A rubbish year might seem like something odd to celebrate, especially considering the rollercoaster that’s been 2020. But I can assure you there’s plenty to applaud.
Last year we launched the Rubbish Revolution – a campaign to reduce the amount of plastic waste being produced around the world. While many of us were aware of the impact of waste on the environment, thanks to shows like Blue Planet, our rubbish problem is bigger than we thought. In fact, research found that one person dies every 30 seconds due to diseases caused by waste. Although it’s easy to ignore here in the UK, people living in poverty are being disproportionately affected by it the most.
Our plastic problem is affecting people like Royda, a single mother of three who lives next to the largest rubbish dump in Tanzania. With toxic fumes coming from the dump that was often on fire, she explained:
Because of that smoke I get breathing problems and coughing, and eye problems too
With Royda and her family’s wellbeing and future at stake, we couldn’t sit and do nothing. But where to start?
We tracked down four of the biggest producers of plastic waste to let them know enough is enough. After showing up on the doorsteps of Coca-Cola, Nestle, PepsiCo and Unilever we made it clear that this plastic problem was their responsibility, as much as it is ours individually. And with the backing of Sir David Attenborough 100 company CEOs heard the message that there is No time to waste. Soon that same message was filling up headlines across the nation.
Raising the stakes
Now this is where you come in. The Rubbish Revolution couldn’t have been possible without you joining us every step of the way. Whether it was hanging out in our double-decker Rubbish Bus at Big Church Day Out or signing petitions in your youth groups, thousands of you joined the cause to let companies know we have a rubbish problem. At Big Church Day Out alone over 11,00 people signed the petition!
Although the message was being heard, companies like Coca-Cola were still failing to take action. But when it was revealed that they were the world’s worst plastic polluter, you raised your voices even louder and hundreds of you sent Coca-Cola a ‘message in a bottle’ to let them know that we must reduce plastic production. And the message was heard! For the first time, Coca-Cola met up with Tearfund to hear us out. While they and the other companies we contacted are still lagging behind, progress is being made.
Of the four companies, Unilever made the biggest commitment to halve their production of new plastic by 2025. This is a huge reason to celebrate and will make a tangible difference to the lives of people living in poverty. Furthermore thousands of you pledged to give-up single use plastic for 40 days, and many of you have gone further still. As we continue to challenge companies, governments and ourselves to reduce our plastic footprint, our world and the people in it, will have a better chance to flourish.
All this couldn’t be possible without you. Thank you to each and every one of you who signed a petition, reduced your own plastic usage and let the world know that there’s no time to waste. What started with 15 people on the doorsteps of the world’s biggest plastic producers, exploded into over 50,000 people raising their voices in unison. If you ever doubt the power of a petition and making lifestyle changes, let this be the reminder that together we can make a difference.