Howell’s alumna Hannah Mills launches big plastic pledge

Howell’s School, Llandaff alumna 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 Olympic Gold medal winner has started the Big Plastic Pledge. Hannah, who was one of the first athletes to be confirmed as a member for Team GB for Tokyo 2020, 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,” she 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, Hannah and new Women’s 470 partner Eilidh McIntyre have looked at ways to reduce their use of single-use plastic before the Cardiff 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,” Hannah 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”.