2019 has been another momentous year for Surfers Against Sewage, from the front line of radical activism at beaches, to our campaigners applying pressure for radical change in legislation in Westminster, we’ve made some good progress. So we’d like to start by thanking everyone who has taken part in the growing movement for ocean protection – the incredible volunteers; the inspirational plastic-free champions; the climate protesters; the ocean activists; the scientists; the athletes; and our inspirational members and fundraisers. Every one of you brings vital energy and impact at this time of ocean, environment and climate emergency. The ocean now needs you more than ever before – thank you for all you do.
Climate & Ocean
The year saw the unstoppable rise of the climate movement, with many of our community leaders ready and waiting to take action and participate. Plastic pollution proved both a powerful gateway issue to other ocean issues – climate change, ocean restoration and stopping exploitation – but also revealed its deep connectivity to the climate agenda, being fuelled by the monolithic fossil fuel industry.
Our communities have also campaigned heavily on other issues including water quality and sewage, and calling for more highly protected marine parks and faster action on climate change.
Legally Binding Targets
Years of campaigning with our fellow environmental NGOs also took another big leap forward, with our campaign for Deposit Return Systems, plastic bans and the elimination of single-use plastics all featuring in the Queen’s Speech. We will now redouble the campaign effort to ensure these are enacted, implemented and enforced to deliver one of the biggest legislative and environmental success in our 30 years.
We’re proud to work with you to drive the environmental change that is beginning to take hold around the world. Dramatic times require radical activism and, more importantly, radical hope. Together we stand for a healthy ocean and hope for the future of our rivers, coastlines, marine life and people. We need to be steadfast in our call for governments, businesses and individuals to change behaviours, systems and legislation for the long term good of planet ocean.
Here are some of the moments we can be proud of this year:
We launched the #GenerationSea campaign, a new movement for the ocean, expanding our scope and remit on climate change, water quality, marine protected areas and plastics. This is the movement that unites an authentic voice of the ocean to call on politicians to deliver change through our Ocean Conservation All Party Parliamentary Group.
Plastic Free Schools
Plastic Free Schools became one of UK schools favourite environmental programmes, reaching thousands of schools and over 800,000 students. One of our schools, Damers First School, even met with the then Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Gove MP, to urge an ambitious Deposit Return Scheme for the whole of the UK.Surfers Against Sewage visit to Flora Garden Primary School Hammersmith Plastic Free Schools
Beach Cleans & Plastic Pollution Data
Record-breaking beach cleans! The Big Spring Beach Clean and the Autumn Beach Clean Series mobilise record numbers of volunteers, with over 90,000 participants and 130 tonnes of plastic removed and recorded. A part of this, we launch the most ambitious UK beach brand audit – an extension of our successful 2008 Return To Offender campaign. Our report reveals Coca Cola and PepsiCo are responsible for 25% of packaging pollution found on UK beaches, and that multinational corporations are responsible for most of the plastic pollution in our ocean.
SAS Helps Deliver Plastic Ban!
After months of consultations and campaigning, we celebrate a huge campaign victory as the government confirms it will ban plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in England by the end of 2020. Stopping the production of pointless plastics will always be a primary goal with the most impact. Strengthening and enforcing legislation is the best way to drive both individual and corporate behaviour change.
We release The Creature film, which becomes the most successful SAS film ever and is viewed by millions of people globally. The film helps reinforce our new direction in campaigning with #GenerationSea.
The Safer Seas Service – award-winning app!
We relaunched the Safer Seas Service covering Scotland for the first time and providing real-time water quality information at 370 locations. We were stoked to improve the service beyond recognition this year, when water quality concerns came back onto the public agenda. Damning reports on the water industry and record fines being issued to Southern Water for unethical practices and sewage discharges provided further stark evidence at the need for action to report and prevent sewage pollution. The Safer Seas Service wins in the National App Awards!
Water Quality Report
The return of the gas masks! Surfers Against Sewage activists challenge water companies on sewage pollution of the UK coastline and rivers with the release of a ground-breaking expose on sewage pollution – the Water Quality Report.
