It’s time for Shaftesbury’s businesses, organisations and residents to phase out their use of single-use plastics. That’s the goal of the town’s newly-formed environmental action group, Plastic Free Shaftesbury.
Lucy Barfoot, the eco-entrepreneur behind Swan’s Yard based zero-plastic store Coconut and Cotton, has been named our town’s first Plastic Free Champion. Lucy says that Shaftesbury is already at the forefront of sustainability, as it is certified as a ‘fair trade town’.
“The Surfers Against Sewage campaign, the plastic-free community that we’ve signed Shaftesbury up for, is definitely working along the coast because you see the effects on marine mammals there,” explained Maude Chappell of Planet Shaftesbury. Maude’s group is working in tandem with the Plastic-free project.
It might seem odd that a movement started by Cornish surfers will judge our town’s suitability for plastic-free accreditation. But over 500 communities, including the inland towns of Ottery St Mary, Wimborne and Bradford-on-Avon, have already made the grade. “It’ll be really exciting to get Shaftesbury on that journey,” said Maude.
She explained that some of the changes will be relatively straightforward. “The simplest thing to start with is swapping out single-use plastics in cafés and other shops. We know about straws and cups and sachets for condiments in cafés,” said Maude.
The group will encourage retailers to use paper straws or put sauces in bowls. “There are already some businesses in the town who are committed to reducing waste, so we are confident that getting certified will be very achievable,” said Lucy.
Plastic Free Shaftesbury will single-out best practice for praise and encourage shoppers to support town businesses that have addressed their single-use plastic packaging. “We really want to encourage and promote any businesses that is already using alternatives or using no plastics at all, because there will be plenty that are already trying to do that,” said Maude.
She wants campaigning to be positive. “We want to encourage them and promote their businesses instead of shaming anyone because it can be a difficult transition to make for business and we understand that. We want to help them through it, instead of pointing the finger.”
And businesses and bodies that have already changed their single-use plastic practices can get some free publicity. “Any school or business who make a pledge will be posted on our page on the Planet Shaftesbury website and also given a shout out on social media,” says Lucy.
Surfers Against Sewage suggest four action points. Plastic Free Shaftesbury has started the ball rolling with the first goal, making contact with the Town Hall. “The Town Council must lead by example and remove single-use plastic items from their premises. This requires them to pass a resolution,” said Lucy.
“The first objective is to get the Town Council on board and then talk to them about what they can do to support us,” added Maude. ”We will try and make every stage of it as visible and public as possible and get people really involved. I think it’s something that people will really want to get behind.”
Next, Plastic Free Shaftesbury will talk with local shops, cafés and workplaces. “The second is getting a certain amount of businesses to swap out disposable plastics on the premises,” said Maude. “We want to work with schools, engage them and get them involved. We want to run some events in town. There are four objectives. Once we’ve reached those, we can send all the details to Surfers Against Sewage and they can give us plastic-free accreditation. Obviously, that doesn’t mean we are plastic-free as a town, there will still be reusable plastics in play. But it can be developed from there.”
It is sometimes easier encouraging local businesses to change their ways because you can walk into a shop and talk face-to-face with the woman or man in charge. It’s more difficult to deal with nationals. Often the decision-makers are far from our town. Maude says that consumer power is important in encouraging the big chains to change.
“There’s no point attacking a local branch when it’s not the fault of the people that work there. Certainly, with places like Tesco, we will join in with some of the national movements that are asking them to find better alternatives.”
Plastic Free Shaftesbury has set up its own Facebook group for news about their appeals and initiatives. You can follow them at facebook.com/plasticfreeshaftesbury or on the Planet Shaftesbury website.
This Friday, Shaftesbury environmental campaigners are planning another public call for action on climate change. Students around the world will be absent from lessons on 24th May for the Global Strike for Climate Change. An event is being planned in Shaftesbury. Encouraged by the turnout for the Critical Mass bike ride and march around the town in April, organisers hope that musicians and drummers will accompany the demonstration outside the Town Hall at 11.30am.