Tearfund launch ‘Rubbish Campaign’

The Tearfund Rubbish Campaign is asking policymakers to ensure a proposed UN plastics treaty helps end the world’s rubbish problem by fully addressing the impacts of plastic pollution on those living in poverty, by including it in the treaty.

Reduction: legally binding targets to reduce plastic production and scale up refill solutions.

Recycling: funding for the collection and recycling of everyone’s rubbish.

Respect: support for waste pickers, including a just transition.

Response: mechanisms to ensure businesses and governments take action.

Tearfund commissioned polling with Lucid Talk to help launch the campaign in Northern Ireland and examine people’s opinions on plastic waste. The poll, which received 3,557 responses, has revealed a very large concern among the public regarding plastic waste with over two-thirds of those polled being worried about plastic waste globally.

A significant 88% of responders felt businesses needed to step up and take responsibility for tackling plastic waste and 86% felt governments also needed to step up to the plate. 

The first poll question – ‘How concerned would you say that you are about the issue of plastic waste?’ – has revealed a large concern among the population regarding plastic waste. 

This concern becomes even more significant when looking at the global picture. When combining those who are moderately and extremely concerned, 75% of the public is concerned about plastic waste on a global scale. This compares to 61% who have a local concern.

Turning attention to the second question, ‘Which of the following impacts of plastic waste are you most aware of?’, we see that people are most aware of the effects on ocean life. 

The impact people were least aware of was the impact on people’s lives and livelihoods due to flooding. The other areas with the least amount of knowledge were the effects on fisheries and agriculture followed by the impact on people’s health due to open burning or dumping of plastic waste.

The final question looked at to what extent responders thought individuals, businesses and governments should take responsibility for tackling plastic waste.

Regarding businesses, people were much keener to see corporate interests step up and take responsibility. Some 88% of responders felt businesses needed to either take a large responsibility or a very large responsibility. This compares similarly to the level of responsibility responders felt governments needed to take action with 86% of responders expecting governments to shoulder responsibility.

Launching the campaign, Kate Nicholl MLA, who is also Chair of the All Party Group on Climate, said, ‘The results of this polling indicate a strong desire from the Northern Irish public to tackle the scourge of plastic waste. As policymakers, we must do everything we can to reduce the level of plastic in society that is being produced.

‘Plastic pollution is acting as a significant threat multiplier when it comes to flood risks. In the developing world, the extent of plastic-aggravated flooding is significant, and the associated health impacts are serious.’

‘That’s why I’m glad to support Tearfund in this critical campaign. I will be writing to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to raise my concerns and advocate for a positive outcome in the treaty negotiations.’

Tearfund launch 'Rubbish Campaign'
L-R: Rosalind Skillen, columnist and activist; Lois Bailie, NI Acting Director at Tearfund; Kate Nicholl MLA.

Activist and columnist Rosalind Skillen said, ‘Overseas plastic piles of waste are also burned as a method to dispose of waste. Breathing in these fumes is causing severe health issues for those with no choice but to live in these conditions.’

‘I would encourage everyone to sign Tearfund’s petition calling on global leaders and the UK government to deliver a robust plastics treaty. A successful outcome to the treaty negotiations will have a great outcome for the world’s most vulnerable communities.’

Lois Bailie, Acting Director of Tearfund in Northern Ireland said, ‘We’re delighted at our Northern Irish supporters’ response to the Rubbish Campaign already. The poll shows an appetite for tackling the world’s plastic waste problem head-on: this matters to us not only at home but in our relationships with our global neighbours, who are often the first to feel the devastating impact that poor waste management once and for all.’

Find out more about Tearfund NI on their Facebook page.