The Queen’s Speech confirms an Environment Bill to “enshrine principles in law” and set legally binding “improvement targets” to reduce plastics, cut air pollution, restore biodiversity and improve water quality. Plastics feature heavily in Queen’s Speech – including Deposit Return Schemes and Extended Producer Responsibility.
Plastic Free Awards
The Plastic Free Awards celebrate the heroes of the environmental movement protecting our planet from plastic pollution. Finalists from around the UK converge on Bristol for an inspirational awards ceremony! Sir David Attenborough wins our overall award!
Thanks to all our supporters, members, volunteers, Regional Reps, partners, collaborators and ocean activists everywhere! See you in 2020.
Drastic measures are needed to protect the marine environment. Become a member today to help us tackle pollution in our seas and on the beaches, inspire communities to take action and push for change at the highest level.
This year has seen the rise of radical activism and radical hope for our ocean. We are proud to help inspire and empower activists around the country to take action on climate change, plastic pollution, water quality and other issues degrading Planet Ocean. Together, we are making progress and true change is on the horizon as the environmental revolution accelerates. Our collective calls are beginning to be heard by those in power - change is coming. Meanwhile, the personal actions, commitments and changes we make every day will help bring this change faster. Thanks to all our volunteers, supporters and ocean activists around the world. We need to continue our mission of radical action and radical hope for the ocean!
Hugo Tagholm, CEO, Surfers Against Sewage
Plastic Free Communities - Mass Unwrap!
Surfers Against Sewage is calling on communities to make a stand against pointless plastic packaging, as we launch the UK’s biggest ever Mass Unwrap. Volunteers across the country can get involved by organising an event or taking part as shoppers, to hand avoidable plastic straight back to the supermarkets.
Mass Unwraps are awesome, fun and high impact actions, that show the sheer scale of plastic packaging used by supermarkets and puts pressure on them from community level, to change. The non-confrontational and family-friendly events are a unique opportunity for us as consumers to be able to raise awareness of excess packaging, and they’re a great way to visually call out the problem.
After the success of the 2019 National Mass Unwrap, involving SAS Plastic Free Community Leads, SAS are now rolling the event out so anyone, wherever they live and whoever they are, can take part and get food naked. To kickstart this new wave of action, a week-long National Mass Unwrap will be held between 22nd February and 1st March 2020.
Research shows that 59 billion pieces of plastic packaging are distributed by the supermarkets every year, that’s 112 thousand pieces each minute! The total plastic packaging used by the UK’s biggest supermarkets rose from an estimated 886,000 tonnes in 2017 to 903,000 tonnes in 2018 * In 2019 SAS Mass Unwrap events collected up to nine pieces of unwanted plastic a minute. In one case at Tesco in Braunton, North Devon 1,660 items were handed back. It was estimated that less than 10% of the plastic packaging could be recycled.
Mass Unwraps are not designed to cause disruption to supermarket staff, but instead raise awareness and gather unwanted plastic as shoppers leave the store. This year volunteers will also gather evidence of shoppers’ top Pointless Plastic Peeves.
Rachel Yates, SAS Plastic Free Communities Project Officer, said: “All the main supermarkets have made pledges to cut single-use plastic and many are on track to hit initial aims, such as banning black plastic, by 2020. But we are all still faced with a sea of avoidable, throwaway plastic every time we enter a store, from shrink wrapped coconuts to plastic toy giveaways. Mass Unwrap is a chance for customers and their communities to send a strong message to supermarket bosses that more change is needed … and faster.”
In the UK the burden of plastic waste is put onto consumers, tax payers, and ultimately the environment as businesses contribute just 10% of the end-of-life disposal costs of their product and packaging. Surfers Against Sewage is calling for supermarkets to be part of the solution and calls for them to:
-CUT OUT AVOIDABLE SINGLE-USE PLASTIC AND REDESIGN PACKAGING
-IMPLEMENT REFILL SOLUTIONS
-USE RECYCLED CONTENT & STOP USING VIRGIN PLASTIC
-TAKE RESPONSIBILITY AND INVEST IN PROVEN SYSTEMS TECHNOLOGY SUCH AS AN ‘ALL IN’ DEPOSIT RETURN SCHEMES FOR DRINKS CONTAINERS.
