How Plastic Soup Surfer Merijn Tinga is turning the tide on plastic

From instigating a ban on plastic fireworks to creating a deposit scheme for small plastic bottles in the Netherlands: Plastic Soup Surfer Merijn Tinga does it all. His secret? Harnessing the power of the community to convince companies and governments to tackle the plastic crisis.

Systemic change

“One of today’s biggest challenges is that we live in a society designed around throwaway”, plastic  activist Merijn Tinga explains. “In addition to climate change and biodiversity loss, it also creates an incredible amount of plastic pollution. And since plastic doesn’t break down biologically, it just keeps accumulating. To solve this problem, we need a systemic change.”

Source: Facebook Plastic Soup Surfer

On a mission

According to Merijn, companies need to start taking responsibility for the plastic products they put onto the market. As the Plastic Soup Surfer, this is exactly what he is trying to achieve. “I build surfboards from plastic waste and use them for expeditions and long distance record attempts. With the attention I attract, Igo up to policy makers and companies to have them change their ways.”

Source: Facebook Plastic Soup Surfer

Bottle deposits

One of Merijn’s biggest successes so far is the fact that he convinced the Dutch government to create a deposit scheme on small plastic bottles.“Every year, 75 million small plastic bottles are littered in the Netherlands,whilst there is an instrument to stop this. By charging consumers a little extra, you incentivize them to bring their bottles back to the store”, Merijn explains. “Next year, we will have deposits on small plastic bottles and at the heart of that lies the PlasticSoup Surfer resolution. And that resolution we offered to parliament three years ago after collecting 60.000 signatures with our petition and doing a record attempt trying to surf to England.”

Source: Facebook Plastic Soup Surfer

From plastic to wax paper

In addition to influencing crucial legislation, Merijn also manages to convince companies to take their polluting plastic products off the shelves. “Our community of thousands of litter pickers, who all use the PlasticAvenger App to take photographs of the trash they collect, kept finding Antaflu sweet wrappers. Two years ago, we went to the company with 17.000 photographs of these sweet wrappers and we formally notified them of the waste they were creating. And it had the desired effect”,Merijn says proudly. “Because whilst we were there, the CEO promised to change their plastic wrappers into wax paper wrappers. And they’ve just done that. So when you focus your attention and you focus the community, you can get realchange going.”

Source: Zwerfinator


Merijn emphasizes that none of this would have been possible without the support of the people around him. “The people that use the app, join my campaigns and send me messages on social media are the ones that keep me going and make it worthwhile. But most importantly,we need them to make a difference. Because this is something we have to do together.”

Get involved

For everyone who wants to help turn the tide on plastic, Merijn has a couple of tips:

  • Using a tote bag or reusable cup isn’t going to solve the plastic problem. However, it does send a message to the people around you. So whenever you use reusable items, talk to your friends and family about it or post something on social media. That way, you will inspire others to follow your lead. 
  • Organising a plastic clean up or participating in one is a great idea. Just don’t forget to photograph and register every piece of rubbish you pick up, for example by using the Plastic Avengers or Litterati app.Because photos are data. And data is power.
  • In addition to acting yourself,try to influence decision-makers. Contact your local politicians, legislators and CEO’s and talk to them about the changes you would like to see.
  • And last but not least, stay positive, connect with like-minded souls and challenge yourself to keep it fun!


Britain’s farmers say they have to spend a significant amount of time each day removing litter from their land that has been thrown from car windows. These takeaway wrappers pose a danger to livestock—as they can be ingested and cause medical problems—and also pose a threat to wildlife as well as making the countryside look a mess.

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