The great Cornish bottle top chain

One of the main focuses of our marine litter campaigning has revolved around disposable plastic bottles.

These bottles probably contribute more unnecessary marine debris than any other source. At least 15 million plastic bottles are thrown away in the UK alone each day. More than half of them go to landfill or are littered. As, like all plastic, they don't biodegrade, the number ending up in the sea is growing all the time.

Plastic bottle parts make up the commonest identifiable form of rubbish on our beaches, only around 50 years after disposable bottles became widely available. 

In November 2014 we decided to work together with other beach cleaning groups and beach lovers around Cornwall and further afield too (we had some contributions from Ireland, South Wales and North Devon), with the idea of collecting all the tops we find. We then strung all the tops together to form a gigantic chain as a spectacular and shocking way of showing the true scale of the marine litter issue through just one item.

The final chain, launched at an extraordinary event on Tregonhawke beach in April 2015, contained an estimated 65,000 bottle tops - all collected in just three months - and measured over 1.1km long!

Tom Turner from Paramore Productions made this brilliant short film that really captures the atmosphere of the day, and has great aerial footage shot from a drone that gives a sense of the scale of this thing in a way that we just couldn't gauge from the ground.

 

Bottle Tops from Paramore Productions on Vimeo.

Our Labour MEP Clare Moody came to the launch of the bottle top chain and was so impressed and shocked with what she decided to champion the waste issue at EU level. Thanks to her we were able to take the chain and its message to meet circular economy Commissioner Karmenu Vella and also to meet MEPs in Strasbourg ahead of their discussions on changes to the EU's Waste Directive - which will hopefully result in tougher legislation and requirements on recycling, packaging and waste.

Despite the vote to leave the EU in the UK referendum in 2016, we hope the chain will have played a small part in informing the discussions on waste in the rest of the EU - and we intend to use it whenever possible in future in the UK, particularly to support other larger campaign groups such as the Surfers Against Sewage in their lobbying for a plastic bottle deposit scheme to form part of the UK's future litter strategy.  Such schemes have been proven to cost-effectively reduce litter, improve the quality of recyclate, and increase recycling rates in countries where they are in place, also reducing the burden on landfill sites. With the recently-introduced plastic carrier bag charge having had such a huge impact on bag use, we believe that the time is now ripe to introduce a charge on bottles too.

Since its launch, the chain has been displayed and used at many events and venues, and is available for other marine groups to borrow. In July 2015 we were able to show the chain to Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall at an Ocean Plastic Awareness Day in Newquay, arranged by Surfers Against Sewage. It's also been on show at high impact venues such as Truro Cathedral, the Cornish Seal Sanctuary and the Port Eliot Festival, continuing to raise awareness about the marine litter crisis.

 

Nearly 9 billion plastic bottles are bought in the UK each year. Fewer than half are recycled