Newport has joined a network of communities across the UK who are leading the way to tackle throw away plastic at source. The town 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.
Sustainable Newport started the campaign for Plastic Free Newport earlier this year after members were inspired by other communities who were making a real impact on reducing the use of Single Use Plastic (SUP) in their areas.
Registering with the SAS Plastic Free Communities (PFC) movement, community lead Simone Whitfield and the rest of the Sustainable Newport 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.
Simone said: “The support from the community has been great with some really passionate people helping to spread the message and getting the community behind us. This award shows that as a town we’re serious about reducing single use and we look forward to using this status to help amplify the impact.”
Newport town council have been very supportive, signing off the resolution earlier in the year. Unfortunately as a team we missed that we didn’t capture all elements of the resolution – This was addressed in the August meeting which completed the last step in our obtaining this accreditation. Tim Nelson and Tom King are both on our Sustainable Newport committee working well together showing that environmental issues have no political boundaries.
“The support from our independent Plastic Free Business’s has been really inspirational. We’ve enjoyed finding out about and sharing what some of our local businesses are doing – from soap making and eco-friendly refills, to café’s and marketing companies all doing their bit. We’ve had fantastic support from All about Newport who was one of the first business’s to be recognised for Karen Woodcocks efforts – choosing reusable bags, bottles and cups to join her in her networking around the county. The other business’s are Number 45, cafés Smallwood Lodge, The Den, Deli 45, and bod Newport, personal trainer Living Lean with Lucy, Newport Pet Services, soap and beauty products from The Aroma Emporium and Organik Orangutan as well as Be Bold Media.
We’ve leveraged a variety of tools such as launching the National Refill scheme in March with 28 businesses signing up to Refill water bottles for free and being added to the Refill app. June saw the launch of the Sustainable Newport takeaway coffee cup which operates on a deposit scheme – when customers have forgotten their own reusable coffee cup they can borrow one from participating cafes/traders at events for £1 deposit, which they get back when they return it to any of the participating cafés or the Sustainable Newport stand at events. Following on that success the Newport Pint is being launched, which will operate on the same basis helping further reduce the environmental impact of events in the town.
Sustainable Newport have had a stand at some great local events like the Harper Adams Field to Fork where Zero Waste events introduced them to the cup concept. Simone said: “They had us operate as a cup return point which acted as inspiration for our Newport Cup. In May we hosted Daniel Webb from ‘Everyday Plastic’ to do a talk at Newport Girls High School which was attended by 50 people. We have also had information stands at the Carnival (where we launched the Newport Cup) and Old Thyme Market with great interest from the public at both. The upcoming Food Frenzy on September 21st will see us stand again as a deposit point with both the cup and pint available to traders.”
The Plastic Free Allies objective was the one with the most community links with the schools side of the target being led by Susanne Bearblock. Susanne worked closely with Kate Gill from Newport Girls High School on setting up an eco committee which has seen more than 50 girls participate in activities to improve their eco credentials including Single Use Plastic reduction. Susanne also works with Hollinswood primary who will be one of the first schools in the region to obtain the SAS Plastic Free Schools accreditation and will feed into the wider goal for a Plastic Free Borough. Sustainable Newport have also had great support from the local Beaver group, who did a plastic free walking float for the Carnival and made two murals from plastic to help spread awareness.
Simone added: “Achieving this accreditation for Newport is a great start to reducing Single Use Plastic but there’s definitely more to be done – there are more groups, schools and businesses in town who we’d like to join us. Sustainable Newport is also one of the founding members of the county wide “Shropshire Against Pointless Plastic” which has representatives from groups from across the county involved in sharing ideas and amplifying the impact. “
Telford & Wrekin Council resolved at full council on July 25th to become plastic free and are supporting more community efforts to obtain accreditation for the borough – which required 70% of communities to be accredited.
Councillor Hilda Rhodes, Cabinet Member for Parks, Green Spaces and Natural Environment, said:
“We would like to congratulate Newport on this recognition of their work to reduce single-use plastic in the town.
“This is a fantastic achievement and shows what the community can achieve when they work together.
“We’re delighted to be supporting the work as it extends further across the borough of Telford and Wrekin.”
Anyone interested in leading a Plastic Free Community, launching a Refill campaign or wanting a presentation on the steps involved can contact Simone on firstname.lastname@example.org
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 Newport in Shropshire 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.”
Simone Whitfield, Plastic Free Community Lead, Sustainable Newport: 07918726648
Susanne Bearblock, Sustainable Newport publicity lead: 07905052027
Plastic Free Communities: www.plasticfree.org.uk
Surfers Against Sewage: www.sas.org.uk