No one can fail to be concerned about the extent of plastic waste in the oceans of our blue planet. We have all seen images of huge masses of floating plastic, and of sea creatures being harmed by the waste. We are all at risk from micro-plastics entering the human food chain through seafood and also through the water we drink. Plastic waste on land is also a menace to wildlife and a risk to humans as it enters the food chain. While this may seem to be another overwhelming global environmental problem, that cannot be an excuse for inaction. Every piece of plastic waste in the environment got there through the actions of a human being – and so it is our actions which can eliminate waste. We must all play our part. If everyone on the planet did, the problem would not exist. Ghandi said ‘be the change you want to see in the world’ – meaning if you want the world to change, you need to start with your own actions. This philosophy is at the core of what Transition Community Corsham (Transcoco) stands for – taking local action to solve global environmental problems.
It is feasible for a community like Corsham to eliminate plastic waste entirely, and we intend to work towards this goal, confident that this will have strong support from everyone in the area. Other communities around the UK and across the world are taking a similar path. If we all work together, we can make this happen. It can be achieved by rigorously applying the basic principles of waste management – reduce, reuse and recycle.
- Reduce – reducing use of plastics, particularly single use plastics like straws, disposable cups and cutlery, single use packaging etc. We have seen recently how easily this can be achieved, as the charge for single use plastic bags reduced usage by 90%. We need to work together to eliminate single use plastics wherever possible, and where we can, use more sustainable alternatives.
- Reuse– plastics are very useful and will continue to be an important part of daily life. But by switching to reusable plastics, we can significantly reduce waste. For example, we can use reusable plastic containers instead of single use plastic bottles, and reusable containers for shopping rather than single use packaging.
- Recycle– we need to move towards a world where all plastic waste is recycled.Clearly this is not something we can entirely control within our own community, as it depends on manufacturers supplying products in recyclable plastics, and on local authorities providing facilities for recycling all plastics. We are moving in the right direction with Wiltshire Council extending kerbside plastic recycling, and government are finally starting to take measures to encourage plastic recycling, such as the proposed deposit scheme on plastic bottles.
We intend to work with all parts of the community to achieve the aim of eliminating plastic waste. Our main areas of focus will be:
- Local government: we will work with Corsham Town Council and Wiltshire Council (via the Corsham Area Board) to identify how local policies can be developed to support the goal of zero plastic waste. This could include extending local plastic recycling facilities, improving communication on what recycling facilities are available to homes and businesses, and endorsing and promoting local action to eliminate plastic waste, perhaps through a ‘kitemark’ type scheme which identifies those organisations which have adopted plastic waste free policies. We will encourage local government to adopt plastic waste free policies in their own premises. We will also keep our local MPs informed and encourage them to support national polices to eliminate plastic waste.
- Local retailers(e.g. shops and cafés): consulting with retailers to determine what changes they can make to eliminate plastic waste, without harming their business.For example, eliminating single use plastic cups and straws would save money, while potentially increasing loyalty from customers who want to see less plastic waste. We will also lobby national retailers such as Co-op and Sainsbury’s to introduce reusable/recyclable packaging and eliminate single use plastics.
- Local businesses: helping them think through ways they could eliminate plastic waste, for example stopping use of single use plastic beakers for coffee or water, and encouraging use of reusable cups and containers.
- Local community organisations(e.g. churches, youth groups): encouraging and educating on ways to eliminate plastic waste, e.g. through avoiding single use plastics when catering for events.
- Local individuals: communicating and promoting ways to eliminate plastic waste, raising awareness and encouraging simple but effective changes in behaviour to eliminate plastic waste.
- Transcocowill organise the project, working with the community to promote and encourage plastic waste free policies, and producing resources such as guides and checklists to make it easy to implement these policies. We will also continue our regular Transcoco litter picks around the town, collecting and wherever possible recycling plastic litter.
By working in a collaborative way with all these parts of the community, we believe we can, together, achieve a significant reduction in plastic waste and move ultimately towards the elimination of plastic waste altogether. As there is clearly a widespread consensus that plastic waste is a major problem, we are confident that our community will embrace this project and make the simple but effective changes needed to achieve this goal.