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24 October 2018

The European Parliament has leapt forward to protect people and the environment from plastic pollution, and national governments must now show the same ambition, according to the Rethink Plastic alliance.

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24 April 2018

After many years of campaigning for a deposit return scheme, the UK is finally taking real steps towards the introduction of deposit return schemes. Seas At Risk member, the Marine Conservation Society, is hopeful that deposit return schemes will soon be in place across the UK. With yet more countries taking this crucial step to reduce pollution from beverage containers, it increases the pressure on the EU to make this mandatory for all countries.   The Scottish Government led the way for the UK, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announcing in September 2017 that Scotland would implement a deposit return system. This was after two years of tireless campaigning by the ‘Have You Got The Bottle?’ coalition, of which the Marine Conservation Society was a founding member. Scotland is now at the stage of designing a suitable system.     In March of this year, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, announced his plan to introduce a deposit return scheme for England. This is welcome news but the work is far from over. During the upcoming consultation process, certain elements of the drinks and plastics industries which oppose deposit return systems will undoubtedly work to derail efforts to bring in a useful and effective system. Continued efforts are required from campaigners, therefore, to ensure that a fit-for-purpose scheme will actually be implemented.   The best system is one that will give the country the greatest increase in high quality recycling and an associated decrease in litter. It should include, at a minimum, glass, plastic and metal drinks containers of all sizes, as well as providing for the inclusion of other materials such as tetrapaks and new materials. The scheme should also have the option for review and extension in order to ensure that it continues to drive container returns.   It is imperative that Scotland and England coordinate their actions and harmonise the schemes so that a consumer can return a bottle or can in London in exactly the same manner as in Edinburgh. Ideally, Wales and Northern Ireland should introduce similar schemes simultaneously, allowing systems to operate smoothly across the whole of the UK.    The campaigns in Scotland and England have been driven by multiple NGOs working together for a number of years. Recently, however, a number of factors have combined to create a perfect storm of awareness, with calls for change coming from all areas in society.    UK politicians have adopted the rhetoric of wanting to make a difference, with the current government stating that its vision ‘to be the first generation to leave our environment better than we found it'. This is against the backdrop of a difficult socio-political climate, where the focus is firmly on the daily challenges presented by Brexit and there are few good news stories on either the progression or direction of that change.     For over 20 years, the Marine Conservation Society has organised beach cleans and surveys, and the data supplied by their thousands of volunteers played a big part in proving the need for a deposit return scheme. Plastic and glass bottles, aluminium cans, and bottle caps always feature high on the list of items collected in any beach clean. Last year alone, during the Great British Beach Clean, volunteers gathered 3,540 plastic bottles, 2,674 cans and 11,154 plastic bottle tops from British beaches, adding up to 57 items of drink-related litter for every 100m surveyed, and 10% of all litter. It is not only these volunteers who understand the scale of the problem: a YouGov survey commissioned by the Marine Conservation Society showed 73% support from the British public for a deposit return scheme.    The importance of the media in highlighting the problems of marine plastics should not be underestimated. Recent watersheds in the national consciousness were Sky’s Ocean Rescue programmes and, in particular, the David Attenborough wildlife documentary, Blue Planet II, which brought the impact of plastic consumption on the marine environment to an audience of millions. 

Across the EU at present, there is little consistency in either policy or practice with regard to deposit return schemes. While a number of Member States have had schemes in place for various kinds of beverage containers for many years, they all function differently, and many countries have no scheme at all. Studies show that deposit return schemes produce high quality material streams for recycling, as well as reducing beverage container-related littering. The upcoming EU legislation to tackle the top 10 litter items most commonly found on beaches provides an ideal opportunity to introduce measures to encourage deposit return schemes for beverage containers in all Member States.

11 April 2018

Seas At Risk, together with its NGO partners in the Rethink Plastic Alliance, has sent an open letter to the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, challenging the Parliament to move from rhetoric to practice and stop its use of enormous quantities of plastic water bottles.

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05 April 2018

The unique citizen science survey Dive Against Debris®, launched by Seas At Risk member, Project AWARE, has removed one million items of rubbish from the ocean. This huge milestone in the fight against marine debris was reached by scuba divers around the world and serves to shine a light on the global marine litter crisis.

Dive Against Debris® was launched in 2011 as part of Project AWARE®’s work to create positive change for the ocean through community action. Since then, it has seen 49,188 volunteer divers from 114 countries take part, in an effort both to clean up the ocean and to amass irrefutable evidence of the problem, with which to convince decision-makers and influence policy change.

Recreational and professional divers have retrieved a diverse array of objects, from sunbeds to batteries and shoes, as well as vast quantities of plastic bags, cutlery and bottles. The data collected captures essential information for scientists seeking to estimate the volume of debris that has sunk to the seafloor. It also supports crucial work to find solutions to save vulnerable marine life and ensure the future of clean and healthy oceans.

This milestone comes at a time of unprecedented focus on the issue of plastic pollution and its impact on ocean health. With scientists estimating that some 20 million tonnes of plastic waste may enter the ocean every year, the United Nations and national governments stepped up their efforts in 2017 to eliminate plastic waste. The European Commission, for example, recently adopted the first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics, as part of the transition towards a more circular economy.

With almost 70% of all items reported through Dive Against Debris® being plastics, the project has provided data which is helping to convince decision-makers to adopt more stringent policies on plastics. In December 2017, the Vanuatu government announced a ban on the import and local manufacturing of non-biodegradable plastics. This ban was based on studies done by environmental groups, including local dive centre, Big Blue.

