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Updated: 8 min 26 sec ago

How to change the world, one plastic bottle at a time

Wed, 2018-07-11 09:09

Hi, I’m Will and I’ve dedicated the last 3 years of my life to the anti-plastics movement.

As Head of the Oceans campaign at Greenpeace UK, I’ve been working with governments and companies to prevent our plastic crisis, as well as researching what everyday consumers can do to reduce plastic pollution.

I’ve learnt a lot and I’ve put it all in a book called How to Give Up Plastic, which is packed with tips and tricks to help you reduce your plastic footprint in your homes, communities and workplaces.

I’ve just returned from a month-long expedition to the Antarctic, where our team of scientists onboard found something shocking – their snow and water samples were contaminated with microplastic waste and persistent hazardous chemicals – showing that plastic pollution is reaching the most remote region on the planet.

But how is it getting there? Here’s an extract from my book, How to Give Up Plastic, where I answer the top three questions I get asked about how plastic gets into the environment in the first place:

1.   How much plastic is already in the ocean (and can’t we clean it up)?

Working out exactly how much plastic is already in the ocean is a tricky business. Different factors make such estimates difficult: for example, which kinds of plastic float and are therefore more likely to be found on beaches, compared to ones which sink out of sight down to the seabed; the invisibility of so much of the plastic in the ocean, like microfibres and microplastics, which can be impossible to see with the naked eye; and perhaps most importantly, the scale of the ocean itself!

Over two-thirds of our blue planet is covered by the ocean, and we have observed only a minute fraction of the seabed, making any comprehensive survey of how much plastic is out there remarkably difficult. Despite the difficulties, Ocean Conservancy working with the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment has estimated that there is already 150 million tonnes of plastic in the ocean. This is a worrying enough figure; however, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that at the rate we are increasing production, plastic could even outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050. It’s hard to imagine any technological or human effort managing to clean up 150 million tonnes of plastic. That’s the equivalent weight to 300 of the tallest tower in the world, the Burj Khalifa, but spread across every ocean in the world, from the sea surface to the deepest trench. In short, it probably can’t be done, which is why efforts to clean up, though laudable and necessary in particular locations where plastic is causing major environmental or infrastructure problems, can only have limited success.

The global movement to reduce plastic needs to focus on getting rid of it at source as the only way to prevent it from getting into the ocean in the first place. Of course, we need to pick up plastic on our beaches, and governments and companies need to sponsor efforts to do mass clean-ups, but unless we start reducing the amount of plastic overall, we’ll only end up in an endless cycle of having to repeat these clean-ups.

2.   How much plastic enters the ocean every year?

At current estimates between 4.8 million and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste enter the ocean every year. That’s almost a rubbish truck every minute, and a recent report by the UK Government about the future of the ocean estimated that the amount of plastic waste entering the ocean could treble in the next ten years.

3.   Where is it all coming from?

This is a harder question to answer. Research shows that approximately 80 per cent of all plastic in the ocean originates on land rather than from ships at sea. It can end up in the ocean in many ways.

  • Microfibres, which can be released through washing our clothes, account for roughly a third of plastic in the ocean.
  • Plastic that isn’t disposed of correctly leads to litter blowing into waterways and being carried out into the ocean.
  • Plastic that doesn’t get recycled can end up going to landfill sites on the coast that might leak into the sea, as well as many other routes to the open ocean where currents will take it to the four corners of the globe.

The enormous quantity of plastic being produced means that even vastly improved waste and recycling infrastructure would not capture all plastic. Even a proportionally small amount of leakage (plastic that is meant to be disposed of properly but ‘leaks’ from the system) can have major impacts. In fact, scientists estimate that currently nearly third of all plastic waste manages to evade the waste and recycling sector.

It’s clear that the key to stop plastic pollution is to reduce the amount of plastic we use – How to Give Up Plastic is the ultimate guide to help you do this. Buy your copy today!

The post How to change the world, one plastic bottle at a time appeared first on Greenpeace UK.

Categories: Activist News

Major Win! Krill industry backs Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary

Sun, 2018-07-08 17:33

This is big: a huge group of krill fishing companies have just committed to reduce their impact on Antarctic wildlife and back the campaign for ocean sanctuaries in the Antarctic. The global call from 1.7 million people to protect the Antarctic goes from strength to strength.

