Activist News

Plastics beach clean on the Isle of Mull

Greenpeace UK - Fri, 2017-06-23 09:26
All rights reserved. Credit: Will Rose/Greenpeace

Our beach clean began with a 2 hour drive up the most amazing coastline from Fionnphort to Ulva on the Isle of Mull (having stopped by Beluga II in Tobermory) to meet up with 3 very small local primary schools.

Cath and Janey from Marine Conservation Society arrived just after us, having had the same problems finding this quite beautiful and remote beach, only to find the school kids hard at work - getting stuck in to clearing up the seriously large amount of plastic waste.

Ulva Primary School were hosting the event and after gathering everyone together and addressing the important safety issues, the surveying and cleaning started along the pre designated search area. Pretty soon the boxes of qualified and quantified waste were being taken up the beach for compiling and basic analyses. 

What made the day for me was the enthusiasm of all the children and how difficult it was to get them to stop after we had ran out of time and allotted area. They simply wanted to hoover the whole place up and leave it as clean as they possibly could. We need these kids on beaches all across the UK - they were unstoppable.

After we had properly packaged the waste up for collection by the the local council, we made our way to Ulva Primary school house where we gave a talk about who we were and why we were so happy to be involved in the clean up of a local beach. 

Despite the sheer beauty and majesty of  these islands, it’s hard not to get worried about the increase in visible waste along the shore lines. What’s happening on the micro scale on and below the surface of the sea with the slow degrading of plastic is even more disturbing.

The Beluga crew, supported by the beach surveying land team, are continuing their tour to document and expose plastic pollution. Find out more here.

Categories: Activist News

Coca-Cola's marketing strategy = a gift for the End Ocean Plastics campaign

Greenpeace UK - Thu, 2017-06-22 13:16
All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace

Oh the irony. As part of a millennial-focused marketing strategy to associate Coca-Cola with beach holiday fun and sunkissed selfies, Coke last month launched its summer campaign. This year’s gimmick? Coke bottles labelled with exotic beach destinations and a competition to win glamorous holidays every day.

Why ironic? Because it's these very plastic bottles that are polluting the beaches and rivers of many of these holiday hotspots.

Plastic bottles are a major part of the problem of plastic in our oceans. Over 1.5 million plastic bottles were recovered as part of an international beach clean-up last year. Plastic bottles and bottle caps combined make up the top beach polluter globally.

We know that Coca-Cola sells over 100 billion single-use plastic bottles every single year - that’s over 3,400 every second.  

And the problem is getting worse. Over the past decade the company has actually increased its use of single-use plastic as a proportion of its global packaging mix.

Of course Coca-Cola aren’t the only culprits. Greenpeace revealed this spring that the five other top soft drinks brands sell a combined total of 2 million tonnes of plastic bottles every year. But Coca-Cola are the world’s largest soft drinks company, and set standards across the soft drinks sector.

Coke bottles are also a particularly distinctive shape - making them easy to spot on beaches. The Plastic Tide project, which is using drones to map rubbish on Britain’s coastlines, found earlier this year that single-use plastic bottles are the most common plastic polluters on UK beaches, singling out Coca-Cola bottles as the worst offender.

Loads of you have been snapping pictures of Coke bottles polluting your local environment, subverting their #ShareACoke and #CokeSummer hashtags on social media to reveal the grim reality of where Coca-Cola’s plastic ends up. 

Greenpeace volunteers have even found Coca-Cola bottles on some of the UK’s most remote beaches, which we visited during our recent expedition to document plastic pollution in hotspots for iconic seabirds and amazing marine life.

Previous Coke summer campaigns have put their customers’ names on bottles. We bet Coca-Cola is now wishing its name wasn’t emblazoned across the billions of plastic bottles washing up on shorelines across the world. That’s why we’re not going to let them continue shirking their responsibility for polluting our oceans.

Whenever you see a Coke bottle in the environment – on the beach, in a river, anywhere it shouldn’t be – share it with the hashtags #EndOceanPlastics and #ShareaCoke, and call on Coke to stop choking our oceans. 

Categories: Activist News

5 Worrying Facts About the DUP and The Environment

Greenpeace UK - Tue, 2017-06-20 11:28
All rights reserved. Credit: GPUK

Despite ongoing national crises such as the Grenfell fire — and the fact that Brexit talks are due to begin this week — Theresa May is yet to form a strong and stable government. Lacking the necessary number of Conservative MPs, she will continue talks with Northern Irish party the DUP this week.

