As the Plastic Free Communities movement continues to grow, Surfers Against Sewage brings together Community Leads from across the UK to inform and help shape an exciting new phase of the campaign.
Almost 600 communities in the UK are working to free where they live from single-use plastic using Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Free Community Toolkit, which lays out five steps for a community to start to reduce its plastic impact. The guide focuses on getting local authority support, reducing the availability of SUPs in local businesses, teaming up with community ‘allies’ such as schools and other organisations, holding awareness raising events for the whole community and setting up a local steering group to power the campaign forward.
In the last 18 months, 70 communities have achieved Plastic Free Communities Approved status showing they have met the five toolkit objectives and started their plastic-free journey. The well-deserved accolade demonstrates their hard work and their intention to create change, tackling the plastic pollution crisis at source from beaches and greenspaces right back to the businesses and brands which create it. But what then? What is life like after status?
This was the topic of the first Plastic Free Communities (PFC) Advisory Group event, held in July at The Bedruthan Hotel & Spa in Cornwall. The new group is made up of leads from all PFC Approved communities, who are offered the opportunity to help Surfers Against Sewage shape new Plastic Free Communities projects and initiatives from the ground up. Using their experience and expertise, we can then build campaigns which reflect community focuses and listens to those communities.
The weekend was nothing short of inspirational, not least down to the amazing setting and facilities on the north coast of Cornwall, bringing leads from coastal and inland communities face to face with the beauty of the environment around us, that we are all trying to protect. The inspirational setting fuelled several intensive working sessions, based around our Community Leads’ experiences and ideas for what Phase 2 of Plastic Free Communities might look like. The results were three clear frameworks that Surfers Against Sewage can now work on and take to wider consultation.
SAS Project Manager Amy Slack said: “Our Plastic Free Communities campaign has far exceeded expectations and we’ve seen communities across the country doing inspiring work. It’s really important we provide a way to build on what they’ve already achieved, and who better to help us determine what comes next than the communities who know what it takes to get this far on the journey.
“We came away from the weekend with some really well thought out framework options which will underpin how we design the next phase of the programme. It was a fantastic opportunity for our community leads to get together, share ideas and learn from each other and we are super excited to develop these further to share with the wider network”
The Conference also offered an opportunity for an update on vital research on Plastic Free Communities, being carried out by the College of Life & Environmental Sciences at Exeter University. MA students Hannah Bowdery and Kari Hoffa presented initial findings from their work, looking at the environmental and socio-economic impacts of the movement.
Kari said: “It was such a privilege to be there, the friendly & considered hotel with such delicious food and the beautiful Cornish coastline as the backdrop. But most of all, being with such a remarkable and inspiring group of people, all of whom who are so committed to making a positive change.”
Community Lead in Lyme Regis Grenville Barr added: “The conference was brilliant. It was useful to be able to compare experiences with other community leaders, and reassuring and cathartic that they have had similar highs and low points along the way.
“Being asked to give feedback and our opinions on how Phase 2 should be designed really shows SAS is committed to engaging at a grassroots level with communities and developing the next stage in a way which is both challenging, achievable and relevant”
All the work and feedback from the Conference will now be collated by SAS and put out to the wider Advisory Group of Approved location leads for consultation in the Autumn.
If you would like more information on Plastic Free Communities click here
To sign up as a Community Lead click here
For inspirational stories from around the network click here