A shop window on plastic pollution success in Weston

Three years ago this week Weston-super-Mare Chamber of Commerce and The Weston Mercury launched an initiative to remove single-use plastic from our environment by joining the Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Free Communities campaign. Cleaner Coastlines was born.  Little did they know at that first beach clean on 29th October 2017 that the Blue Planet 2 series starting the same night would have such an impact on us all.

The first of the five objectives to attain plastic-free status for Weston was met very quickly a couple of weeks later when Weston Town Council unanimously passed the motion proposed by Cllr Catherine Gibbons to support the campaign.  They were on their way!

Over the next few months a steering group was set up, engagement with schools took place, the group visited various community groups to share the message and local businesses were keen to get involved to become accredited business champions by showing they had removed at least three items of single-use plastic from their premises.  Only nine months later Weston was awarded plastic-free status by Surfers Against Sewage having met all of the five targets, and Weston was the 30th community to achieve this and the biggest at that time.

Fast forward three years and there are now 100 accredited plastic-free communities in the UK and 630 more working towards it.  Due to COVID-19 it has not been possible to arrange an anniversary beach clean, but North Somerset Council has given a space in the Sovereign Centre to showcase the campaign.  They also lent buckets that have been left behind on the beach for a window display designed by Becky Walsh from the Town Council, who volunteered her help with putting the display together, including some light hearted wording on the buckets.

Cleaner Coastlines said “Over the last three years we have been grateful for the tremendous support from both councils and Weston Chamber of Commerce, Weston BID, all our local plastic-free business champions, eat: Weston and especially Friends of Grove Park.  We have also been delighted to collaborate with Explorers Educate as well as Plastic Pollution & Awareness Action Projects and UK Curry Connect, who work tirelessly with the hospitality sector across the UK to raise awareness of the plastic pollution crisis.

“Most importantly, thank you to all our friends and neighbours of Weston who have turned out in your hundreds come rain or shine to beach cleans, litter picks and other events to help rid our lovely town of the plastic scourge.  Our Cleaner Coastlines: Weston and North Somerset plastic-free campaign FaceBook group membership is very nearly 1,500 so please follow us to find out more.  We’re also on Twitter (@PlasticFreeWsM) and Instagram (CleanerCoastlines).”

Cllr Gibbons says “I’m incredibly proud of Weston and our town council for its powerful lead in the fight against single-use plastic, plastic pollution, litter and for being one of the first councils to get “Plastic Free” status, thus raising awareness of the threat to our environment – and the work goes on!!”

“It’s been an amazing journey so far,” said Debbie Apted, community lead for Plastic Free Weston. “And it’s about to get even better as we continue to unite the community in the fight against single-use plastic.  Phase 2 of the campaign is on its way, with new exciting initiatives and an ambitious campaign for the next decade.  If you would like to find out how you can help as an individual or business, please get in touch www.cleanercoastlines.org.uk.

“Please have a look at our anniversary display when you’re next in the Sovereign Centre (window next to where M&S used to be).  Happy birthday to Cleaner Coastlines!”