Manningtree 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.
Local resident, Bekki Bibko, started the campaign in September 2020 after realising how much easier it would be to use less single-use plastics if businesses, the council and community groups worked together.
Registering with the SAS Plastic Free Communities movement, Bekki 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, 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.
“It has been really encouraging to find out more about what local businesses are already doing to reduce their impact on the environment and to help them to reduce their use of single-use plastics even further.
“There are some fantastic environmentally conscious businesses in Manningtree, which have made changes like using refillable cleaning products, changing the packaging that they use and even using pencils instead of disposable pens.
“In May we held our ‘Local Litter Pick’ in Manningtree, Mistley & Lawford – over 70 local residents helped us to collect a shocking amount of rubbish from around the locality. More recently we held a ‘Plastic Free Christmas’ stall at Manningtree Christmas Market, giving children the opportunity to make decorations and wrapping paper, reusing items that would have otherwise gone in the bin.
“We have had fantastic support from the beginning of the campaign from PACE – Manningtree and the Manningtree & District Business Chamber, as well as In Touch magazine that regularly prints articles about plastic issues and more recently Stour Sailing Club and Stour Choral Society have also taken the Plastic Free Pledge.
“Achieving Plastic Free Town status for Manningtree is the first step, there is still more to do. It is really exciting that there are so many local businesses that are working to reduce their plastic consumption, but unfortunately it is still almost impossible to get a completely plastic-free weekly shop or takeaway. We are looking forward to working with even more businesses and also with our Allies to plan more events in the future.”
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 Manager, said: “It’s great to see the work that Manningtree 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.”