Join us in helping to Prevent Single-use Plastics in North Devon

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On the 19th January Plastic Free North Devon and Plastic Free Barnstaple are coordinating a mass unwrap event at our local Tesco stores.

Supermarkets have a huge role to play in helping us as a community to reduce our single use plastic by limiting what they sell us. Many small local businesses have been making massive efforts to reduce their single use unnecessary plastic and we would like to see our local Tesco's and other supermarkets showing the same drive. With an annual pre-tax profit of around £1 billion, we believe Tesco have no excuse not to be prioritising this customer-driven issue.

What is the Issue:
The top 7 UK supermarkets (of which Tesco is the largest) sell 59 billion pieces of plastic per year (ave 2000 per household) which generates 261,204 tonnes of waste. Around 55% (143,662 tonnes) will not be recycled ( Feb 18) and 90% of the disposal cost is met by the Taxpayer (source UK Resources and Waste Management Strategy 2018).

Despite the massive decrease in SUP bag consumption since the 5p charge was introduced the top 10 UK supermarkets sell/provide the following annually: 1.2 billion SUP bags, 958 million bags for life and 1.3 billion plastic product bags.

They also sell or giveaway
- 504 million bottles of water
- 123 million pieces of plastic cutlery
- 84 million coffee cups

We class these as convenient avoidable plastics which can be ultimately stopped and align with the top items we find on our beach cleans including plastic bags, plastic bottles, straws, cutlery, cotton buds and food wrappers.

What are they doing already?
- Tesco have made moves to reduce the impact of plastic packaging in the last 12 months by: driving the reduction of single use plastic (SUP) bag consumption with the decision to stop providing SUP bags in 2017/18 (304 million bags, almost halving the number distributed by the top 7 supermarkets - DEFRA).
- Signing the UK Plastics Pact making a voluntary commitment to that all plastic packaging can be reused, recycled or composted by 2025. But this is voluntary and does not include any commitment to reduce plastic consumption.

What do we want Tesco (and other UK supermarkets) to do?
- Ban plastic bags (North Devon and nationally)
The UK is still consuming over 3.5 billion plastic bags annually.
54 countries have introduced complete bans (Kenya, Sri Lanka, India, Italy etc. Source Wikipedia).

- Plastic free aisles in supermarkets including:
More loose fruit and veg that is the same price or cheaper than wrapped items
- Bulk refill facilities for dry foods and washing liquids etc. (There are many independent zero waste bulk buy stores providing this service why can't supermarkets implement this?)

- Commit to reducing use of plastic in packaging:

Remove SUP from own brands
Eliminate non-recyclable plastic from own brands
Seek sustainable alternatives to oil based packaging
Demand that national brand suppliers do the same

- Take full corporate responsibility for SUP packaging now
Uptake the Government’s Resources and Waste Management Strategy which sees producers paying the full net cost of disposal or recycling of packaging that they place on the market through the principle of Extended Producer Responsibility.

What do we want the Government to do?
- UK Government to introduce legislation to make these changes mandatory and within the next 3 years.
Current voluntary targets of 2025 do not meet the urgent requirement to address this issue now.
A 6 year delay = 4.86 billion tonnes of plastic generated by the top 10 UK supermarkets!
Consultancy periods need to shorten and not delay the passing of legislation due to industry concerns.


- Grab a trolley and meet at 11am at the front of the store (Homemade banners welcome)
- Be prepared with containers, reusable bags to put stuff into
- Shop (30 minutes) Focus on fruit and veg, bread (unsliced), pasta, rice, cerealpulses, drinks and multipacks bound by plastic
- Smile, pay, move away and UNWRAP in a quiet corner or at the front of the store or with others and place packaging into the trolleys provided by our unwrap leader and meet for a picture.

SHARE, SHARE, SHARE - Take pictures and videos...tag Plastic Free North Devon Surfers Against Sewage Tesco and your relative plastic free group. Use hashtags #massunwrap #plasticfreecommunities #plasticfreenorthdevon #noexcuseforsingleuse

This is a peaceful, non-confrontational fun way of making our voices heard together, try to avoid getting in anyone's way, be polite and SMILE. All supermarkets have been made aware and are supportive of our direct action.

Kelly Johnson