Worcester has joined a network of communities across the UK which are leading the way to tackle throw away plastic at source. Worcester has been awarded Plastic Free Community status by marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) in recognition of the work it has done to start reducing the impact of single-use plastic on the environment.
Led by Kim Tanner, the local campaign group Plastic Free Worcester started the campaign in Spring last year and has since gone from strength to strength.
Registering with the SAS Plastic Free Communities movement, Kim, together with a growing core group of Worcester residents, pulled together key organisations and businesses in the town to put in place a five-point plan. The objectives included setting up a community led steering group, instigating the SAS Plastic Free Schools education programme, getting local council commitment and working with local businesses, organisations and community groups to spread the word and minimise the amount of disposable plastics they use.
"Worcester City Council's announcement that they will end the purchase and use of 'single-use plastic' for any council related activity has to be the biggest milestone for me." explains Becky Howarth, one of Plastic Free Worcester's steering group members.
"As a consequence, we are now seeing joined up thinking from the Council and planning which stops single-use plastic at its source rather than waiting for it to fill the bin bags."
The Worcester Show was a great example of this - Plastic Free Worcester anticipated and drew up policies to deter single-use plastic and the Council incorporated this into the traders' registration for the show. The two also partnered up to facilitate an effective and informative recycling point for all the show's waste.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg to Plastic Free Worcester's work.
The whole Worcester community has risen up to the plastic free challenge. More than 50 independent coffee shops have made concrete pledges to reduce single-use plastic and so too have large, flag-ship employers such as Fortis Living and The Heart of Worcestershire College.
Plastic Free Worcester has had the whole city talking about plastic whether on the radio, via their active Facebook page, during litter picks along towpaths and riversides or at the many creative and impactful workshops they have run in primary schools.
"Earning the Plastic Free Community Award is a loud and proud statement of intent for Worcester." Reflects Becky Howarth. "It says, Worcester businesses are expected to anticipate and avoid single-use plastic in all their decision making and that residents support and will encourage this plastic-free culture shift."
What now for Plastic Free Worcester? The volunteer group is keen to build on this latest milestone by continuing to work with Councillors, the Council, businesses and schools to reduce single-use plastic further still.
The Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Free Community network aims to free the places where we live from single-use. Using the five point plan the aim is to empower communities to kick start local grassroots action, which can then be built upon.
The marine conservation charity, based in St Agnes in Cornwall, says it wants to unite communities to tackle avoidable plastic from the beach all the way back to the brands and businesses who create it. It says it is not about removing all plastic from our lives, but kicking our addiction to throwaway plastic and changing the system that produces it.
Rachel Yates, SAS Plastic Free Communities Project Officer, said: "It's great to see the work that **Location** has done to reduce the availability of avoidable plastics, raise awareness and encourage people to refill and reuse.
"We have over six hundred communities across the UK working to reduce single use plastic and the impact it has on our environment. Every step those communities and the individuals in them take is a step towards tackling the problem at source, challenging our throwaway culture and encouraging the habit and system changes we need to see."
Plastic Free Communities: www.plasticfree.org.uk
Surfers Against Sewage: www.sas.org.uk
Plastic Free Communities is an ambitious community initiative designed to unite and empower individuals, small businesses, local government and community groups to reduce their collective plastic footprint and protect the environment together. Driven by inspirational local volunteers, we are building a new and exciting community movement tackling single-use plastics and plastic litter in our villages, towns, cities and rural locations. This highly inclusive initiative, created for all ages and backgrounds, is designed to get the whole community active and do something positive to reduce the amount of plastic in the local environment. We believe that united communities lead to cleaner beaches, streets, parks and riverbanks.