Leamington and Warwick have joined a network of communities across the UK who are leading the way to tackle single-use plastic at source.
The communities have been awarded Plastic Free Community status by marine conservation charity, Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), in recognition of the work they have done to start reducing the impact of single-use plastic on the environment.
Local volunteer leads, Jo Lally and Sarah Kenny-Levick started the campaign in Jan 2018 having been inspired by the work in Penzance (the UK’s first plastic free community), increasingly saddened by the amount of unnecessary single use plastic waste in the community and wanting to make more of an impact than in their households alone.
Registering with the SAS Plastic Free Communities movement, the team pulled together key organisations and businesses in the town to put in place a five-point plan. The objectives include; 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.
Jo and Sarah said: “We are so grateful to the businesses who have supported us so far. Over 30 across our community have eradicated at least three items of single-use plastic, in many cases much more, which has taken hundreds of thousands of pieces of waste out of our system that would have otherwise been on our planet forever! Thank you!
We appreciate the support of our town councils, the District and the County Council by making their own sites plastic free.
Warwick District Council is a key member of the Plastic Free Group. Having adopted a Plastic Policy in 2018, the Council has eliminated 10 different types of plastic from its buildings including plastic bottles, straws and stirrers. In addition, plastic recycling for crisps and stationery items has been introduced as well as a plastics register and plastics policy requirements for new tender contracts and events.
Warwick District Council’s portfolio folder Health and Community Protection, Cllr Judy Falp commented;
“The achievement of Plastic Free Community Status is great news, however there is still a great deal of work to do, and we will continue to work in partnership with businesses and organisations to sign up to work together on plastics avoidance.”
The team have had a successful collaboration with Refill.org to get as many outlets signed up to allow people to refill their water bottles when out and about and also the Now Or Never campaign who are looking more broadly at littering on a local level and have been great supporters of our campaign. 10 schools have signed up so far for the and the events that have worked with them to reduce single use plastics, Regency Run, Leamington Half Marathon, Art In The Park to name a few.
Jo and Sarah added: “We thank all our followers on Facebook and Twitter for all the steps these people are taking to reduce their single use plastic consumption. It's about the masses doing lots of little things, rather than a few people doing everything perfectly. Please keep doing what you can, it all makes a difference. We are so happy to reach this milestone. It is just that, a milestone to show we meet the minimum requirements; we are far from being plastic free but have made fantastic strides. There is so much more to be done, and we will continue to work with businesses, sign up more champions, schools and hope to influence many more people to take action around their own lifestyle and habits”
Rachel Yates, SAS Plastic Free Communities Project Officer, said: “It’s great to see the work that Leamington & Warwick have done to reduce the availability of avoidable plastics, raise awareness and encourage people to refill and reuse. We are especially proud to celebrate them as our 100th Plastic Free Community in the UK!
“We have almost 700 communities across the country 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.”