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3 Welsh communities turning the tide on plastic

 

Wales is surrounded by sea on three sides and its beaches are among the cleanest and safest in Britain. Currently celebrating Year of the Sea, our small nation is proud to have been awarded more Blue Flag beaches per mile than anywhere else in the UK, which indicates high environmental and quality standards.

Despite these accolades, seaside residents still have their work cut out for them fighting marine plastic pollution. Tides often bring in plastic straws, bottles and caps, coffee cups, wet wipes, cotton bud sticks, toothbrushes, balloons and plastic bags. Fortunately, communities across Wales are taking action against plastic pollution and their local accomplishments are getting noticed around the globe.

WWF estimates that by 2050 there’ll be as much plastic in the ocean as there is fish © Ian FinchWWF estimates that by 2050 there’ll be as much plastic in the ocean as there is fish © Ian Finch

Plastic Free Anglesey

Sian Sykes, an Anglesey local, has just completed the first circumnavigation of Wales on a stand-up paddleboard. She completed this trip without using any single-use plastic, to highlight that what gets dropped on a canal or in a river ends up floating out to sea. She took food in biodegradable bags, toothpaste in glass jars and sun cream in a tin, shampoo and deodorant in bars and a toothbrush made from bamboo. Sian says that if she can live single-use plastic free on a two month adventure, people can do it at home. She also believes that everyone should fight for #PlasticFreeCoastlines; this could be pledging against daily single-use plastic consumption, doing a mini litter pick or adopting a section of river, canal, footpath or beach.

Sian Sykes on her plastic free circumnavigation of Wales expedition © Chris Davies, Eastwood Media Sian Sykes on her plastic free circumnavigation of Wales expedition © Chris Davies, Eastwood Media

Sian kick-started Plastic Free Anglesey earlier this year in the hope that Anglesey can become the first local authority in Wales to achieve official ‘plastic free’ status. The campaign has been backed by the island’s county council and they are working with local businesses, organisations, individuals and clubs to eradicate single-use plastic and safeguard Anglesey’s wildlife and stunning beaches.

Plastic Free Aberporth

Gail Tudor took part in a sea voyage last summer which trawled for plastic and micro plastics in the seas around Britain. Having witnessed first-hand the scale of the problem, she returned home inspired to create change, founding Plastic Free Aberporth with a group of interested locals.

Gail Tudor with steering group members and local residents launching the Plastic Free Aberporth campaign © Plastic Free AberporthGail Tudor with steering group members and local residents launching the Plastic Free Aberporth campaign © Plastic Free Aberporth

The beautiful village on the Ceredigion Heritage Coast may not look like it has a problem with plastic. But look closer and you will find micro plastic everywhere, often washed in with the tide. The locals take pride in their beaches by regularly picking up litter, but Gail was convinced they could go one step further. Using the Surfers Against Sewage ‘Plastic Free Coastlines‘ community toolkit as a guide, Plastic Free Aberporth were able to start changing minds and habits in their village.  They asked local businesses to remove or replace at least three items of single-use plastic. Examples of this include the village shop which returned to selling milk in reusable glass bottles and the pub which stopped serving drinks with plastic straws.

In January, Aberporth became the first village in Wales to gain ‘Plastic Free’ status and third in the whole of the UK.  Their next goal is to educate summer tourists and help other towns and villages to follow suit.

Plastic Free Penarth

Anthony Slaughter is a member of Gwyrddio Penarth Greening (GPG), a community-based organisation raising awareness around climate change and environmental issues. They lead practical projects that help Penarth to become a more sustainable and resilient town. These include planting a community orchard, organising the annual local food festival and running the Shop Penarth loyalty card scheme to support independent businesses.

Anthony Slaughter litter picking at Penarth Pier © Alice Rose/Penarth Times Anthony Slaughter litter picking at Penarth Pier © Alice Rose/Penarth Times

Inspired by Aberporth’s success, GPG signed up to the Plastic Free Coastlines campaign. Working with other local groups such as the Penarth Beach Wardens, they are hoping to achieve Plastic Free Penarth status in the coming months. In addition to getting local businesses on board, GPG is encouraging individuals to examine their own use of single-use plastics and providing information about suitable replacements.

Anthony believes many people feel powerless in the face of such a serious global problem, but that individual action at a local level does make a difference.

Plastic pollution is threatening marine life © Brent Stirton/Getty Images/WWF-UKPlastic pollution is threatening marine life © Brent Stirton/Getty Images/WWF-UK

How you can help

Reuse. Recycle. Reduce your use. If you’re looking for plastic-free alternatives, ensure they’re fully sustainable and FSC certified.

Together, we can turn the tide on plastic, but we need all the voices we can get. Join our fight against plastic pollution to be the first to hear what you can do to help and to receive tips on how to reduce plastic waste in your own life.

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