Because of a plastic bag surcharge, British beaches are suddenly a lot cleaner.

Good news for fans of foggy, damp British beaches!

A beautiful day on the beach in Hastings, Sussex. Photo by Peter Trimming/geograph.org.uk.

Thanks to the efforts of local policymakers and environmental activists, it appears those beaches are a lot less plastic-baggy then they were just five years ago.


In 2011, Wales became the first country in the United Kingdom to require customers at supermarkets and retail stores who want a single-use plastic bag to pay a 5-pence surcharge.

Basically, anyone who wanted to take their items home in a plastic bag had to pay about 5 cents per bag.

An old Sainsbury's bag. Photo by Mark Tristan/Flickr.

Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England followed suit just a few years later. Fast-forward to 2016, and it turns out the new rules have actually been making a noticeable difference, at least in terms of how many of the unsightly, bird-intestine-cloggers wash up on shore, according to a BBC report:

"The number of plastic carrier bags found on UK beaches has dropped by almost half, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has said.

The charity's Great British Beach Clean report found just under seven bags per 100 metres of coastline cleaned.

That is a 40% drop from the average 11 bags found in 2015 and is the lowest number in 10 years."



The study wasn't all good news — it also found an increase in plastic bottles and balloon-related litter, and plastic bag trash increased slightly in some regions of England — but overall, the trend seems to be heading in a positive direction.

This is good news for hey-maybe-using-so-much-plastic-just-one-time-is-not-so-good advocates in the United States, who have already won a few key victories in recent years.

A Ralph's supermarket in Hollywood, California. Photo by Yebo420/Wikimedia Commons.

Plastic trash has a nasty habit of poisoning birds, sneaking into the food chain, and winding up in places like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where it hangs out for hundreds of years, breaking down bit by bit without truly biodegrading. As a result, U.S. states and cities have fought back against our propensity to dispense them willy-nilly.

California banned single-use plastic bags at large retailers in 2014 (a ballot measure affirming the ban was approved this year). Though the prohibition measures are fairly new and the effects are difficult to study comprehensively, data on similar measures is largely encouraging.

Cities like Seattle; Austin, Texas; and Cambridge, Massachusetts, have approved similar bans, while New York City and Washington, D.C., have passed surcharge ordinances similar to those in the U.K.

While plastic bag taxes and bans can seem like a small thing, they can help limit fossil fuel use and promote the health and welfare of marine life, two steps that are crucial for creating a less litter-filled planet.

A bag on the beach at Red Wharf Bay in Wales. Photo by John S. Turner/geograph.org.uk.

A plastic bag surcharge may not be the Paris Agreement, but the fact that data is starting to show that incentivizing customers to reuse shopping bags can be effective environmental policy is good news.

What's better? It's the kind of effective environmental policy supported by data you can see right in front of your face every time you lay out on the beach for a tan.

In the grand scheme of saving the planet, less cluttered beaches are a little thing.

But if it's going to take a sea change to save our planet, it can't hurt to start by cleaning the beach.

True
Back Market

Between the new normal that is working from home and e-learning for students of all ages, having functional electronic devices is extremely important. But that doesn't mean needing to run out and buy the latest and greatest model. In fact, this cycle of constantly upgrading our devices to keep up with the newest technology is an incredibly dangerous habit.

The amount of e-waste we produce each year is growing at an increasing rate, and the improper treatment and disposal of this waste is harmful to both human health and the planet.

So what's the solution? While no one expects you to stop purchasing new phones, laptops, and other devices, what you can do is consider where you're purchasing them from and how often in order to help improve the planet for future generations.

Keep Reading Show less

Working parents have always had the challenge of juggling career and kids. But during the pandemic, that juggling act feels like a full-on, three-ring circus performance, complete with clowns and rings of fire and flying elephants.

With millions of kids doing virtual learning, our routines and home lives have taken a dramatic shift. Some parents are trying to navigate working from home at the same time, some are trying to figure out who's going to watch over their kids while they work outside the home, and some are scrambling to find a new job because theirs got eliminated due to the pandemic. In addition to the logistical challenges, parents also have to deal with the emotional ups and downs of their kids, who are also dealing with an uncertain and altered reality, while also managing their own existential dread.

It's a whole freaking lot right now, honestly.

Keep Reading Show less
True

$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


via msleja / TikTok

In 2019, the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada instituted a policy that forbids teachers from participating in "partisan political activities" during school hours. The policy states that "any signage that is displayed on District property that is, or becomes, political in nature must be removed or covered."

The new policy is based on the U.S. Supreme Court's 2018 Janus decision that limits public employees' First Amendment protections for speech while performing their official duties.

This new policy caused a bit of confusion with Jennifer Leja, a 7th and 8th-grade teacher in the district. She wondered if, as a bisexual woman, the new policy forbids her from discussing her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of Tiffany Obi
True

With the COVID-19 pandemic upending her community, Brooklyn-based singer Tiffany Obi turned to healing those who had lost loved ones the way she knew best — through music.

Obi quickly ran into one glaring issue as she began performing solo at memorials. Many of the venues where she performed didn't have the proper equipment for her to play a recorded song to accompany her singing. Often called on to perform the day before a service, Obi couldn't find any pianists to play with her on such short notice.

As she looked at the empty piano at a recent performance, Obi's had a revelation.

"Music just makes everything better," Obi said. "If there was an app to bring musicians together on short notice, we could bring so much joy to the people at those memorials."

Using the coding skills she gained at Pursuit — a rigorous, four-year intensive program that trains adults from underserved backgrounds and no prior experience in programming — Obi turned this market gap into the very first app she created.

She worked alongside four other Pursuit Fellows to build In Tune, an app that connects musicians in close proximity to foster opportunities for collaboration.

When she learned about and applied to Pursuit, Obi was eager to be a part of Pursuit's vision to empower their Fellows to build successful careers in tech. Pursuit's Fellows are representative of the community they want to build: 50% women, 70% Black or Latinx, 40% immigrant, 60% non-Bachelor's degree holders, and more than 50% are public assistance recipients.

Keep Reading Show less