London is perfectly positioned to take on “one of the great environmental scourges of our time”

In a speech on 11 January 2018, the Prime Minister declared war on plastic pollution, announcing the government’s ambition to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042 and setting out a four point plan to achieve this.

Included in the plan is a pledge to reduce demand for single-use plastic, and ultimately, to reduce the amount in circulation through the following actions: the removal of all consumer single-use plastics from central government estate offices, extension of the 5p plastic bag tax, establishment of water refill stations across major cities and towns, and collaboration with supermarkets to create plastic-free aisles.

Although not a white paper with formal standing, this plan does signal a commitment to tackle the estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic that enter the ocean every year; a welcome move by #OneLess.

The collaborative #OneLess project has been leading the charge against avoidable plastic waste and ocean plastic since 2016, focusing on the pervasive single-use plastic water bottle. We are working to transform London into a city that no longer uses single-use plastic water bottles; an unnecessary item when we have clean and safe water available out of our taps. We are enabling a ‘refill revolution’ in London, transforming the city into a place where single-use bottled water is a thing of the past and where ‘refilling’ rules.

We have a created a growing network of pioneering organisations and individuals that are working to secure the necessary policy and legislative changes, while nurturing new solutions to create lasting change across London and beyond.

The Prime Minister’s plans to tackle single-use plastic follow on the heels of the recent Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) inquiry and subsequent report Plastic bottles: Turning Back the Plastic Tide, to which #OneLess contributed both written and oral evidence.

While it is promising to see commitments from government to tackle single-use plastic pollution and reduce demand for single-use plastic, it is crucial that they are swiftly translated into concrete action and robust legislation in order to prevent further damage to the ocean.

Dr Heather Koldewey of ZSL (Zoological Society of London), which co-founded #OneLess, said: “The throwaway culture is poisoning and choking the ocean and the life dependent upon it, including ours. Single-use plastic water bottles are the iconic ‘flagship species’ of that pollution, utterly unnecessary in a country with ready access to clean drinking water. The government must act boldly and urgently to tackle all forms of plastic pollution. Ending the use of unnecessary single-use plastic bottled water by enabling a ‘refill’ drinking water culture would be a good place to start. This show of commitment is a good first step but it needs to be backed up with action – and fast.”

As an iconic city, home to some of the world’s leading scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs, London is perfectly positioned to put the Prime Minister’s words into action and lead global change. By stopping the use of single-use plastic water bottles and enabling a refillable culture, London could radically reduce the amount of unnecessary plastic in circulation, and ultimately in the ocean.

The average adult in London buys around 175 bottles of water each year. By switching to a refillable bottle, we could save over a billion single-use plastic bottles every year in London alone!


18 January 2018