The Cornish town has today become the first place in the UK to be officially accredited as a ‘Plastic Free Coastline Community’, as part of a major new campaign from Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) that has seen nearly 100 sites across the country begin work to restrict their use of plastic.
The recently launched Plastic Free Coastline initiative sets out five guidelines for communities to follow to limit their consumption of single use plastic packaging, which has been widely blamed for polluting marine habitats.
The guidelines include forming a community steering group, working with local businesses to replace single use plastic with sustainable alternatives, educating people on the damage plastic pollution can do, and organising community-led beach clean initiatives.
Penzance became the first community to be accredited as a ‘Plastic Free Coastline’ community after the town’s council backed a motion supporting the initiative earlier this month.
The local SAS team have also helped 13 local businesses in the town remove three or more single-use-plastic items.
“We may have achieved Plastic Free Coastlines status for the town, but the work doesn’t stop here,” said Plastic Free Penzance leader, Rachel Yates. “We have our quarterly meeting later this week and – as well as celebrating – we’ll be setting our targets for next year.”
SAS said there were now over 90 communities in the UK, Ireland and Portugal working to emulate Penzance and secure Plastic Free Coastline status, including major cities such as Birmingham, Glasgow, and Oxford, as well as coastal communities such as Jersey, Swansea, and Truro.
“Surfers Against Sewage is thrilled to help inspire, empower and connect individuals, schools, businesses, activists and councils in locations across the UK looking to reduce their reliance and consumption of single-use plastics,” said Hugo Tagholm, chief executive at SAS, in a statement. “It’s vital that we stop plastic pollution at source to protect our oceans and beaches, and we hope the movement Plastic Free Coastlines Community movement will continue to grow around the world.”
The news comes after last night’s broadcast of the final episode of the BBC’s Blue Planet 2 documentary, which has attracted over 13 million viewers and has highlighted the huge scale of plastic pollution in the oceans.
The documentary has also prompted a series of comments from Environment Secretary Michael Gove who has vowed to step up efforts to tackle ocean plastic pollution, including through a new call for evidence that will explore how to reduce single use plastic waste, potentially through new levies and deposit schemes.
A number of businesses have also responded to growing public pressure in recent weeks, with firms such as Wetherspoons and Malmaison pledging to replace plastic straws with more sustainable alternatives.