumer action. They build large scale art sculptures depicting animals affected by plastic pollution, giving these animals a voice. Due to their size people can’t ignore them and are drawn to them. Made completely from plastic waste wired to large steel frames, from a distance they look beautiful however when you come close viewers are confronted with plastic pollution. To date they have used 22 tonnes of plastic waste in their artworks, waste found along the Oregon coast where they are based, a small dent in the huge quantities found in the ocean but Washed Ashore is concerned with not only re-purposing plastic waste but also raising awareness of the issue and proving that everything you do matters.

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Katt Andryskova started her blog and website My Vegan Experiment to log her journey of making the most environmentally friendly choices. Her journey began 3 years ago after watching Cowspiracy which inspired her to start testing and researching veganism. Her inspiration for going plastic-free was Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers. She was horrified by her own waste and has since looked to reduce, reuse, repair and borrow, buy secondhand and overall reduce her consumption. She believes convenience is the biggest challenge and the enemy of sustainability. She also produces a podcast called The Ocean Pancake Podcast

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Tracey Read sailed across the Pacific Ocean with Captain Charles Moore in 2012 and was horrified by what she discovered. On returning to Hong Kong she set up charity Plastic Free Seas with the aim to get people talking and to educate. As a twist of fate at the same time there was a huge nurdle spill in Hong Kong where a container ship lost 6 containers full of the virgin plastic pellets used in the manufacture of plastic goods, known as nurdles. Springing into action through the charity she mobilised 8000 people and helped clear 108 tonnes from Hong Kong shores. Her focus for the charity is to think global but to act local. The plastic crisis can be overwhelming but by acting local you can focus on different localised problems and find solutions. She advises running with you own passion, doing your own plastic footprint investigation so you can see how much you accumulate and see what changes you need to make to reduce it, look to get in touch with brands about their packaging and push for change and to research recycling systems in your area, asking questions such as where does it go and what happens to it.

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Well done for making it to the end of this mega blog! We found it very inspirational and motivating hearing about all the different stories and actions these individuals are taking towards finding a solution to plastic pollution. A common theme throughout is the belief that we can all do something and that all our actions count. Plastic pollution is a huge global crisis but due to it being everywhere we can all do something about it in our own locality, using our own skills and passion to drive us to make changes that together will add up and hopefully provide a solution.

Find out more about A Solution To Plastic Pollution

#ChooseToRefuse Plastic Free July

Who was shocked by the first part of the BBC documentary War On Plastic? We were, 19,500,000,000 pieces of single-use plastic calculated to be in UK homes?! a number so huge its hard to imagine! No wonder we don’t have the appropriate waste management system in place, resulting in a truck load of plastic waste making its way to the ocean every minute of every day.

The show highlighted how ubiquitous plastic is and also how its hard to avoid, something we were aware of having been on our own plastic-free journey for the past 6 years. Our own journey led us to launching Incredible Bulk so we could help more people go plastic-free like we had managed to. Having available, easy options for alternatives makes it so much easier. Its all about the small steps and changes. The best place to start was highlighted in the documentary and that’s to do your own plastic audit.

And now is the perfect time, July marks the start of Plastic Free July, a yearly month long challenge to avoid single-use plastic. There’s always more you can do and having a little challenge to motivate you always helps, we’re already having a think about what our next personal plastic-free challenge will be!

If you want to get involved take the next couple of weeks to have a look at your waste and start thinking about what plastic you want to avoid. Remember, not all plastic is bad, we do believe that plastic was invented with good intentions, such as saving natural resources but unfortunately it has now been turned into a cheap commodity that is used for too many disposable items. A big part of the solution is not only about plastic-free swaps but also about curbing our over-consumption, another fact highlighted by the sheer volume of items found in UK homes. Use the audit to become aware of how much you are buying and check in to see if it is all necessary. A big part of our journey has been learning and accepting to live with less and moving away from disposable culture to a more sustainable one. Trust us its a very rewarding journey!

For ideas on plastic free swaps check out our 30 options in the van

To read more about Plastic Free July and sign up for the challenge

BBC article War On Plastic Litter vs War On Plastic

To find BBCs War On Plastic

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Why Refuse, Reduce and Reuse come before Recycling

Are we all excited for the new 3 part BBC documentary War On Plastic?! We’ve been waiting for this to air for some time having heard about the program last year and although excited seems like the wrong word to use about a programme that highlights a huge crisis we find ourselves in we’re hoping it will make people think about the issues with recycling and why it’s not the answer to our current plastic problem.

