Watlington has joined a network of communities across the UK who are leading the way to tackle throwaway plastic at source. The Parish 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.
Watlington residents Terry Jackson & Nicola Schafer lead the Plastic Free Watlington Group and started the campaign about a year ago. Plastics are made from petro-chemicals but also do not easily biodegrade leaving us with plastic in the environment for hundreds of years just degrading to harmful microfibres. We need to do all we can to rid ourselves of this product.
Registering with the SAS Plastic Free Communities movement, Nicola & Terry and the team 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, instigating 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 number of disposable plastics they use.
Nicola says, “The community backing we’ve had has been tremendous. Everyone we’ve asked has been very keen to be involved in this great initiative”
Local businesses have done a great job in reducing single-use plastic. For example, Calnan’s are now using paper-based wax-coated bags and are encouraging customers to use their own containers They have also reduced the use of trays with lids - now used for ready pre-prepared meals only and turkeys now come in strong cardboard boxes. Angela at the Undercroft will reuse strawberry plastic punnets for strawberries if customers bring their empty punnets. She has also changed string for asparagus and uses paper bags for fruit and veg we are very lucky to have a bulk buy shop, So Sustainable in our community and they supply our newest Plastic Free Business Champion, Orange Bakery with items such as sesame and pumpkin seeds. They also purchase chocolate from another local plastic-free Champion, Tutu Delicious.
Local events that Plastic Free Watlington has been involved in are the Great Watlington Spring Clean; the WCAG plastic Christmas Stall and our youngest member, Alex, manned the plastic-free stall at the ICC Eco Fair.
We also had to gather together 10 community groups and organisations as “Plastic Free Allies” to help reduce single-use plastic. The biggest spanner in the works was Covid, which meant that these groups were not necessarily meeting as often as usual, to discuss and agree on support. The various environment groups of course were already supportive and played their part in reducing single-use plastics in the environment. We were very pleased to also get the support of the Methodist Church and Icknield Community College and Beacon Festival, which has been aiming to be single-use plastic, free for some time now. We are very encouraged by the attitudes of all the organisations that we have approached so far.
The Undercroft Green grocers
The Italian Handbag Shop
So Sustainable Refill Store
That Lovely Stuff
1st Watlington Guides
Watlington Art Weeks
Icknield Community College
Watlington In Bloom
Watlington Environment Group
Friends of Watlington Hill
Watlington Climate Action Group
Town Hall Trustee Body