Chesterfield 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 Tapton resident, Greg Hewitt, started the campaign in summer 2019 after watching a number of documentaries such as Blue Planet 2 and A Plastic Ocean.
Registering with the SAS Plastic Free Communities movement, Greg and a number of volunteers have 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 amount of disposable plastics they use.
Greg said: “The campaign has been challenging, especially with Covid, but most business and community organisations we have spoken to have been supportive of the campaign and have signed up. Having support from major partners such as the council, Destination Chesterfield, Derbyshire Voluntary Action, and Chesterfield FC feels amazing.”
So far 50 local independent businesses have signed up to the campaign, each making at least three swaps away from single use plastic. These include the award-winning Steph’s Sustainable Stuff, The Cheese Factor, El Cafe Verde and No10.
Plastic Free Chesterfield rose above the challenges of the Covid pandemic in 2020 by organising monthly webinars featuring speakers from Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and Ethical Consumer.
And whilst businesses were joining in, 40 community organisations have signed a Plastic Free Pledge showing their support for the campaign. These include Chesterfield Garland Dancers, Our Vision Our Future, and the newly formed Chesterfield Litter Picking Group.
Greg continued: “To finally reach Plastic Free Community status after a year and a half feels incredible. It is the culmination of many hours given by volunteers who all want Chesterfield to reduce single-use plastics. Just because we now have the status, doesn’t mean Chesterfield is completely plastic free. This is an ongoing journey and we will continue our work to gain the support for our campaign in the community.”
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 Chesterfield has done to reduce the availability of avoidable plastics, raise awareness and encourage people to refill and reuse.”
“We have over seven 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.”