Issues with plastic recycling first became big headline news in 2017 when China announced it would no longer be accepting waste from the UK. Britain had been shipping up to 500,000 tonnes of plastic for recycling in China every year, accounting for over 25% of our total plastic waste. The ban highlighted how the UK didn’t have sufficient recycling infrastructures in place to deal with our own waste, that we had simply been ‘hiding’ it by shipping it out of the country. Despite China’s ban we have continued to ship two thirds of our recycling overseas, shifting the problem to other areas, as exposed by the BBC documentary, last year it is thought that Malaysia took up to 130,000 tons of our plastic waste, 10 times what it has done previously before the China ban.

Plastic wasn’t designed to be recycled, it was designed as a material that would last, so with recycling techniques it becomes weaker with each recycling, so unlike aluminium foil, is not indefinitely recyclable. An additional problem with plastic recycling is that there are several different types of plastic, which all have different recycling needs and it is not uncommon for a single use item, such as a drinks bottle, to have multiple plastics used for different components, making plastic recycling contamination common. It is labour intensive to separate and sort making the process of recycling plastics expensive, meaning that it is cheaper for companies to buy virgin plastic for their new packaging rather than invest in recycled materials.

Plastic recycling has also become even more complicated in recent years due to developments of new bio-based plastics which have completely different recycling needs, leading to yet another source of contamination in our already insufficient recycling infrastructure. We’ve all been fooled by ‘green washing’ either intentional or not, and bought into what is perceived to be a ‘greener’ packaging option without fully understanding that the waste streams needed to deal with this new material have not been put in place and it is therefore continuing to add to the current plastic crisis.

It is for all these reasons that refusing, reducing and reusing are advised before recycling. Recycling can help the problem, especially if new greener materials are developed alongside appropriate recycling methods for them (see article below about new plastic), but the current crisis is too large for us to recycle out of. If buying a recyclable item look into how and where it is recycled, is it worth it? We must understand that our over consumption is the key here and we have to stop producing and buying the issue, not simple, but possible.

In the BBCs documentary a street is found to contain 15,774 plastic items, based on 27 million households in Britain that's a whopping 19,500,000,000 pieces of plastic inside UK homes. Last year the bottled water industry grew by 7% in the UK despite our increased awareness and knowledge of the plastics crisis and having access to safe water direct from the tap. We have to start looking carefully at the impact of our choices. In the UK supermarkets create around one third of all plastic produced and although small changes are happening these are much too small and happening too slowly. In Cornwall we are spoilt with access to local farmers and producers, often we can get produce direct and avoid the plastic packaging, there are also a number of refill shops around offering the possibility of avoiding single-use plastic packaging.

We’re hoping that exposing and seeing the true extent of the issue via the documentary will further motivate people to look at their habits and see what they can change. Watch War On Plastic on BBC One, Monday 10th, 17th and 24th June

To find BBCs War On Plastic and further info

For further info on understanding plastic packaging

Guardian article on China’s Ban

Mirror article on War On Plastic

To learn about a new plastic being developed that can be recycled indefinitely

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UK Plastics Ban : Straws, Stirrers and Cotton Buds

On the day before World Turtle Day it is incredible to hear that the UK has announced a ban on the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds. (Turtles instantly came to mind due to the sad story back in 2015 of the turtle with the straw stuck up his nostril- something you don’t easily forget).

Its great to finally have some positive action towards 3 ubiquitous single-use plastic items in use. The UK alone uses nearly 5 billion plastic straws, more than 300 million plastic stirrers and close to 2 billion cotton buds with plastic stems each year. Banning the sale of these items is a huge step in the right direction in making sure these items that are used for seconds but last for centuries stay out of our natural eco-systems.