To demonstrate their support for a network of Antarctic ocean sanctuaries, almost the entire krill fishing industry has agreed voluntarily to stop fishing in sensitive Antarctic waters which are being proposed for protection. This includes the biggest krill fishing companies in the world, like Aker Biomarine, who supply UK shops.

This is a huge victory for people power. This spring, health chain Holland & Barrett received 45,000 emails from Greenpeace supporters in just 24 hours, and swiftly decided to stop stocking krill oil to limit their environmental impact, name checking Greenpeace’s campaign in their public statement.

Boots also came under pressure from Greenpeace supporters, who posted 11,000 messages on Boots’ social media channels and visited over 30 Boots’ shops across the UK, surveying consumer opinion with ‘krill-o-meters’ to ask Boots customers to choose between an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary and industrial krill fishing. Unsurprisingly the vast majority voted to protect the Antarctic!

Campaigning on Holland & Barrett and Boots led to Morrisons, Superdrug and a whole series of specialist health-food retailers delisting krill products fished from sensitive Antarctic waters.

Our campaign also motivated Lidl to add a section on krill fishing to their new seafood sourcing policy, recognising that, “krill forms the basis of the Antarctic food web, with many Antarctic species relying on its sufficient availability. For this reason, Lidl UK does not stock products that contain Krill or Krill oil.” The supermarket also used its new policy to voice support for a large-scale network of effective marine protected areas across the world.

By convincing UK retailers to stop stocking krill products sourced from sensitive waters that are being considered for protection, our message went straight to the krill companies themselves. So although these huge vessels are operating on the other side of the world, we’ve now proved that we can influence this industry by mobilising pressure here in the UK.

This is a major step forward for the campaign and will directly reduce the pressure from krill fishing on Antarctic wildlife. Krill may be small, but it is the bedrock of the Antarctic food chain – making up essential food for the penguins, whales and other creatures that live there.

As the largest fishery in parts of the Antarctic, the krill industry is also a significant lobby group at government negotiations for marine protection. Industry’s commitment to back a network of ocean sanctuaries massively strengthens political momentum for governments to protect sensitive Antarctic waters.

UK retailers have also backed this commitment from the krill industry, and added their weight to the global movement calling for an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary. The British Retail Consortium is now calling on governments to act and protect the Antarctic this year.

Our campaign has raised the political profile of the threats facing the Antarctic, strengthening the case for protection. Michael Gove recently spoke out against the environmental risks of commercial exploitation of the Antarctic as “wrong.” The Environment Secretary reiterated the UK’s support for an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary in, “one of the most pristine and precious environments on the planet.” We’re shifting the power towards Antarctic protection with every victory.

Governments will meet this October to decide whether to create the world’s largest protected area: an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary. Join our movement of millions: sign the petition to Protect the Antarctic today.

The post Major Win! Krill industry backs Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary appeared first on Greenpeace UK.

Categories: Activist News

Martin from Manchester – Why I’m standing up to Barclays

Fri, 2018-07-06 14:18

Why am I taking action against Barclays bank for funding toxic oil pipelines including the Transmountain Pipeline? Because tar sands may be the final proof that humanity are in grave trouble.

The threat of climate change has been there my entire adult life. I was still celebrating being able to legally buy a drink in a pub when the climate scientist James Hansen warned the US Congress of the danger of putting extra carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Forty years later we’re still burning fossil fuels.

But if you Google ‘CO2 crisis’ right now the answer you get is the shortage of gas to go in our lager. Running out of draft beer would indeed be a crisis, although of a slightly different order of magnitude to climate change. Drinkers may have to look to alternative sources of alcohol.

And instead of looking for alternative,  oil companies are running out of easily accessible oil, so up in Canada they are boiling up the ground to extract the bitumen that is mixed in with the sand and clay. The air turns toxic, the ground is contaminated and the oil that comes out is twice as bad for the climate as ordinary crude oil.

It’s also completely useless in the middle of Alberta, so that’s where the pipelines come in, carrying the oil through forests, over rivers and through Indigenous land. In doing so, it threatens Indigenous communities, water, wildlife and our shared climate. These are the toxic pipelines Barclays is still choosing to fund, and that I want to stop.

