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Plymouth has officially become the largest UK city to gain plastic-free status

Plymouth is officially the UK's largest Plastic Free City Credit: Plymouth City Council

Plymouth City Council and campaign group Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) have confirmed the city is now certified plastic-free.

Last year the city claimed the Plastic Free Communities status for revealing its Plan for Plastics, as well as maintaining its historic waterfront.

The city's achievement was formally announced at the second 'birthday party' of citywide eco network Environment Plymouth. The network has been recruiting people to become local 'plastics champions' since December 2017.

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Earlier this year nearly 600 green volunteers took to the beaches of Plymouth for the Great British Spring Clean, collecting over 1,000 bags of litter. One litter-picker found a crisp packet from 1973 amongst the haul.

All parties involved say their fight against single-use plastic is gaining interest and won't be disappearing any time soon.

We’ve been overwhelmed by the local enthusiasm for this campaign. It owes much to the inspiration of Sir David Attenborough and the ‘Blue Planet’ effect but local support has been inspirational too.

We are also very grateful for Surfers Against Sewage’s guidance and the strength of the Task Group’s collaboration.

Gaining Plastic Free Community status for the whole city is the icing on the cake in a year that has seen a considerable change in attitudes to single use plastic and the impact it has on the environment.

– Jackie Young, Environment Plymouth’s Co-ordinator

Since Plymouths Plan for Plastics was launched in June last year:

  • 118 schools, community groups, families and individuals have signed up to be Plastic Free Community Ambassadors and 102 local businesses have signed up to be Plastic Free Pioneers as part of the work led by Environment Plymouth.
  • 72 campaigners have taken part in awareness raising ‘plastic surgery’ workshops
  • 800 volunteers took part in 160 litter picks with local community group Clean Our Patch, and collected 4,0000 bags of litter.
  • 748 volunteers have taken part in beach cleans with Plymouth Beach Clean Volunteers and collected 261 bags of rubbish and 5,000 ‘nurdles’ (small plastic pellets used in a number of products)
  • CATERed who provide school meals for 67 of Plymouth’s secondary schools have removed 8,000 plastic straws, removed disposable plastic packaging and moved over to biodegradable
  • A Sea Bin has been installed by Plymouth City Council at Queen Anne’s Battery as part of a pilot project to monitor plastic pollution with the University of Plymouth
  • A ‘code of conduct’ is being developed to enable all event organisers in Plymouth to demonstrate their commitment to reducing single use plastic.
  • Funding for the campaign was secured from Sea Changers and South West Water.
  • Water refill points are being installed at key sites across the city for people to fill up their reusable bottles and help reduce waste, as part of a joint project by South West Water and Plymouth City Council. Refill Devon now has over 30 refill stations across the city.
  • Environment Plymouth have won national recognition for the campaign from Groundwork’s 2018 Community Awards and regional recognition from the Chartered Institute of Waste Management SW for related presentations on ‘The Blue Planet Effect’ and Single Use Plastics.
  • Two Plymouth based projects, Plymouth Marine Laboratory and Blue Marine have recently been awarded national funding by Waitrose and Partners and Hubbub to tackle the biggest and the smallest elements of plastic pollution – ghost gear from the fishing industry and microplastics.
  • The Council has pledged to ban single use plastics on all its premises by September 2019.