From April 2020 (shame its not sooner but lets stay positive!) plastic straws, drink stirrers, and cotton buds with plastic stems will be banned from sale and use in England, with exceptions for medical needs. With great alternatives already available there’s no need for us to wait for the ban to take action sooner. While out and about refuse plastic single-use straws and stirrers, opting for no straw at all or if you like a straw we think its best to invest in your own reusable one that you can take out and about with you, rather than use other single-use options such as paper as this is still using up a precious resource for something that will only be used once. We have these great stainless steel straws available in the van, we think they can make great ad-hoc stirrers if need too! For cotton buds we stock The Humble Co Cotton Buds that are made with a biodegradable bamboo stick rather than plastic.

Having this ban in place should hopefully mean upsetting images and situations such as the poor turtle with a plastic straw stuck in his nostril and a seahorse clinging to a plastic cotton bud become images of the past. The UK government consultation found that more than 80% of respondents supported a ban on the distribution and sale of plastic straws, while nine out of 10 people wanted a ban on drink stirrers, and a similar number supported a ban on plastic-handled cotton buds. Together we can change our plastic habits!

Read more about the ban at The Guardian

Info about the turtle image

Info about the seahorse image

More about World Turtle Day

Your refill and plastic-free shopping has avoided 4661 pieces of single-use plastic!

We’ve leapt forward into spring and made it through the first 3 months of the year. We wanted to let you know that you guys have avoided 4661 pieces of single-use plastic in that time!

This breaks down as avoiding 3038 pieces of single-use plastic packaging through refill shopping:

2629 pieces of single-use food packaging (including 100 packets of oats, 49 packets of brown rice, 45 packets of dates and 36 packets of granola!)

287 home cleaning plastic bottles (including 65 bottles of laundry and 22 spray bottles of multi surface cleaner!)

122 bathroom plastic bottles (including 50 bottles of shampoo/body wash and 40 bottles of hand wash!)

On top of this you have also avoided 1623 single use plastic items:

120 plastic kitchen sponges avoided by switching to our natural alternatives

A further 17 bottles of shampoo avoided through switching to shampoo bars

Another 57 bottles of body / hand wash avoided through switching to soap bars

1300 single-use plastic cotton buds avoided by switching to bamboo cotton buds

27 plastic toothbrushes avoided by switching to bamboo

31 plastic tubes of toothpaste avoided by switching to toothpaste tabs or the tooth soap

3 body sponges by switching to loofahs

20 plastic or aerosol deodorants avoided due to switching to our plastic free natural version

At least 6 plastic razors by switching to a safety razor

At least 13 rolls of cling film by switching to wax food wraps

At least 3 plastic disposable coffee cups by switching to a reusable version

At least 5 plastic disposable cutlery sets by switching to a reusable version

At least 21 plastic disposable straws by switching to a reusable version

A huge thank you from us for your support and organisation to switching to refill and plastic-free shopping, its when we do these numbers that we get super excited and motivated about what we do!

These numbers mean even more when you consider that since the beginning of the year there have been 2 known reports of dead whales washing up with substantial amounts of plastic in their stomachs and that a recent report done on British marine mammals found microplastics in each and every one. We desperately need to stop the plastic tide and the easiest way to do that is to avoid it!

Sperm Whale with 22 kgs in Sardinia

Curvier Beaked Whale with 40 kgs in Philippines

British Micro Plastic Study

Image from Stijn Dijkstra

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Spring has sprung! Easter on its way...but without all the waste

We’ve made it through the dark, seemingly endless nights, the mizzle, the storms and the snow to finally reach the special moment of the Spring equinox, where the scales are tipped and daylight hours get longer. A time to celebrate rebirth and renewal with spring festivals not far behind.

In the run up to Easter its estimated that 80 million Easter eggs are sold annually in the UK and with that comes the dreaded packaging! Easter egg makers have come a long way in the past few years, in 2012 a survey found that 62% of an Easter eggs weight was its packaging. Luckily things have switched and the most recent survey revealed that packaging makes up just over 25% - an improvement but still a fair amount of packaging for something that is going to be gobbled up over the Easter weekend!

We were super excited to find Montezumas Eco Egg, with streamlined packaging consisting of just two parts, foil wrapping and a sturdy biodegradable paper outer shell. No plastic window in sight and all fully recyclable! With the foil just bundle it up in a ball and pop into your metal recycling bag and with the card pop in your card recycling, or the wormery! We have the delicious organic dark chocolate and cocoa nibs version in the van, vegan friendly!