So, with a bunch of volunteers, and an unfeasibly large cardboard ATM, I headed off into Manchester on the 30 June to do something about it as part of a national day of action involving over 30 other similar activities across the country. The day is scorching hot. Just a few miles away, fire fighters are still battling wild fires on Saddleworth Moor and Winter Hill. This city may be almost as well known for its rain as for its football and music, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be affected by climate change.

A Saturday afternoon on Market Street means competing with a band, several street artists, and numerous people selling knock-off World Cup souvenirs, but the Manchester folk are friendly, and above all, supportive of the campaign. By the time we call it a day our ATM has filled up with cards carrying messages to Barclays, all saying stop this now.

Was it worth it? Well it was for me.

What’s clear is that when you meet people face-to-face,they know this is stupid. They don’t want tar sands or pipelines or climate change. They want alternatives.

And they want a bank that shares their views.

The post Martin from Manchester – Why I’m standing up to Barclays appeared first on Greenpeace UK.

Categories: Activist News

Why the Government’s fisheries White Paper could mean a bad deal for local, low impact fishing

Fri, 2018-07-06 10:26

This blog is co-written by Jerry Percy, Director of NUTFA and Paul Keenlyside, Political Advisor at Greenpeace

There is a contradiction at the heart of the Government’s long awaited White Paper on fisheries.

On the one hand, the Government sets out the admirable principle that “the fish in our seas, like our wider marine assets, are a public resource and therefore the rights to catch them are a public asset.” According to the Government, “our aim is to ensure that UK communities derive maximum benefit from UK quota.”

Implementing this principle should, by rights, give a much bigger slice of the pie to local, low-impact fishers across the UK that fish sustainably and deliver huge economic benefits for local communities, but have struggled for years to get access to enough quota to make a living.

Yet on the other hand, the Government commits to keeping the current system of allocating quota – known as the ‘fixed quota allocation’ system – fundamentally unchanged. This is the system through which just three companies have come to own 61% of English quota, and almost half of English quota is controlled by companies based overseas. That sounds less like a public asset than a private monopoly. So much for supporting coastal communities and sustainable fishing.

So what’s going on?

Well, according to the White Paper, the Government expects the UK to have access to additional fishing opportunities after Brexit, and some of that could be made available to the small scale fleet. Should that be enough to reassure the 79% of the UK fleet that is small scale, but currently has access to approximately 6% of the quota?

Absolutely not.

Firstly, there is no reason to assume any additional quota would go to local, low impact boats. The White Paper does not establish that the Government would use transparent and objective environmental, social and economic criteria to allocate new quota. Instead, it floats the idea of a tender or auction system for new quota. Under an auction system there would be every reason to expect quota to be snapped up by cash rich companies – that is, those that own most of the quota already.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, there is absolutely no guarantee there will be any additional quota for the UK post-Brexit. In fact the Government admit that: “we do not yet know the outcome of the UK’s negotiations to withdraw from the EU or on a future economic partnership”. The Government have accepted that the Common Fisheries Policy will remain in place throughout the transition period, and the EU has made it clear that a post-transition Free Trade Agreement would be contingent on maintenance of “existing reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources.” Asking local fishers to place their hopes in additional quota after Brexit is to rely on concessions that may or may not be won from Brussels.

Finally, the time scale on which new quota could be expected, if at all, is highly uncertain. We know for sure that there will not be additional quota during the transition period, and there are widely held expectations that the transition period could last far beyond January 2021.

The small scale fleet fought hard for the 2014 reforms to the Common Fisheries Policy to get a fairer deal for fishing that is environmentally and socially sustainable – supported by the UK government at the time. Greenpeace subsequently took the UK government to court over its failure to properly implement these reforms. Now, in its long delayed White Paper, the Government is calling on local, low impact fishers to wait again for an indefinite period for quota that may never materialise. It is clear to small scale fishing representatives what this means: lost jobs, lost boats, lost local fishing landings, lost culture, and lost tradition.

Of course, it is not too late for the government to change course. The draft Fisheries Bill is the perfect opportunity for the UK to take advantage of powers it already has to reallocate quota it already controls to reward those fishing in a more sustainable way.

Only then will the government’s high level principles mean anything in practical terms.

The post Why the Government’s fisheries White Paper could mean a bad deal for local, low impact fishing appeared first on Greenpeace UK.

Categories: Activist News