Though the deal with the DUP looks unlikely to be a formal coalition like the Lib Dem/Conservative deal in 2010, the party will help pass Tory policies — and no doubt expect something in return.

So as a confused nation wonders what this all means, we took a look at where the DUP stand. Here’s a quick run down of what you need to know about the party’s environmental record before Wednesday’s Queens Speech.

1. In the DUP’s 2017 manifesto, the words “environment” and “climate change” are not mentioned once

The document is intended to lay out the DUP’s vision for the future, but while it includes a policy on Armed Forces Day — it has not a word on arguably the biggest challenge facing our generation. There is a fleeting reference to a plan for UK energy, unfortunately we’re left to guess if that includes renewables or not.

2. But it’s not just (a lack of) words. The DUP’s actions should worry us too.

The former environment minister Michelle McIlveen blocked attempts to introduce a Northern Ireland Climate Change Act last year. This means that unlike Scotland and Wales, who’ve enacted their own climate laws, Northern Ireland has no laws to promote cutting climate-harming emissions. One Northern Irish politician branded this an “embarrassment.”

3. They won’t challenge the Tories on Heathrow

The DUP back the Tories plans for a 3rd runway at Heathrow. The plans would fuel more climate change, creating over 50% more flights at what is already Europe’s largest airport. Scientists have warned that this will drastically undermine the UK’s ability to meet emission targets agreed upon in the Paris Agreement. We should be persuading the government to change tact on Heathrow — but the DUP are unlikely to help.

4. The 10 DUP MPs have a bad voting record on climate change laws.

One of the DUP’s ten MPs is a proud climate sceptic — stating that human caused climate change is a “gigantic con” and a “hysterical semi-religion.”Ian Paisley Jr, the son of the DUP’s founder, also consistently votes against action on climate change, while other MPs have mixed records on the issue.

5. The party did try to encourage the use of renewable energy…but it turned into a massive scandal.

The policy was dubbed “cash for ash” as for each £1 spent on renewable heating, businesses received £1.60 in subsidies. It meant that the more power you used, the more cash companies could earn. Not exactly great for the planet, or for the reputation of green schemes.

So…

Clearly on issues like Heathrow the DUP and the Conservatives are on the same team. But the Conservative manifesto described the UK as at the forefront of action against global climate change. The party also proved they could make climate progress when they signed the Paris Agreement — we would really hate to see a deal with the DUP risk further positive moves by a Conservative-led government.

We’ll get a clearer picture of things when the Queen’s Speech is revealed on Wednesday. But a UK government, in any form, should remember that climate sceptics and climate inaction are becoming incredibly unpopular. If politicians try to send us backwards there is simply no way that people across the world — and organisations like Greenpeace — will stand by and let that happen.

Categories: Activist News

Coca-Cola - Myth busting Coke's claims on ocean plastics

Greenpeace UK - Tue, 2017-06-20 10:11
All rights reserved. Credit: © David Mirzoeff / Greenpeace

As thousands of Greenpeace supporters have piled the pressure on Coca-Cola, the mega brand is starting to take notice - but Coke’s answers aren’t yet good enough.

When we launched our report showing how Coke is failing to take responsibility for the damage its plastic bottles are causing in the ocean, the company said it was “disappointed” by our findings. What’s really disappointing is that in the past decade, Coca-Cola has actually increased the proportion of single-use plastic bottles across its global packaging mix. But when we delivered a 2.5 ton monument to ocean plastic pollution to Coca-Cola’s London HQ, a spokesperson simply stuck to the line that they were “disappointed”.

Since April, over 88,000 of you have written to Coke’s CEO in Europe, calling on the world’s largest soft drinks company to ditch throwaway plastic to protect our oceans from plastic pollution. Hundreds of you called Coca-Cola’s switchboard in a single afternoon, and have been sharing spoof videos and gifs on social media showing the devastating impact Coke’s single-use plastic bottles are having on marine wildlife.

This kind of pressure is impossible for a company to ignore - even one as large as Coca-Cola. Many of you have shown us the much longer replies you’re now receiving from Coca-Cola, on social media and through emails or letters.  