Easter without the plastic packaging, making us very happy bunnies!

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Plastic Pollution and Rivers

Today is International Day of Action for Rivers, a day to celebrate our life-giving waters. Unfortunately, our freshwater ecosystems are going through tough times, Anne-Claire Loftus, WWF UK Freshwater adviser, tells us that “freshwater species populations declined by 81% from 1970 to 2012, an average loss much greater than that of species on land or in the oceans.” There are many threats impacting rivers and other freshwater habitats including loss of connectivity and flow reductions due to dams and other artificial barriers; over-abstraction of water for irrigation and other uses; excessive nutrient loading from agricultural and urban areas; siltation caused by land degradation and deforestation; and the impact of climate change. In recent years plastic pollution has also been counted as a possible threat and we thought it was the perfect time to find out how our rivers have been affected by plastic pollution.

1) Our rivers are key sources of marine plastic pollution

News and studies on plastic pollution has mainly focused on our oceans rather than rivers but it looks like this is beginning to change. We found numerous reports in the news with regards to how rivers are contributing to ocean plastic pollution and how they are key carriers of plastic waste from source to our oceans. Two studies, highlighted by Anne-Claire Loftus, estimated that between 1.15–2.41 and 0.21–4.38 million tonnes of plastic waste per year entered the oceans from land via river catchments. Highlighting that rivers are a key area of concern when it comes to plastic pollution. For this reason there are now more studies looking into plastic pollution in our rivers rather than the ocean.

2) Single use plastic have been found to be a core cause of river litter

Thames21 and MCS ran 20 river clean events at Thames tributaries and tidal Thames sites to collect data for their ‘source to sea’ study. Data collected revealed that more than 80% of litter in the Thames, and 78% on its tributaries, is made up of single-use items such as metal drink cans, food packaging and plastic drinks bottles. It also found that the concentration of litter items found per 100m rose as the Thames made its way towards the sea, due to the increased opportunity for humans to influence the ecosystem. The charities supported a move away from single-use saying that “more than 60% of litter would disappear from the Thames basin if we moved away from single-use items.”

A little closer to home we found an article on Cornwall Live written at the end of 2017 about plastic pollution collected from Truro River by Mary Jones who spends her free time kayaking along the river to complete litter picks. On one trip she collected 6 bin bags full of plastic litter, with the most common being food wrappers.

3) Micro-plastics have now been found in our freshwater systems

Micro-plastics in our rivers have more recently been in the news thanks to a new study by Dr Dunn who collected samples from 10 different river, lake and reservoir sites across the UK. He found micro-plastics at each of the 10 locations, ranging from 2-3 per litre to more than 1000 per litre in the worst affected area. On the results Dr Dunn has said “Micro-plastics are being found absolutely everywhere [but] we do not know the dangers they could be posing. It’s no use looking back in 20 years time and saying: ‘If only we’d realised just how bad it was.’ We need to be monitoring our waters now and we need to think, as a country and a world, how we can be reducing our reliance on plastic.”

Micro-plastics come from a variety of sources, as explained in an essay by Scott Lambert and Martin Wagner. They can come from the degradation of larger plastic debris items, such as litter and also agricultural equipment (eg plastic films used for crop production) but can also enter the environment as micro-plastics via wastewater treatment plants and the surrounding environment from a number of sources such as personal care products (microbeads), release of fibres from textiles during the washing of clothes, incidental release (e.g. tyre wear) and release from industrial products or processes. The essay outlines how studies on the potential harm of micro-plastics vary considerably but states that “although science is far from understanding the ecological implications of freshwater micro-plastics; technological innovation, societal action, and political interventions need to be taken to mitigate the plastics pollution, which will – in case of inaction – certainly increase over the years to come.”

What have we taken away from these articles? That although a lot is still unknown we feel strongly that plastic pollution has largely been caused by our disposable attitude towards plastic, a product that does not disappear, only breaks down and spreads further - now having reached not only the deepest depths of our remote oceans but also our remote fresh water channels. Removing plastic waste from seas and rivers will help alleviate environmental issues but to stop the problem we need to reduce our reliance on plastic, looking to avoid it where possible as consumers is a great way to start, something we can do immediately as well as ensuring any waste we do come across is disposed of responsibly so it does not impact our natural environment.

