Hannah Mills: British sailor launches Big Plastic Pledge with IOC

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GB Olympian Hannah Mills launches plastic initiative

British sailor Hannah Mills has launched an initiative to eradicate single-use plastic in sport, after being "overwhelmed" by the "shocking" amount of waste she saw at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

With the support of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Welshwoman, 31, has started the Big Plastic Pledge.

Mills, who partnered Saskia Clark to gold in 2016 and silver at London 2012, has asked other athletes to sign up to the pledge and help make the pollution she saw at Rio a thing of the past.

"It hit me, on a global level, how big a problem this is," Mills said.

"Wherever we went during the 2016 Olympic cycle - every marina, every beach, every time we went sailing - we'd see something in the water, but particularly in Rio.

"Every time we launched our boats into the water, we'd literally wade through plastic pollution just to get out. It was shocking to see that much in one place, and then once you've seen it, you can't stop seeing it.

"Initially I was overwhelmed. I thought: 'What could I even do?' But it awakened something within me that drove me to do something about this."

Since the Rio Games, Mills and new Women's 470 partner Eilidh McIntyre have looked at ways to reduce their use of single-use plastic before the Welsh sailor became a sustainability ambassador with the IOC.

Together they have launched a plastic initiative, asking athletes to commit to a minimum of three pledges from a list that includes using only reusable bottles, cups, lunchboxes and utensils, and also metal straws.

"The goal is for other athletes to join me on this shared vision of trying to eradicate single-use plastic in sport," Mills added. "For me, this could work if we are one voice united on this problem.

"Competing at Tokyo 2020 and winning a gold medal there is my number one focus, but alongside that I'm so passionate about this project and what we can achieve."

Other pledges include not using single-use shopping bags, thinking about what you can recycle and being part of a beach clean-up.

It is not just athletes that are being encouraged to sign up, but "the fans, the five-a-side football teams and school sports days, the fun runners and the holiday skiers and yes, the Olympians".

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Guide: Why is plastic a problem?

Football clubs urged to adopt plastic pledge

While rugby union stadium Twickenham and major cricket venues have been operating successful returnable cup schemes, an estimated six million single-use plastic beer cups were used in the Premier League last season.

Manchester City have introduced a stadium-wide returnable cup scheme and Tottenham are trialling a reusable cup scheme at Saturday's game against Crystal Palace.

But Friends of the Earth and the British Association for Sustainable Sport have called on clubs in the top four divisions of English football to sign up to their plastic pledge and commit to a number of measures, such as replacing and/or removing single-use plastic and ensuring fans have access to water refill stations.

"Fans want football clubs to take action on plastic," said Friends of the Earth plastic campaigner Julian Kirby.

"We're encouraged that a number of clubs have already introduced measures on this issue - but we need every Premier and Football League club to do what it can to get rid of unnecessary single-use plastic."

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