Global movement unites to tackle plastic pollution, urging governments and brands to put reuse at the heart of recovery plans

Global environmental NGOs including Friends of the Earth, City to Sea and Break Free From Plastic are joining forces to call on businesses, governments and individuals to put reuse and refill at the centre of their efforts to tackle plastic pollution.  The urgent call came on World Refill Day (16th June) to highlight the fact that despite an increase in public awareness over recent years, plastic pollution remains a growing environmental problem. Exclusive analysis released by City to Sea of data from Reloop, shows that currently Europe burns, landfills and litters over 50 billion single-use beverage containers a year, the majority of which are plastic. But significantly the analysis suggests that with just a small increase of 10% in the market share of refillable containers, this figure could be cut by over 11 billion a year. The analysis builds on the What We Waste, report released by non-profit research organisation, Reloop, and supported by Break Free From Plastic and the Changing Markets Foundation.  

Existing research shows that packaging from take-away food and drinks, including items like single-use coffee cups, plastic bottles and take-away containers are consistently the most polluting items on beaches and in rivers around the worldIt’s now understood that just 10 plastic products make up 75% of all marine pollution and scientists say the pollution must be stopped at source.    

The good news is that the most polluting items are also some of the easiest to replace with reusable alternatives and it’s estimated that at least 20% of plastic packaging could be replaced by reusable systems creating a USD 10 billion business opportunity that benefits customers and represents a crucial element in the quest to eliminate plastic waste and pollution. 

European movement calls for refill and robust reuse systems  

The refill and reuse movement has been growing rapidly across Europe, thanks in part to the work of Break Free From Plastic, the global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution.   

Today, to mark World Refill Day, Break Free From Plastic is launching a new petition with WeMove Europe calling on individuals throughout Europe to commit to reuse. Individuals can sign the petition here. Break Free From Plastic’s  #WeChooseReuse campaign, is demanding that robust reuse systems be put in place at national and municipal levels all around Europe, with reuse businesses and municipalities rallying behind the call.  

Delphine Lévi Alvarès, #BreakFreeFromPlastic Europe Coordinator for the #WeChooseReuse Campaign says: “For the wellbeing of people and the planet, it is urgent for us to rethink business models and policies, in order to build the circular economy of tomorrow. Over the past five years, we have exposed the devastating impact of plastic pollution and we’re here to support the vibrant and innovative initiatives taking place all over Europe to make reuse a reality. We are convinced that reuse is the solution, and as World Refill Day has proven, so do businesses and individuals around the world!”   

In addition, exclusive new polling commissioned by City to Sea and Friends of the Earth for World Refill Day in the UK, shows 81% of Brits want the UK government to make refillable products easier to buy and more widely available, as a main priority for reducing plastic pollution. According to the new poll, three out of four people (74%) would like to see more refill options, for things like dried foods, laundry detergents, and take-away coffees, so they can limit the amount of single-use plastic in their lives. While over half of all people (55%) think supermarkets and big name brands are not doing enough to address plastic pollution.

The Refill App gains hundreds of thousands of ‘refill stations’ as it goes global  

City to Sea’s Refill app is the world’s first dedicated app to connect people to places they can refill and reuse, avoiding single-use plastic and accessing safe, clean drinking water. To date, the free, location-based app has been downloaded more than 350,000 times and has now been translated in 9 different languages (English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Welsh, Japanese and Arabic) and operates in countries around the world.  

Today, the award-winning campaign is launching in Switzerland joining countries like the UK, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Ecuador, Italy and Japan. To date the campaign has saved over 100 million pieces of plastic since it was launched.  

Jo Morley, City to Sea’s Heads of Campaigns and project lead for Refill, said: “Our addiction to single-use plastic is out of control and it’s having a catastrophic impact on our planet. This World Refill Day, we’re calling on governments, brands and big businesses to put words into action and prioritise reduction and reuse over recycling which we know isn’t working. We’re simply exporting our waste problem around the world and making plastic pollution worse.  

“As a global movement, we have the power to create a wave of change and as individuals, our small changes really do add up. From Basel, to Bristol, the refill revolution has now gone global and with more than 200,000 Refill Stations listed around the world – covering everything from high-street chains and supermarkets to independent cafes and zero-waste shops the Refill app puts the power to go plastic-free at our fingertips”.  

In Europe alone there are close to 160,000 refill stations already listed on the Refill app – including cafes, zero-waste shops, plastic-free retailers, water-fountains and brands with refill and reuse options. Today, European eco cleaning brand, Ecover announced a new partnership with City to Sea, adding 700 locations where consumers can access refills for cleaning products in the UK alone.  

Tom Domen, Ecover Global Innovation Lead commented “At Ecover we believe re-use is the new recycling. It’s redefining the ambition for a true circular economy. We have set ourselves the challenge to make re-use the new standard for everyday shopping behaviour. As we develop and implement new solutions to make re-use more accessible, we also need a strong community to drive the change in behaviour. Which is why we’re delighted to work with City to Sea, who have an impressive track record in community campaigning, in a year-long partnership to drive refill behaviour and help grow the refill movement”.  

Italy is the third-largest consumer of plastic bottled water in the world and the largest consumer inside the European Union6Since launching in 2020, during the pandemic, the Refill Campaign in Italy has already mapped over 45,000 locations, helping Italians avoid single-use plastic – in particular bottled water. The campaign lead in Italy, Margherita Cavalleri, commented saying, “1 million bottles sold every minute is far too much. World Refill Day is our chance to raise awareness in Italy and to join an international campaign.”  

Growth opportunities for reuse and refill economy shown in new report  

On World Refill Day, US based NGO, Upstream, released a new report, ‘Reuse Wins’ which shows how reuse is emerging to replace single-use products in food service – and how 840 million single-use products could be replaced by a new reuse service economy in the US. Reuse Wins compares the environmental impacts of disposables versus reusables, the economic data on business savings, and growth opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs to demonstrate that, for the environment, business and investors, reuse beats single-use in every category.  

“Restaurants’ reliance on disposables is not just a waste of the planet’s resources, it’s also a waste of money,” said Matt Prindiville, CEO of UPSTREAM and contributor to the report. “But the good news is that there’s a new reuse economy emerging that’s disrupting our current disposable food-service paradigm and replacing it with something better.  This World Refill Day, we’re encouraging businesses not just in the US, but around the world to join the reuse and refill revolution.”  

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