Information from WWF, Scott Lambert and Martin Wagner, The Guardian, The River Trust and Cornwall Live

For more on International Day of Action for Rivers

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World Wildlife Day : Life Below Water

Today marks World Wildlife Day, a day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. This years focus is on life below water, where there are nearly 200,000 identified species living in our oceans.

Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. Marine wildlife has sustained human civilisation and development for millennia, from providing food and nourishment, to material for handicraft and construction. It has also enriched our lives culturally, spiritually, and recreationally in different ways. However, the capacity of life below water to provide these services has been severely impacted, as our planet’s oceans and the species that live within it are under assault from an onslaught of threats. As much as 40% of the ocean is now heavily affected by the most significant and direct threat of over exploitation of marine species as well as other threats such as pollution, loss of coastal habitats and climate change.

Despite this day being about a celebration of the ocean we also need to be aware of these many threats, of which plastic is a major one, here are some scary plastic facts involving the ocean from The Marine Conservation Society:

  • It’s estimated that one rubbish truck load of plastic litter enters the ocean every minute

  • Globally, plastic litter has reached every part of the world’s oceans

  • Plastic has been found in the stomachs of almost all marine species, including fish, birds, whales, dolphins, seals and turtles

  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is thought to be 6 times the size of the UK

  • Litter has increased by 135% since 1994, with plastics increasing by a staggering 180%

  • Around 30% of UK beach litter can be directly sourced to the public

On World Wildlife Day we’re asked to do one thing to help reduce the threat to marine species and we think avoiding plastic is a huge step in the right direction. By shopping at refill / zero waste shops you get to avoid a huge amount of unnecessary plastic packaging that may end up in the natural environment causing an ongoing threat to our beautiful oceans.

As well as avoiding plastic you can join the new #generationsea campaign by Surfers Against Sewage. For 2019 they are looking to build a new movement to save our oceans and beaches and want to push for a bold new Environment Bill that will protect our seas. They currently have 3790 signatures and are looking to get to 5000, to sign up click here.

Everyday wildlife protection doesn’t have to be hard. Wildlife conservation is an issue that needs attention every day and although the challenges that our natural environment is facing are complex and can seem huge, every persons small actions add up to a much larger solution.

Info from Wildlife Day, MCS and SAS

Images below from Francesca Williams and SAS

Plastics and Climate Change

Plastics have an interesting and complex relationship with climate change and rising greenhouse gases.

99% of plastics come from fossil fuels and throughout its life cycle it makes a significant contribution to rising greenhouse gases and climate change. Plastic pollutes at every stage; from materials extraction, product production and transportation to disposal.

Plastics currently account for around 6% of global oil demand and are responsible for rising methane emissions from associated gas extraction. Once the materials have been extracted there are then the carbon emissions from production and transportation of plastic. Its been estimated that one 500ml plastic water bottle (about 10 grams) has an average total CO2 footprint of 82.8 grams. For context, the production of four plastic bottles produces approximately the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as travelling one mile in a medium-sized petrol car.

But the story doesn’t end there, a study by the University of Hawaii has demonstrated that many plastics also give off powerful greenhouse gases as they breakdown, which is also contributing to climate change. Of particular concern is LDPE which releases gases at the highest rate and is also the most prevalent discarded plastic in oceans. Its been discovered that the more surface area a piece of plastic has the more gas is given off. So for example a plastic bottle, after years of photodegradation in the ocean will have a surface area thousands of times greater than its original surface area, leading to a greater emission of methane. This means that over time plastics give off more and more harmful gas and are further adding to climate change.

With around half of all plastic production being destined for a single-use item this seems like a terrible use of a limited natural resource and an extremely wasteful addition to greenhouse gases. With around 8 million tonnes of plastic ending up in the oceans each year this massively adds to the greenhouse gas problem as it slowly breaks down in the environment and starts to release harmful greenhouse gases.

Moving away from single-use plastic will help tackle carbon emissions from both ends. Scarily plastic production is currently expected to triple by 2050 and its predicted that the plastic industry will be accounting for 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is something we can reduce and do something about. By reusing what we’ve already got and moving away from single-use, we’ll move to a more circular economy that will help reduce carbon emissions.