Amy Slack, SAS Project Manager, said: “Retailers have a massive part to play in stemming the flow of single use plastic and pointless packaging. Our supermarkets in particular can be hugely influential both in their own brand products and by putting pressure on their supply chains.
“This year, we have seen some great commitments made and now it’s time for action to be taken. It’s critical that commitments result in real reduction in the amount of plastic packing used and more refill solutions being put in place, not just focused on recycling. This year, by taking part in a Mass Unwrap, you can help highlight where action is still needed to reduce packaging in our supermarkets by collecting your ‘Pointless Plastic Peeves'”
Mass Unwrap is part of Surfers Against Sewage’s award-winning Plastic Free Communities campaign to free where we live from avoidable single-use plastic, which is now active in more than 650 communities across the UK.
Students step onto beach for the first time thanks to Ocean School
3 August 2019
Our immersive education programme aimed at getting children involved with ocean conservation has seen some students head to the beach for the first time in their lives this summer.
Ocean School (Ysgol y Mor), welcomed 1,500 primary and secondary school students into the ‘greatest classroom on earth’ in recent weeks.
“The aim? Simple. To give all children the opportunity to explore, investigate, protect and enjoy their beaches in their own way… (and to have loads of fun of course!!)”– SAS Education Manager, Dom Ferris
1 in 5 youngsters have never been to the beach!
However, of the huge number of children, around 20 said they had never been to a beach before – and, sadly, we think this is a conservative estimate, due to some students being too embarrassed to admit that it was their first time. Recent studies suggest that, nationally, almost one in five children have never been to a beach (Keep Britain Tidy, 2018).
We are aiming to change that, and, during this particular wave of Ocean School sessions, which saw more than 40 schools taking part, we were able to provide free transport for a number of schools in areas of social and economic deprivation (including Bournemouth, Swansea and Manchester).
These, and a significant number of other schools that attended, had an above average number of Pupil Premium (PP) students, which means that the number of disadvantaged students at the school was higher than normal (the national averages being 13.7% and 12.4% for primary and secondary respectively). PP students at one school alone made up 44% of the attendees.
With the wave of sessions, which have been running each summer since 2017, we are empowering young people to take matters like the plastic pollution crisis into their own hands through outdoor education. And thanks to 10 Ocean School delivery teams made up of 21 dedicated SAS regional reps, 48 sessions (26 in Wales and 22 in England) were held across 16 UK beaches this year.
Power to the pupils
The flexible programme even allowed one school to hand the power over to its pupils for the first time and guide other students in the right direction. This team, from Knelston Primary School, located on the Gower, hosted students from Sea View school (based in an economically deprived area of Swansea) and actually led and delivered Ocean School themselves – the first time we have been able to facilitate this style of delivery.
Following the sessions, Knelston School teacher Sal Beynon said:“It was absolutely amazing and we would most definitely do it again.
I felt a little nervous before as I knew we had several children (coming from Sea View School) with behavioural issues but they were so engaged in Ocean School. They were as good as gold and many of them didn’t want to leave.”
Engaging with Government
They weren’t the only inspired group of students, though, with other schools, like Nant y Moel Primary, using their session to reach out to government – in this case, by recording and sending a message from Ocean School to their local MP Chris Elmore (MP for Ogmore), who visited the school the very next day.
Ocean School’s out for summer
With the incredibly positive response, we’re now gearing to re-launch the programme for next year, which will feature an updated version of the programme for Key Stages 3 & 4 students.
Each summer term we deliver Ocean School at a selection of beaches across Wales and England. We have room for 40 schools and 1200 students to visit each year, so drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to be considered for 2020.
Head over to our Ocean School page to learn more about the programme and maybe take a few ‘ocean activist’ ideas to the beach with you this summer!