But getting a response isn’t the same as the right response. Coca-Cola still aren’t facing up to the scale of the problem, or their ability to help end the flow of plastic into the ocean. Just take a look at their common lines - and our comebacks: 



Coke say: Why us? We’ve made statements caring about the planet 
We say: Given the size of Coca-Cola’s plastic footprint, producing over 100 billion single-use plastic bottles every year, it’s clear that Coca-Cola has a particular responsibility for the plastic crisis facing our oceans. Billions of these bottles are ending up on our beaches, in landfill or in the ocean. We’ve even found Coke bottles on some of Scotland’s most remote beaches as part of our Beluga ship expedition. 

If Coca-Cola was to commit to ditch throwaway plastic bottles, and instead embrace reusable packaging and 100% recycled content, this would make a huge difference to the amount of plastic bottles ending up in our oceans. Coca-Cola also has the means and influence to shift the soft drinks sector and companies in Coke’s supply chain away from single-use plastic - that’s what real leadership on this issue looks like.
 
Coke say: All of our bottles are 100% recyclable
We say: Plastic drinks bottles made from a type of plastic called ‘PET’ are 100% recyclable, so it’s no great achievement by Coca-Cola. Several of their major competitors also make 100% recyclable bottles. But crucially, 100% recyclable bottles means they can be recycled after use – not that they are. In fact, just under half the plastic bottles we use every day in the UK aren’t being recycled. That means 16 million plastic bottles every day are being dumped in our environment rather than being recycled in Britain alone.
 
Coca-Cola can do something about this. Used Coke bottles should be re-used as new bottles - rather than ending up in our oceans. Coke has plenty of room to increase the amount of recycled plastic it uses to make its bottles - right now, Coca-Cola averages a pitiful 7% recycled content globally in its plastic bottles. Worse still, the company now has no further global targets to boost this across their entire product range (Coca-Cola’s 2020 target is limited to Europe) - let alone a clear timeline for achieving 100% recycled content in Coke bottles.
 
Coke say: we’ve reduced our plastic use by making lighter, thinner bottles
We say: This ‘lightweighting’ process does reduce Coke’s costs, plastic use and carbon emissions. But lightweighting does not prevent Coca-Cola’s plastic bottles from entering the ocean, breaking down and continuing to threaten marine life. Lightweighting is also happening in the context of the rapid expansion of plastic bottle production - which is set to keep on growing. To truly combat marine plastic pollution, Coca-Cola must innovate beyond single-use plastic bottles. Reusable bottles are also the least carbon-intensive bottles, releasing fewer emissions than a lighter single-use bottle. Lightweighting can’t hide the fact that Coca-Cola has no commitment, target or timeline to reduce the number of single-use plastic bottles it manufactures.

Categories: Activist News

7 reasons why sea sponges are the coolest

Greenpeace UK - Fri, 2017-06-16 15:44

Sea sponges. They’re not exactly the cuddliest of creatures. They don’t have eyes, limbs, ears, a mouth or even a brain. They can’t move and some of them look a bit like Wotsits.

Often branded ‘humble’ or ‘primitive’, most people think sea sponges are just funky plants that live in coral reefs and are used as trampolines by baby fish. But in actual fact, they’re the world’s simplest multicellular animals. And I’m here to tell you that they’re the coolest, too, for seven compelling reasons.

They were the first animals on earth


New research suggests that sea sponges have been around for 640 million years. That’s 400 million years before the dinosaurs and 100 million years before anything else! In that time they’ve lived through a lot, including mass extinction, and scientists think they’ll probably survive climate change, too.

Some of them are humongous

There’s a sea sponge in Hawaii the size of a minivan. That’s 12ft wide and 7ft long. Marine biologists think it’s around 2,000 years old - making it the oldest living animal on earth. The mammoth creature was discovered 2,100m deep using a submersible, the kind that Greenpeace used in January to capture the first ever pictures of the mysterious Amazon Reef.

They’re still baffling scientists 

Talking of the Amazon Reef, sea sponges are thriving there, too. Whilst we didn’t spot any van-sized sponges (not yet, at least), we did observe over 60 species of sea sponge – including one that bears an uncanny resemblance to SpongeBob SquarePants. These sponges form part of a coral reef that’s baffling the science community, growing in an area with no light, no photosynthesis and extremely small amounts of oxygen. Indeed, it’s being called ‘one of the most surprising finds in modern sea research.’

