Campaign to cut plastic use seeing results
Laura Sørensen of Plastic Free Wells explains what action is being taken to reduce plastic use in Wells as the city bids to become the first in the UK to gain Plastic Free status
THERE’S a lot of rubbish talked about rubbish these days.
But there’s one thing we can probably all agree on – there’s an awful lot of it. We like to think it is being recycled, properly, by our local authorities, but then we find out it isn’t. The hundreds of tonnes that was being sent to China for disposal now isn’t and our Government doesn’t really know what to do with the millions of tonnes of our daily detritus.
Much of that is plastic. There is a prediction that if current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12 billion tonnes of plastic waste will be in landfill or the natural environment by the year 2050. Because plastics do not break down in the environment, some will remain for as long as 500 years, they add to the waste mountain and are increasingly hard to get rid of (burning them produces toxic fumes), so it is vital we all stop using single-use items.
We in Wells have been doing something about this recently to cut down on single-use plastics so that the city can gain Plastic Free status.
Following an initiative by Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), who managed to get Penzance to be the first town to go single-use plastic-free, members of the Plastic Free Wells steering group have been visiting coffee shops, restaurants and other businesses in Wells to see if they would be willing to give up certain single-use plastics and replace them with less wasteful and less polluting alternatives.
The response has been brilliant, with many businesses already taking action. The SAS model asks hospitality businesses if they would consider getting rid of plastic cutlery, plastic straws, take-away boxes, condiment sachets, coffee cups and other items which are generally used once and then thrown away, and replace them with metal, plant-based, paper and compostable items. Who knows, we might see the return of the retro tomato-shaped sauce dispensers on cafe tables.
So far, seven businesses have signed up to replace at least three of their single-use plastics with suitable alternatives: Bar Italia, The Bishop’s Table, The Ancient Gatehouse Hotel/Rugantinos Restaurant, The Greek Taverna, Kitty Banks, Square Edge and The Swan Hotel. A further five have signed up to replace at least one single-use plastic.
There are many more local businesses which have already eliminated their single-use plastics and so are unable to sign up.
Wells Women’s Institute has asked members to take their own mugs to meetings for drinks, and is replacing the current polystyrene cups with compostable ones (mainly for visitors).
WI members have also sent letters to local supermarkets and signed petitions urging them to make a radical reduction in single-use plastic packaging, including the elimination of rolls of plastic bags provided for loose produce.
Schools and community groups are being encouraged to get on board and there have been illuminating comments posted on our Facebook page which illustrate how aware some children are about the problems of the throw-away society in their own schools.
Wells City Council was also due to discuss its support for this initiative at a meeting on March 22.
We are hoping this community action will bring businesses and customers together, and we can spread the word about where in Wells you can buy items like bamboo or collapsible coffee cups, reusable container lids to replace cling film and reusable water bottles.
How many actions will you take? Let us know by making a comment on social media: www.plasticfreewells.org.uk or by contacting us on: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Picture: Laura Sørensen, Tom Ronan and Meredith Roberts of Plastic Free Wells with reuseable cups and bottles at the well in The Bishop’s Palace Garden