Key Statistics on Dive Against Debris®:

One million pieces of rubbish removed and reported since 2011

49,188 - scuba divers 5,351 - surveys 114 - countries around the world 5,597 - entangled or dead animals 64% - plastic waste 307,064kgs / 676,959lbs - total weight of rubbish collected

Following the unprecedented success of this initiative, Project AWARE® is now asking divers to remove and report one million more pieces of rubbish by the end of 2020, in a bid to highlight the true scale of the marine debris problem. For more information and to get involved visit www.projectaware.org

 

15 March 2018

On 5th March, the European Policy Centre, together with the Mission of Norway to the European Union, hosted the Policy Dialogue Plastics and Oceans: How can Europe end further discharge into the oceans? Seas At Risk’s Marine Litter Policy Officer, Emma Priestland, was in attendance, to share the message that ocean plastics are not an impossible problem to solve, provided immediate action is taken. Several solutions are already available to make this happen.

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30 January 2018

The European Commission has announced its intention to significantly reduce the use of plastic bottles and other single-use plastic items on its premises. All eyes are now on the European Parliament and the European Council to step up and follow suit.  

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16 January 2018

Today in a huge win for the marine environment, the European Commission has committed to legislate against single-use plastic items in the new Strategy on Plastic in the Circular Economy. This would put the EU in a global leadership position in the fight against the relentless flow of plastic lids, stirrers and drinking straws into the oceans.

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11 January 2018

Plastic bottles and bottle caps feature in the top 10 most frequently encountered litter items in the marine environment, rivers and along coastlines. In response, Seas At Risk member Surfrider Foundation Europe launched the awareness campaign Reset Your Habits in 2017. The campaign aims to reduce at-source pollution caused by plastic bottles by replacing these disposable bottles with reusable, sustainable alternatives. In this context, Surfrider recently published its White paper for an ocean free from plastic bottles.

The large-scale pollution caused by plastic items needs to be met with urgent and effective global action. Surfrider’s report looks at the overall cycle of the water bottle and recommends the following actions:

Improve the eco-design of plastic bottles. Reduce the production of plastic bottles, including small volumes. Reduce the distribution of plastic bottles by replacing these with alternatives. Reduce the consumption of plastic bottles by promoting alternatives. Improve the end-of-life management of plastic bottles.

Decision-makers, industry and citizens all have a role to play in making this happen. The EU, in particular, should lead the fight against such pollution by taking ambitious measures in its forthcoming Strategy on Plastics in a Circular Economy, due in January 2018. Discontinuing single-use plastic items, including bottles, would be a significant step towards addressing the threat posed by plastic pollution.  

06 December 2017

In its new report ‘Tackling overfishing and marine litter’, Seas At Risk undertakes an analysis of fisheries and marine litter measures adopted by Member States under the Marine Directive. While noting some progress, it concludes that much more effort is needed to achieve healthy fish stocks and reduce harm from marine litter by 2020. The report also provides recommendations on the measures needed.

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29 September 2017

In response to the letter sent by Seas At Risk and 6 other NGOs calling on the EU institutions to give up their addiction to single use plastics, the Commission and the Council both claim they are working towards greener public procurement. The Parliament has to date provided no response to the letter sent on 31st March, raising questions on their commitment to the Circular Economy.

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27 June 2017

At a conference of the European Network of the Heads of Environment Protection Agencies (EPA),  Seas At Risk presented a plea for Europe to take a strong stand against plastic pollution in the upcoming Plastic Strategy.

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21 June 2017

Marine Litter was at the forefront of discussions at the UN Ocean Conference that ran from the 5th to the 9th June at the UN headquarters in New York.  Seas At Risk addressed solutions to the global threat, by co-hosting a side event and submitting a commitment on single use plastics.

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13 April 2017

Seven European environmental NGOs are challenging the European Council, Parliament and Commission to practice what they preach and implement greener public procurement in their own buildings by phasing out single use plastics.

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31 March 2017

Seas At Risk and six other NGOs, all part of the international Break Free From Plastic movement, have sent a letter to the heads of the three main European institutions calling on them to commit to making their buildings single use plastic free.

27 January 2017

This week, the European Parliament’s Environment Committee voted on a set of amendments to waste legislation that is being revised to bring about a circular economy in Europe. Overall the amendments strengthened the initial Commission proposals.

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26 January 2017

The European Commission’s newly released Roadmap for the EU Strategy on Plastics in a Circular Economy fails to get to the root of the problem of plastics, according to the #BreakFreeFromPlastic Movement.

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01 June 2016

Brussels - Today saw the release of the European Parliament’s draft opinion on the Circular Economy. Authored by Italian Socialist MEP Simona Bonafè, it contains proposals that will be vital to tackling the EU’s contribution to the global marine litter crisis.

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23 May 2016

The Circular Economy Package has the potential to address our unsustainable production, consumption, and poor waste management and reduce marine litter. By reducing the production of waste, reducing consumption of single-use plastics, designing products to be repaired, durable, reused and if not, recycled into new products, and putting a consumer value on plastics through economic instruments they are less likely to be carelessly disposed of and end up in the oceans. This short briefing paper discusses the reasons why the Circular Economy Package is so vital for reducing marine litter, and lays out some essential elements that should be included in the legislative files.

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