Plastic Challenge 2017
July 19, 2017 – 11:17 am | 4 Comments

What is the challenge?
June 2017 was officially the Marine Conservation Society’s  ‘Plastic Challenge’ month.
This is the third year of the challenge, which encourages people to pledge to cut down the amount of single-use plastics they …

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Plastic Challenge 2017

Submitted by on July 19, 2017 – 11:17 am4 Comments

What is the challenge?

June 2017 was officially the Marine Conservation Society’s  ‘Plastic Challenge’ month.

This is the third year of the challenge, which encourages people to pledge to cut down the amount of single-use plastics they use, for as long as they can.

Single-use plastics are used in lots of everyday items we buy these days. From the moment we wake up we’re using plastic; to brush our teeth, to store and buy food, and to wash and clean.

Tell me about plastic!

First invented 110 years ago in 1907, most plastic is derived from petrochemicals, and due to its molecular composition it has a very slow decomposition rate.

Plastics are relatively low cost; they are easy to manufacture, versatile, durable, lightweight and impermeable to water. There is no denying they have revolutionised our lives… from clothing and shelter, to transportation and health care, their uses are vast.

But the benefits of plastic do not come without problems. The non-renewable resources used to make them, and the fact they can persist for hundreds to thousands of years in the environment, mean they pose a massive threat to sustainability.

The problem?

It is now thought that new plastics will consume 20% of all oil production within 35 years, up from an estimated 5% today[1].

Despite the growing demand, it is thought that just 5% of plastics are recycled effectively, while 40% end up in landfill, and a third in fragile ecosystems such as the world’s oceans.

Many types of plastic can be recycled, but much of it isn’t. It is still not easy for consumers to recycle all of their plastic waste, neither is it clear to many what kind of plastics are acceptable to be put in a council recycling bin, and which plastics have to be taken to recycling centres.

Even when we think our rubbish is going to landfill, it is now estimated that every year at least 8 million tonnes of plastics leak into the oceans – the equivalent of dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute.

Just let that sink in…

Yet the plastic doesn’t always sink, it gathers and forms huge ‘garbage patches’ in the world’s oceans. One well known example is the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’, a gigantic mass of plastic and other waste materials that has gradually formed as a result of ocean currents. Despite what many believe, the patch is not a massive visible garbage island, the plastic has been broken down into even smaller polymers suspended in the upper water column. These polymers attract chlorinated dioxins which are eaten by marine life, and in turn can enter the human food chain potentially causing serious health issues.

And the wildlife too?

Larger items can be a threat to sea life such as turtles and seals, who swallow them or get tangled up in them.

Marine plastic pollution has impacted at least 267 species worldwide, including 86% of all sea turtle species, 44% of all seabird species and 43% of all marine mammal species. The impacts include fatalities as a result of ingestion, starvation, suffocation, infection, drowning, and entanglement.[2]


“In a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish [by weight].” [3]

So what now?

In the UK it is estimated that 5 million tonnes of plastic alone is being used every year, and over a third of this is used for packaging.

The Plastic Challenge is not trying to stop people from using ALL forms of plastic, that would be impossible! It is set up to make people start thinking about the resources they are using and stop taking them for granted.

Plastic Challengers are spreading the ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ message to try and encourage people to reduce the amount of plastic entering the environment. The focus is on single-use plastics, many of which are unnecessary and avoidable with a little thought.

Many of us are so used to a lifestyle of convenience, grabbing food on the go and disposing of the packaging on the go too. Juggling busy lives often means people do not think about the environmental impacts of their purchases.

Once people stop and look at what they are consuming, it can often be a shock to see the amount of single-use plastic used every day. Obviously some things are easier to cut out or replace than others, and a lot may depend on where you live and what you have access to.

What can I do?

Lots! There are many ways you can reduce your single-use plastic consumption. Some of the quick and easy ones that everyone can fit into their lives are using reusable cups and bottles for water and hot drinks on the go. Reusable shopping bags are now the norm for most people, especially since the carrier bag charge came in, and the choice of styles and designs is huge.

If you want to really make a difference, we’ve listed some more things you might like to think about.

Cotton Buds Swap plastic ones for paper
Toothbrush Use bamboo instead of plastic
Wipes Swap to biodegradable or cloth reusables
Hand wash Use bars of soap instead
Straws Swap plastic ones for stainless steel reusable straws
Fruit and Veg

Buy loose items and use reusable produce bags

DY097 – Cotton Buds

NF582/NF750/NF150 – Suma Bags

NF616/NF642/NF660 – Environmental Toothbrushes

DY790/DY789… Humble Toothbrushes

DY452….All the Suma Soaps

This list is by no means exhaustive and the plastic-free movement is growing, there are many websites and blogs dedicated to ideas to cut out plastic from all areas of your life.

Here at Suma a group of us took the Plastic Challenge pledge during June and really got involved in reducing our plastic use.

  • Laura really saw the benefits of her beautiful allotment.
  • Susan and her children swapped their online food shops for trips to their local farm shop.
  • Adam and his family found being on holiday abroad difficult, but they did find some loose soap!
  • Sarah got into drinking loose leaf tea to avoid teabags.
  • Becs switched to bamboo toothbrushes and swapped soap dispensers for hand soap.
  • Alex became a regular at her local market, getting all her fruit and vegetable plastic-free

You can also get involved by visiting the Marine Conservation Society’s website, where you can see all of their campaigns and find out how you can make a difference. As part of our ethical listing policy we do aim to source products with minimal environmental impact in terms of production, transportation and packaging, and we aim to promote a market for new and innovative green products. Of course there is a long way to go, but we are excited to be part of a positive change.


[1] Ellen MacArthur Foundation report launched at the World Economic Forum

[2] D.W. Laist, “Impacts of marine debris: entanglement of marine life in marine debris including a comprehensive list of species with entanglement and ingestion records,” in Coe, J.M. Rogers, D.B. (eds), Marine Debris: Sources, Impacts, and Solutions: Springer-Verlag, New York, (1997) 99-139

[3] The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics (2016) – The Ellen Macarthur Foundation

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  • Sara says:

    You can get lovely glass straws too 🙂 And use loose leaf tea in a stainless steel tea pig or with teapot and strainer, as there is some plastic in pretty much all tea bags, to make the paper stronger.

  • philip tomlinson says:

    Could suma help by selling teabags without plastic, and above all labelling those that are plastic free?

  • Rebecca Kinnard says:

    Hi. This is something we will be looking into. Thanks for your feedback. Rebecca.

  • Rebecca Kinnard says:

    Hi. We’re looking at some samples of reusable straws, and we will also be looking into the plastic in teabags. It can be a complex issue and there are many factors to consider, but plastic reduction is on our radar and we are making steps to address it. Thanks for your feedback.

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