‘The Dirty Dozen’ is responsible for 56% of UKs plastic and packaging pollution
Coca-Cola remains the UKs worst polluter out of 207 brands
Big brands respond to public action but fail to acknowledge the need for single-use plastic reductions and radical recycling solutions

Over the last month, Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) award-winning campaign #ReturnToOffender has been challenging big brands on the volume of plastic and packaging pollution found on beaches and other wild spaces. Thousands of individuals across the UK took part in the digital action documenting the branded plastic and packaging pollution they found during their isolated outdoor activity during the pandemic lockdown*.

The campaign has revealed that just 12 big brands are responsible for over half of the UKs plastic and packaging pollution. Coca-Cola was identified as the worst polluter out of 207 brands, responsible for 15% of the plastic waste recorded. The plastic pollution crisis is choking our rivers, ocean and countryside, and destroying delicate ecosystems and killing marine wildlife.

The #ReturnToOffender campaign calls on manufacturers to tackle plastic pollution and reaffirm commitments to eliminate single-use plastic packaging, support refill schemes, implement circular schemes to reuse and reprocess packaging, and support the accelerated introduction of a deposit return scheme.

As part of the #ReturnToOffender campaign, the public were encouraged to upload images of branded plastic and packaging pollution onto social media, tagging manufacturers and asking for an update on their commitments to stop plastic pollution.
Over 30 brands directly responded to the public messages, nine of which were part of the ‘dirty dozen’. Despite a small number of brands highlighting the action they were taking to reduce their plastic production; the majority of responses simply blamed the general public without acknowledging the systemic and plastic reduction strategies that businesses must adopt to protect the environment and finite resources.

Surfers Against Sewage is calling for a reduction of the production and consumption of single-use plastics. Alongside the environmental action directed at big businesses, the marine conservation charity is also asking the UK government to introduce an ‘all in’ conprehensive Deposit Return Scheme and Extended Producer Responsibility by 2023 to ensure manufactures are responsible for 100% of the costs of their plastic waste management.

As lock-down restrictions lift and the public return to their most-missed environments we are already seeing a vast increase of plastic and packaging pollution on UK beaches. This highlighted the sheer scale of single-use plastics being pumped onto the market and into public hands without sufficient recycling systems to contain and control the ‘wave of waste’.

The SAS ‘post-pandemic pollution poll’ has highlighted the main actions the public want to see in order to tackle the issue with the results ranging from education on the impacts of plastic to a reduction in plastic production. As the UK emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is vital that we ‘build back better’ and ensure that big business is held truly accountable for the full life-cycle of their products and the pollution they cause.

Amy Slack, Head of Campaigns at Surfers Against Sewage says: “Anti-littering campaigns will be set for further failure unless the root causes of plastic pollution are addressed through a radical change in our approach to materials and recycling systems. Big business continues to put profits ahead of preventing plastic pollution and we urge them to deliver fast and meaningful action today to protect the planet.