Yet the reef is under threat. Oil companies are preparing to drill for oil nearby, putting the reef at risk from an oil spill that would have devastating impacts on marine life. Read more about our campaign to save this pristine ecosystem.

They can regenerate


If you tear up a sea sponge into thousands of microscopic pieces (not that we condone that!), those pieces will clump together and regenerate, turning into loads of new sea sponges. Watching this process under a microscope is like looking 640 million years into the past, giving us a fascinating insight into how life on earth was first formed. This is perhaps why sea sponges are so resilient – they can literally rebuild themselves from a single cell up.

The crambe crambe chemical shield


It can be hard for some sea creatures to defend themselves, especially when they can’t move, but there’s a type of sea sponge that can deploy a chemical shield. The artfully named crambe crambe, or the encrusting sea sponge, spews out a giant ‘chemical halo’ to ward off would-be predators. It’s also very territorial so uses the toxic haze to stake out its turf and stop other species moving in next door.

Puffball power


The orange puffball may sound like a My Little Pony character but this sea sponge is teaching engineers a thing or two about architectural design. New research shows that the tiny structural rods in orange puffball sponges have evolved to avoid it being squished. The rods, aptly named strongyloxea spicules, are thinner than a human hair and could provide a blueprint for increasing the resistance of human-made structures, like buildings and bike spokes. 

The sponge loop of sustenance


Something that’s perplexed scientists for decades is how coral reefs can thrive in water with little to no nutrition. But researchers from the Netherlands say it’s all down to the noble sea sponge. 

To eat, sea sponges filter thousands of litres of water a day and during this process, they turn carbon and nitrogen into nourishment for larger organisms, like snails and crabs. This is known as the ‘sponge loop’ and scientists say that these findings could benefit efforts to save endangered coral reefs. So sea sponges are basically conservation superheroes.

An ode to sea sponges

Sea sponges. They’re older than time, some of them are humongous and they seem to possess superpowers, from protective shields to reincarnation. Their fascinatingly simple genetic makeup is helping scientists to decode the history of life on earth and the more we know about them, the more we realise how fundamental they are to a healthy, thriving marine ecosystem. And that’s exactly why we need to protect them. 

You can help to defend these amazing creatures by signing the petition to stop risky oil drilling near the Amazon Reef.

Categories: Activist News

What I learnt on board the Beluga

Greenpeace UK - Wed, 2017-06-14 12:26
All rights reserved. Credit: Will Rose/Greenpeace

This week hasn’t been a normal “day at the office”. I’ve spent the last few days on board the Beluga II, the Greenpeace boat currently sailing around the Scottish coast to document and investigate the impact of ocean plastic pollution on Scotland’s internationally significant wildlife.

While ships are part and parcel of life at Greenpeace, it was my first time on a proper boat (school ferry trips aside). Here’s three key things I learnt from my time on the Beluga: 

1. Accessing the outer reaches

Greenpeace’s ships enable us to travel to some of the most remote and pristine places on the planet. While voyages to the Arctic and Pacific islands may hit the headlines, many beautiful landscapes are much closer to home. The Hebridean islands, off the west coast of Scotland, are one such place: it’s like you’ve entered into a magical kingdom. 

One of the most fitting ways to describe the Hebrides was a conversation I overheard between walkers arriving at a settlement of perhaps 10 houses, noting, “There’s quite a few houses round here, eh?” 

I was lucky enough to travel on the Beluga from the Isle of Skye to the Shiant Islands, which are uninhabited by people – but home to an incredible multitude of iconic seabirds: guillemots, razorbills, skuas, shags, fulmars and over 130,000 extremely cute puffins (!!)

Anchoring in the middle of these rock formations, watching the birds fly overhead and gradually spotting thousands nestled into the towering rock crags surrounding the boat, we got the humbling and rare feeling that this place is their domain – and we are simply visitors.

2. The power of good storytelling 

Except of course, that human influence is having a long-lasting impact on these distant islands – in the form of plastic polluting the seawater and washing up on otherwise pristine beaches. 

Greenpeace’s mission is to expose and stop harm to our shared environment. With photographers and videographers on board the Beluga, we’ve been able to shine a light on the stark impact that plastic is having on our oceans and the marine life. Plastic bottles washed up on beaches are a sight we are all too familiar with, but I was shocked by how many of these single-use bottles were all over islands where no one is living. 

