British supermarket Waitrose has announced it will no longer sell children’s magazines containing disposable plastic toys in a bid to tackle plastic pollution.
Its decision has been influenced by a 10-year-old budding climate campaigner called Skye Neville, from Gwynedd, Wales, who launched a petition urging magazine publishers of comics and kid’s magazines to stop including the often single-use plastic toys.
Neville argues that they are “polluting our oceans and our environment” and are either “played with for a few minutes or break on the first use and then thrown away.”
She said she had initially written to the publisher of her favorite magazine, Horrible Histories, asking them to stop including plastic toys and received the response that they were “working very hard to make our magazines more environmentally friendly.”
But Neville did not think this was a strong enough response. “This is not acceptable,” she writes. “The ‘toys’ are poor quality, cheap plastic that no-one wants or needs.”
She pointed out that since McDonalds has stopped including plastic toys in Happy Meals, magazines could do it too.
Waitrose has said it will phase out magazines containing plastic toys — removing them from shelves over the next eight weeks.
Marija Rompani, the director of sustainability and ethics at Waitrose, told the BBC: "While we know these magazines are popular with children, some of the unnecessary plastic attached to them has become really excessive.”
“Many in the younger generation really care about the planet and are the ones inheriting the problem of plastic pollution,” Rompani continued. “We urge publishers to find alternatives, and other retailers to follow our lead in ending the pointless plastic that comes with children's magazines."
The removal will not include magazines which include reusable craft items such as pencils or crayons, nor will include collectable models, according to the BBC.
Hearing of the decision from Waitrose, Neville said: I'm really pleased so many people have agreed with me and supported my petition, I want to thank everyone who has signed and shared my campaign to ban plastics from comics and magazines."
"Thank you to Waitrose for agreeing with us and no longer selling the unwanted plastic tat,” she continued. "I hope all retailers can do the same and then the publishers will realise this is not acceptable anymore. We really like the magazines, we just don't want or need the plastic packaging or the cheap plastic toys."
Neville isn’t the only child who has urged adults to act and put a stop to plastic pollution. She is part of a generation of children who are very serious about getting adults to make changes that will benefit the environment and improve the planet for future generations.
For example, in January, a 9-year-old, Lizzie (she hasn’t given her last name) managed to get over 80,000 signatures in just one week with her petition calling on the government to stop sending the UK’s plastic waste to poorer countries around the world.
Globally, it’s estimated that 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste has been generated since the 1950s and only 8% of that has been recycled. Much of it ends up in landfills or makes its way into our waterways and the ocean where it ends up killing over 1.1 million seabirds and animals each year.
Plastic waste is becoming especially problematic for the lower income countries that richer nations import plastic waste to.
In September 2020 alone, the UK sent more than 7,000 metric tons of plastic waste to countries such as Malaysia, Pakistan, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Turkey, according to the nonprofit Last Beach Clean Up.
Countries like the UK send the plastic abroad because it does not have the infrastructure to recycle all of its plastic waste itself. But once overseas, the plastic often does not end up being recycled either.
Instead it ends up getting burned in ways that contaminate sources of air, water, and food. In Malaysia, for example, illegal plastic-burning factories have become a menace to communities.