plastic free campaign
an interview with mia hadrill

By Safia Minney


REAL’s Safia Minney interviewed Mia Hadrill about her anti-plastic campaigning. Mia is an anti-plastic pollution campaigner and creator of Aim Plastic Free. She calls on people to sign up to the 31-day plastic-free challenge for free tips and tricks on how to cut out single-use plastic. Mia is the founder of Hadrill, an independent, ethically driven, creative agency and is head of Digital Marketing and Content at Elephant Parade. She has also worked in communications for People Tree and supported WFTO-Asia and Fashion Revolution. She is also the published author of an educational children’s book. Mia has returned to London from living in Thailand.

Why create a 31-day plastic-free challenge?

The equivalent of a garbage truck’s worth of plastic waste enters the ocean every minute and this figure is increasing every single day.

Plastic is washing up on our beaches and this is only what’s visible on the surface, the tip of the plastic iceberg. Microplastics are in the depths of our ocean, in the air, rain droplets, and inside of us. We eat a credit card size of plastic a week, and microplastics are showing inside the placenta of unborn babies. The full effects are still unknown.

If we do not take action now to reduce our plastic, by 2040 the amount of plastic entering the ocean will increase from the already staggering 13 million tonnes to 710 million tonnes.

Aim Plastic Free understands that going plastic-free can be daunting. That’s why I created a 31-day plastic-free challenge as a way to get started. Its focus is on small daily steps with tips and tricks. It’s presented in an easy-to-action format, tackling a different plastic pollution area with a problem and then offering a solution.

And with global lockdowns, it’s nice to take on a New Year’s challenge with other people, safely from a distance.

Have global lockdowns been a force of good for the anti-plastic movement?

The pandemic has seen a rise and reverses in anti-plastic campaigning as people seek more plastic sealed items. Customer’s reusables, such as bags, cups and others have been denied in some places, and more people have been forced to opt for takeaway.

In 2020, 1.5 billion single-use PPE masks entered the world’s oceans, resulting in thousands of metric tonnes of plastic pollution that will take hundreds of years to break down. If we keep dumping masks and gloves, there could be more facemasks in the ocean than jellyfish.

Take a look in the countryside or city streets now, how often do you see facemask litter?

What can we do and what are the obstacles that people find? What have been your frustrations, and why do you care?

In the words of Sir David Attenborough “live the way you want to live but just don’t waste. Look after the natural world, and the animals in it, and the plants in it too. This is their planet as well as ours. Don’t waste them.”

If there’s a sustainable swap, do it. As Sir David Attenborough says, keep living within your needs but reduce your waste.

My plastic-free journey started three years ago when I moved to Thailand for work.  Working for a year in elephant conservation, which is all about ensuring safe, natural habitats, I felt that my plastic consumption didn’t match my values. I’d see plastic in the jungle, by the road, in polluted rivers and washed up in the sea. And with my love of fresh fruit and street-food snacks, I was creating single-use plastic.

I found great inspiration in local Thai biodegradable products made of bamboo, banana leaf, coconut and made use of reusables. I fell in love with tiffin tins to transport my rice and sauces, cut unnecessary waste, and avoided brands with excess packaging.

I began to make changes, and through Aim Plastic Free documented my progress and research with a hope it may inspire others to join in with their reductions.

At the start, the hardest obstacle was breaking habits and ensuring wherever you start, to action the first R – REFUSE. It can also be a little intimidating to break the mould, asking for things differently, such as no straw, no bag, no receipt. It’s not easy disrupting all the autopilot processes that we’ve become accustomed to. But once you grow through this, it’s great as it starts conversations. A lot of the time, places are happy to save on giving out their packaging unnecessarily.

The world needs to transition to only using single-use plastic if it is essential. This requires systemic change.

I recently signed up to The Good Club to have much of my foods delivered plastic container free. They deliver for you to decant into your jars and they collect their empties the next day. I buy bulk with my neighbour, so we split the transport impact too. I have a Riverford Organics fruit and vegetable box, but eat fish once a fortnight and struggle to get that packaging-free. Any tips how I can improve further to become one of those people whose waste fits in a jar for the whole year?

My top tip to start reducing is to do a bin audit. Figure out what is your number one throwaway single-use plastic item. Then pledge to quit it. You can find out how to do this in Day two of the plastic-free challenge.

For example, the UK uses 13 billion plastic bottles every year, of which only 7.5 billion are recycled. The remaining 5.5 billion end up as litter in landfill or incinerated. If we all used free safe drinking water and brought a reusable drinking bottle, imagine the impact!

If there’s a local fishmonger or fresh counter near you, you can ask them to put items directly in your sealed container pot or compostable bag. If it’s impossible, get to know your plastic packaging symbols and check if the packaging can be 100% recycled in your local authority. If not, a quick email to the brand will show them it’s no longer acceptable.

You’re already doing wonderfully; so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to fit all your trash in a jar. All action counts. Aim Plastic Free is less about adding to ecoanxiety and more about celebrating our single-use, plastic-free successes.

Which organisations and websites would you recommend for people who want to learn and do more?

Research if your local area has a local plastic-free group. They are the best at gifting knowledge on the most affordable, local package free shops and activities. Surfers against Sewage are good at helping with how to do this.

Join the Aim Plastic Free 31-Day challenge and see how many swaps you already do!