Can you detox your plastic life and smash the Plastic Challenge?

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 20 June 2019

MCS launches its annual Plastic Challenge on July 1st. 9,000 people took up the challenge in 2018 - to try and live as single-use plastic free as possible for some or all of the month.

Plastic packaged peppers
© SABIC, PR069

I’m really concerned about the excessive packaging that you find in supermarkets and I’ll be going all out to face the Plastic Challenge head on

Deborah Meaden,
MCS Ocean Ambassador and Dragon in BBC2's 'Dragon's Den'

Now in its sixth year, the popularity of the Plastic Challenge is growing, but because Britain is still wedded to single-use plastic it won’t be an easy month for those taking part. Of the more than eight million tonnes of it that get dumped in our oceans every year, half of it comes from disposable plastics that are only used once before being thrown away.

MCS runs hundreds of beach cleans annually and during last year’s Great British Beach Clean, 70% of the litter found on almost 500 UK beaches cleaned by MCS volunteers was made of plastic or polystyrene, posing a huge threat to wildlife and humans. Plastic bags, bottles and tiny plastic pieces are regularly found in the stomachs of turtles and other sea creatures and in some cases have caused their death from starvation or choking.

Erin O’Neill, MCS Digital Editor, is coordinating the Plastic Challenge for the charity: “We know that it’s pretty much impossible to live completely plastic-free, but there are ways to reduce your plastic footprint and we hope that by throwing down this challenge it will focus minds on trying to ditch as much of the single-use stuff as possible.

“So, it’s time to think about all types of single-use plastic, much of which we don’t even recognise anymore as it’s become just everyday ‘stuff’. There’s food packaged in plastic, plastic water bottles, plastic milk bottles, shower gels, toothpaste to name but a very few to get you started!”

MCS says that people taking on the Plastic Challenge are often shocked to discover just how much single-use plastic they have been using every day: “We say, please have a go - and even if you can only manage a single day, you’ll never look at your shopping in the same way again!” added Erin O’Neill.

MCS says that over the last six years of the challenge, it’s clear that for many, this month is the start of a lifestyle change. Among the hardest things people have found to replace are milk containers, dried goods packaged in single use plastic like pasta, rice and pulses, loo paper and toothpaste.

Erin O’Neill says there’s plenty of help on hand: “Our website offers all sorts of tips and advice and during the month of July. You can follow our social media feeds to get tips from other Challengers, share your wins, however small, or just see what lengths people are going to when trying to cut down. However long you last – an hour, a day, a week or the whole month – we’d love to know you’re out there, giving it a go.”

Three MCS Ocean Ambassadors will also be taking on the Challenge.

Deborah Meaden, entrepreneur and dragon on BBC2’s Dragons Den says: “I’m really concerned about the excessive packaging that you find in supermarkets and I’ll be going all out to face the Plastic Challenge head on. I know I won’t be able to eradicate all single-use plastic out of my life but I’ll be giving it a damn good try. I’d urge everyone to give it a go. We must act now.”

Ben Garrod - Professor of Evolutionary Biology, author and TV presenter says: “For giving us so much, we should do all we can to ensure our seas continue to flourish. I’m taking on the Plastic Challenge to show that it is possible to make an impact on our single-use plastic lives. I travel a lot so I know it’s going to be hard but I’ll be tweeting about my experiences and I hope it’ll help others on the same journey.”

Sharron Davies MBE - World, European, Commonwealth and Olympic swimmer and sports broadcaster, says: “Water has played a huge part in my life but it breaks my heart to see how we are abusing our seas and oceans. As a mum to a teenager, I know the Plastic Challenge will be tough, because like so many people, I often opt for convenience and that generally comes in single-use plastic. But I’m determined to give it my best shot.”

There will be three Plastic Challenge launch events on June 29th in London, Crickhowell in south Wales and Edinburgh. MCS staff will be signing people up the Challenge, offering tips on how to get started with a helpful booklet and handing out spinach seeds to grow at home.

Away from the events, getting involved is simple. Register here today and get 24/7 help with the MCS book: “How To Live Plastic Free – a day in the life of a plastic detox” (Published by Headline UK, ISBN 978-1-4722-5981-3). Buy it here.

Actions you can take

  1. Join the Plastic Challenge
  2. Buy the book 'How to Live Plastic Free'
  3. Download our 'Living without single-use Plastic' guide
  4. Buy the e-book 'How to Live Plastic Free'

Did you know?…

It’s estimated that one rubbish truck load of plastic litter enters the ocean every minute

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is thought to be 6 times the size of the UK

Over time, one plastic bottle bobbing along in the ocean can break down in to hundreds of tiny plastic pieces