Surfers take on big companies in annual beach spring clean

A group of surfers is pressuring big brands to take responsibility for their plastic pollution by launching a new auditing tool for their annual beach spring clean.

The new tool launched by Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), which organises the nationwide clean-up operation Big Spring Beach Clean each year, will help volunteers track which brands are most responsible for the waste collected during the clean this year.

The toolkit comes over a decade after the company launched its first plastic pollution audit, which identified the 12 companies whose plastic was most commonly found on UK beaches.

Those previously named as the worst offenders include multi-national food and drink companies like Nestle, Coca Cola and Unilever, the British snack manufacturer Walkers, and supermarket brands such as Tesco and Asda.

Ben Hewitt, SAS’ director of campaigns, said: ‘We are facing a plastic environmental crisis and the big brands creating the deluge must be held accountable. This is plastic pollution but it’s also evidence.

‘It is ten years since we first conducted this survey and notified the brands of their actions, and a decade later we will reveal which brands are still polluting the most and then calling them to account.’

This year’s edition of Big Spring Beach Clean started last Saturday (April 6) and see volunteers cleaning up public beauty spots across the UK until this Sunday (April 14).

The clean-up will see over 30,000 volunteers heading to 615 local beaches, rivers and mountains to clean up waste plastic blighting the environment.

SAS say that their audit will help to map and monitor where waste plastics are coming from most, enabling them to signpost where action is most urgently needed.

The charity’s research will go to the government’s Extended Producer Responsibility consultation, which is looking into how to reduce the production of unnecessary or hard to recycle packaging in the UK.

Amy Slack, who is leading SAS’ research and consultation response, hopes that the research will have a big impact in making the government follow the ‘polluter pays’ principle.

‘The timing of this research is crucial as the government is consulting right now on how producers of plastic pollution must take accountability and we will be sharing our evidence with both big business and the government.’

Over 11 million tonnes of plastic waste are produced in the UK every year, with major producers currently paying a fraction of the cost of collecting and recycling it.

The National Audit Office reported that in 2017 local authorities spent £700m on collecting and sorting recycling, compared with £73m by major businesses.

Volunteers can get involved with this year’s Big Spring Beach Clean here, and upload their plastic pollution data here before 21 April.


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