Beaconsfield has joined a network of communities across the UK who are leading the way to tackle throw away plastic at source.
The town, the first in Buckinghamshire, 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.
Local resident Jackie Slipper and a small core team started the campaign in early 2018 to raise awareness in the town of the need to refill, re-use and recycle and to reduce dependence on single use plastics.
Registering with the SAS Plastic Free Communities movement, Jackie, Catherine, Ruth, Ian, Russ, Emma and Nick 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, encouraging the use of 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.
The team received excellent co-operation and interest from community groups. They are still actively working with the Beaconsfield WI to install a drinking fountain on the town green.
Businesses both large and small have worked with the team to obtain SAS Plastic Free Status. The National Film and Television School, Sargent-Disc and Bekonscot Model Village have all obtained Plastic Free Champion status as have local café/restaurants, Benedict’s Store, The Beech House and Fego. All have removed at least three single use plastic items and showed tremendous support for the project.
The team attended the annual Beaconsfield Now community events, generating much interest. Working with Beaconsfield WI, a project to install a drinking fountain and bottle refill station was launched, with a petition in May 2018. This received strong support from members of the public, local councillors and representatives from local community organisations. In May 2019 we received the highest number of votes in ‘Beaconsfield Decides’, a competition set up by Bucks County Council for local people to vote for community projects they thought should get funding, resulting in a grant of £5000.
The team has visited many local organisations, schools, businesses and youth groups. Waitrose Beaconsfield has been very supportive, as have Beaconsfield Town Council and The Beaconsfield Society.
The team are absolutely delighted to have obtained the Plastic Free Communities Status for a home counties town. They have worked for two years to achieve this and encourage change. The project is of course on-going, they hope that achieving this status will encourage other businesses to contact them to obtain Plastic Free Champion status for themselves. Beaconsfield is not yet completely free of single use plastics and the team will continue to encourage all citizens of the town to re-use, refill, recycle and avoid unnecessary single use plastic.
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 Beaconsfield has done to reduce the availability of avoidable plastics, raise awareness and encourage people to refill and reuse.
“We have almost seven 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.”
Jackie Slipper, Community Lead, Plastic Free Beaconsfield
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.