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Single Use Is No Use | Hugo Tagholm On Plastic Pollution

With surf on our doorstep, a history steeped in a love of the sea and our good friends Surfers Against Sewage just across the road from our workshop, it's safe to say we are invested in how our oceans are treated. Having just launched our collaboration with US reusable water bottle brand Nalgene - early supporters of the 'Carry In / Carry Out' philosophy - we speak to Hugo Tagholm, Chief Executive of SAS about the effects of plastic pollution and how we can make a difference. 

It's so easy to reductively say because of plastic pollution you should just never use plastic - but is that really the case?

We get those comments all the time. If we put something out there that is made of plastic and often the temptation is to go back to people and ask “what are you typing on?”, because their computer is made out of plastic. Plastic is everywhere; plastic is not inherently bad - the problem is that we’re using it for the wrong things. We’re using it for things with no lifespan that then get buried back in the ground immediately after being pumped out of the ground after millions of years… its ludicrous. So here, it is really about how they’re used and how they’re recycled.

That’s why our Nalgene water bottles are adorned with “Single Use Is No Use”. These bottles are BPA free. Can you tell us why BPA is so bad?

BPA is very much to do with the toxins within plastics and the impact they can have on human health. Plastics are known to contain hormone altering compounds and chemicals which obviously can be really bad for people. Anything that is going to disrupt your hormone balance can be really harmful, but here what we’re really focused on is what we’re seeing at the grassroots level. We see here in Cornwall that our beaches are littered with all sorts of single-use, throwaway plastic including plastic water bottles and other containers.

That’s really where our motivation starts as surfers; as water users; as open water swimmers; as stand up paddle boarders. Our members and our supporters see this stuff all of the time and I think society is moving towards this area where people are really starting to question their plastic footprint - they’ll be sat in a fast food outlet or a café they like and they’ll start to feel a bit conscious about why they’ve got all of this plastic stuff for one meal that they take from the counter to the table to chuck in a bin straight away.

I feel we’re on this plastic journey where the plastic footprint of individuals, communities and society is no longer acceptable. So anything people can do to try and avoid or minimise their plastic footprint is good in our books. Reusable plastic water bottles like your new Nalgene bottle is key to that as it’s achievable and it is something to be encouraged.

Single Use Plastic Stats
Over 2.5 million bottles thrown away hourly in the USA
28.9 million tons go into landfill
2.6 million tons are incinerated
2.3 million tons are recycled
40% of ocean surface is covered in rubbish - 90% of that is plastic

Nalgene Bottle Specs 
BPA, BPS & phthalate free

Made from safe, recyclable materials
Durable shatter-resistant Tritan plastic

Made in USA

Food For Thought
Use a Nalgene bottle instead of a disposable bottle and in 1 year you'll save 167 bottles from landfills. 

What can we be doing to stop this cycle of single-use plastics?

We’ve seen that simple changes have had a big impact: the plastic bag charge, which Surfers Against Sewage worked really hard on, has already stopped six billion bags from being produced and being put into the environment. That’s a big win.

Our plastic free coastline mantra is about stopping the flow of plastic into the environment in the first place. Every time you don’t choose to buy a single use plastic water bottle or other bottle, that’s a victory.

We’re not saying we want to persecute people who find themselves having to use one time to time but every time you can not do it is a really really good thing and people should always try and avoid using those things where possible. Plastic cutlery in restaurants and fast food places, plastic bags, whatever it may be - these things aren’t really needed and can be avoided quite easily. We’re launching a big new campaign about that slightly later this year to really accelerate awareness of the flow of plastic into the environment.

So in short, it isn’t about eliminating all plastic but it’s just about eliminating single-use plastics?

Yes. There are certain throwaway plastics that are obviously really important in the medical profession, so we have to be careful but we all know what daily single-use, disposable plastics look like in our lives and we should really try and avoid them wherever possible.

Plastic is everywhere and it’s a great product because it is really versatile but we need to make sure when we use it that is fully recyclable. Otherwise it becomes a recycling economy which effectively recycles things into an ever decreasing circle where quality goes down and down. We want a truly circular economy where a plastic product can become another high quality product time and time again.

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