Information from 5gyres, brightblue and Parley

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Monday Motivation : Protecting the natural world

A huge source of motivation for us is to protect our natural environment. In recent consumer Western society we have become removed from the natural cycles of life and have lost respect for the Earth and its life giving resources.

Over the course of last year there were a number of studies and articles all highlighting the scary spread and impact of plastics on our natural environment which we hope is slowly rebuilding our connection and respect for the planet and a wish to live in a way that will reduce and correct the harm we have been causing.

We are saddened but not surprised by the results of a recent study of 50 animals from 10 different species that had died from a variety of causes found washed up on the coastlines of the UK. The study of the animals, that included dolphins, porpoises, seals and whales revealed that each one had ‘microplastic’ particles in their stomachs and intestines. The vast majority of particles found were synthetic fibres that may have been shed by clothes or fishing nets. Others were fragments of originally larger pieces that could have come from plastic food packaging and bottles.

Lead researcher Sarah Nelms, from the University of Exeter, said: “It’s shocking - but not surprising - that every animal had ingested microplastics.” She expressed concern that long-term exposure to plastic pollution could damage the health of Britain’s marine mammals: “They eat all sorts but it will reach a tipping point and really affect their health. It’s important to have this baseline study so we can monitor how they adapt – or don’t adapt – to the changes that are coming.”

Globally one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into the Ocean every minute and at current rates it will be 2 trucks per minute by 2030 - we have to radically change our habits to stop this from happening. The more people who make the change to package-free / zero-waste shopping the less plastic waste there is and that keeps us going and motivates us to make sure package free shopping is accessible for people to make the switch. Hopefully the reduced demand for packaged goods will also lead to bigger industry change.

Info and image from MCS UK article here , Guardian article here and World Economic Forum here . Full study report here

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Turning off the tap: a look at Antoine Repesse #365 Unpacked

When you use something on a daily basis its hard to imagine its impact over time, especially when it comes to waste as its often out of sight and therefore out of mind.

Back in 2011, photographer Antoine Repesse decided to tackle his waste head on and for four years stopped throwing away his recyclable rubbish. During this time he accumulated over 70 cubic meters of trash including 1600 milk bottles, 4800 loo rolls and 800kg of newspapers. His photography project that followed, #365, Unpacked, became ‘a questioning of a major society issue: the production of waste on a daily basis’, and made our daily waste visible for all to see.

This accumulation of waste seen in his images really does highlight our disconnect between our consumption patterns, our waste produced and the effect it has on the planet.

Luckily we’ve come a long way since Repesse’s project and unlike the subjects seen in his work we are no longer blind to the effects waste is having on our environment and our life source. Thanks to numerous projects since we are now all aware of the damage that has been caused. But there is still a lot to do.

A common argument or concern raised when looking at plastic waste is to blame the authorities for not having enough recycling options in place, but we think there is a bigger issue at play - our mass consumption and its link to our waste. We believe we have to start owning our own waste and look to turn off the tap rather than mop up the mess. Refusing to buy single-use products and buying only what you need are great steps forward in slowing down the amount of waste created and therefore harm to the environment. Turning off the plastic tap will mean there’s nothing to mop up.

You can see more images here

Information from article here

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Plastic Free July

Its July and that means only one thing- the Plastic Free July Challenge - inspiring people all over the world to #ChooseToRefuse. With 31 days in July we've set out 31 ways to reduce the plastic in your life; whether you choose to target takeaway plastic options, single use plastic or to completely avoid plastics altogether these should help you on your way. 

1) If you like to stay hydrated during the day get yourself a reusable water bottle

2) Like a takeaway drink? Think about a reusable cup that you can take with you

3) Know that you're gonna get lunch out? Pack some cutlery, wrap in a muslin cloth for napkin and some containers / paper to wrap items in. Or look to eat in! 