These levels of pollution show that there is no “away” when plastic bottles are thrown away. Rather, plastic is being dumped on beautiful beaches, in our amazing oceans and is choking the incredibly special wildlife that inhabit these places. 

The scientists on board are also a key part of the storytelling element of this expedition. They’ve been trawling the ocean surface to run tests in our Greenpeace Research Laboratories on how much plastic (including pieces invisible to the naked eye) is floating in our oceans – particularly in the foraging grounds of the seabirds and basking sharks off the Scottish coast. 

3. Teamwork is dream work

Planning these expeditions is a LOT of work. Campaigners, logistics coordinators and ship crew spend months planning routes, building relationships with local conservation groups, negotiating access to islands from landowners, and recruiting volunteers to ensure all sails smoothly. And on board, the Beluga was a flurry of activity, with everyone playing a vital role. I saw a real respect for each role on board, whether a first mate, a marine biologist or the cook (with special respect paid to the cook’s top notch flapjacks).

The level of professionalism on display in cramped conditions, which are heavily dependent on the weather and refuelling practicalities, was outstanding – and while the incredible photos and stunning drone footage are the most visible element of this, so much hard work has gone on behind the scenes and is continuing as the team revise plans each morning to make every day count throughout this two month expedition.

BONUS: The joys of harbour wi-fi

As a campaigner, a core part of my role was to liaise between the needs of the campaign team at the Greenpeace UK office and what the crew on the Beluga could facilitate each day. That meant a lot of pleading with one bar of phone signal to not cut out, and plenty of buffer-face as my inbox helpfully told me I didn’t have internet access. So I must give a special commendation to the free wi-fi of Uig pier – although the sound of the wind, waves and seabirds of the Shiants beats the buzzing of Whatsapp messages any day.

Categories: Activist News

UN report criticises Lobbying Act and urges UK government to reform it

Greenpeace UK - Wed, 2017-06-14 10:41
16 June, 2017

Greenpeace: “Ministers should use Queen’s Speech to end international embarrassment”

A senior United Nations official has expressed concerns about the highly controversial Lobbying Act, urging the UK government to reform it.

In a report presented at the UN Human Rights Council just two days before polling day last week, UN experts criticised the act for its ‘chilling effect’ on civil society and its unequal treatment of charities compared to businesses. [1]

The high-profile intervention by the UN, which went unreported because of the vote, will pile more pressure on ministers to look again at a law widely blamed for silencing civil society organisations at both the 2015 and 2017 elections.

Greenpeace has branded the Lobbying Act an ‘international embarrassment’ and called on ministers to use the Queen’s Speech to signal a reform or repeal of this failed legislation. A coalition of more than 50 campaign groups have called on party leaders to change the law following reports that charities had chosen not to speak out on the ‘dementia tax’ for fears of legal repercussions.

Commenting on the UN report, Greenpeace UK’s executive director John Sauven said:

“The Lobbying Act is now a source of international embarrassment. Britain is renowned for its vibrant civil society and its respect of free speech, and this failed legislation is threatening both. The act has done nothing to curb the influence of corporate lobbies over our political system, but has frightened charities supported by millions of people into silence. Ministers should listen to the UN and to their own experts and use the Queen’s Speech to repeal or reform this charity-gagging law. Last week’s election should be the last to be held under the chilling influence of the Lobbying Act.”

Summing up evidence gathered during last year’s visit to the UK, the UN rapporteur highlights the ‘chilling effect’ of the Lobbying Act on charity campaigning during the election period, ‘with many [charities] opting for silence on issues they work on’.

The report also criticises the ‘disproportionate impact’ the act has on civil society and trade unions compared to businesses. It points out that the register of lobbyists established by the act failed to capture the many in-house lobbyists working in Westminster and that civil society is unevenly affected.  

The UN special rapporteur supports the conclusion of the government-commissioned review led by Lord Hodgson which called for the sweeping definition of ‘regulated activity’ to be restricted to work clearly intended to influence the outcome of the vote.

ENDS

Notes:

1. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session35/Pages/ListReports.aspx A/HRC/35/28/Add.1

Contact:

Greenpeace UK press office, [email protected], 020 7865 8255

Categories: Activist News
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