4) Keep a reusable straw handy or remember to say no straw when ordering drinks

5) Get yourself a reusable bag

6) Look around for shops that offer items bulk / loose / unpackaged - farmers markets, greengrocers, butchers, bulk shops to name a few

7) Keep hold of any plastic / glass jars, containers, bottles and reuse when you go on your bulk / loose / unpackaged shopping adventure

8) Invest in or make beeswax / soy fabric wraps to use instead of clingfilm; tin foil and baking paper are other alternatives for storing food

 9) Milk - look into local glass bottle options, or try switching to nut milk and make your own

10) Butter - switch from plastic contained to wax paper wrapped butter and store in butter dish

11) Yogurt - buy options available in glass jars or look to make your own

12) Check your teabags - scarily some brands contain plastic, check packaging or buy loose leaf

13) Ditch the chewing gum - most brands are made with a synthetic rubber made from plastic

14)  Lover of cold, filtered water and normally buy bottled? Get prepared, buy a couple of glass bottles and invest in filter option of your choice (we love a charcoal stick!) and store in fridge - keep a couple bottles on rotation so you always have fresh, filtered water available

15) Give soap nuts a try - a natural biodegradable alternative to laundry liquid, or look for glass / cardboard packaged brands or refillable options

16) Utilise old fabric scraps for house cleaning rags so you don't have to buy new packaged options, or look for unpackaged options available

17) Utilise old cleaning product bottles and try making your own

18) Swap your synthetic kitchen sponge for a natural alternative

19) Avoid bin bags; check to see if you need to use if your bin gets tipped straight into a lorry, you can always line with paper to keep clean

20) Make a switch to hard soap and shampoo to avoid all those bottles in the bathroom

21) Make a switch to hard deodorant or powdered options in non-plastic containers

22) Lookout for toilet roll not sold in plastic wrap

23) Switch synthetic sponges for natural sponges, loofahs, muslin cloths etc for washing

24) Try a bamboo toothbrush (watch out for the bristles though which will still be plastic, ensure you remove before looking to compost)

25) Look into alternative tooth care; toothpaste that's in aluminium tubes or solid options, mouthwash in glass, natural floss

26) Use 100% cotton buds

27) Switch to a metal razor

28) Look into alternative sanitary products; avoid tampons with plastic applicators, find natural organic cotton brands, try a mooncup or reusable pads, there's even pants available now with a built in pad! 

29) Look into alternative body care brands that use non-plastic containers or offer refill / send back packaging, or try making your own

30) Shop local and avoid delivery which normally means excess packaging (although some brands are getting pretty good at offering non-plastic delivery options)

31) Check the clothing that you're buying, perhaps try natural alternatives vs plastic based fabrics 

Good luck with the challenge, remember any bit of plastic you manage to avoid is a step in the right direction so don't overwhelm yourself by taking on too many changes. We've integrated different methods over many years to make sure the changes we make are sustainable and workable for us. 

*You can find out more about Plastic Free July at http://www.plasticfreejuly.org/ 

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Why package free?

As you may have seen in the news, TV and social media, levels of plastic waste polluting both land and sea has now become a critical environmental issue. The National Geographic has recently published its June 2018 Plastics issue with some startling facts and figures on plastics which highlight exactly why we want to start offering everyday products package free to the people of Cornwall.

Below are our highlights (or lowlights really) from the issue: 

Single-use, disposable packaging, accounted for over a third of the 448 million tons of plastic produced in 2015, making it the largest market for plastic production. 

Plastic packaging now accounts for nearly half of all plastic waste generated globally with most of it not getting recycled or incinerated. 

Scientists writing in Nature magazine back in 2013 declared that disposable plastic should be classified as a hazardous material.

The growth of plastic production has outgrown our current waste management abilities, which is why our environment is overflowing with plastic pollution.

Globally roughly 8.8 million tons of plastic waste ends up in our oceans annually.

Microplastics have been found everywhere in the ocean that people have looked, from sediments on the deepest seafloor to ice floating in the Arctic. With nearly 700 species, including endangered ones, affected by ocean plastics. 

We don't know how long it takes for plastics to biodegrade: estimates range from 450 years to never. 

There's no denying that these are some scary statistics and its hard to get your head around how we let it get this bad, but the good news is that this is something we can affect. As consumers we have great power; if we all spend wisely and think about what we are buying and avoid single-use plastic packaging where we can then we can make a difference to plastic waste. We don't think plastic is the enemy but our disposable attitude to it is not sustainable, which is why we are looking to offer an alternative way to shop, one that will help reduce the amount of disposable plastic packaging needed.

*Statistics and facts from National Geographic June 2018, Plastic by Laura Parker p40-69

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