Hartlepool 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.

After registering with the SAS Plastic Free Communities movement, a small group of Hartlepool residents (Julia Chard, Diane Watson, Cheryl Arnold, Christopher Pattison, Klaudia Borowka, Dirk Vander Werf  and Danny Oram), have been working tirelessly to pull 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.

Julia Chard, Cheryl Arnold and Diane Watson from Plastic Free Hartlepool with their approved community status.
Julia Chard, Cheryl Arnold and Diane Watson from Plastic Free Hartlepool with their approved community status.

“We have had tremendous support from a wide cross section of the community and now even have our own zero waste shop, “The Simple Weigh” to make single use plastic free shopping in Hartlepool even easier”

Our first plastic free business, Chilli Cake Kitchen and Bar, stopped using plastic straws, stirrers and plastic bottles. They also removed plastic coffee cups and offer a discount on take outs if you bring your own reusable. Other businesses replaced plastic bags with paper ones, stopped using envelopes with a plastic window or sourced plastic free tea bags.

We have been actively spreading the word in town and thanks to Events2GoGo, have had a free stall at the monthly maritime market, giving us a great opportunity to chat to residents about single use plastic alternatives. We have also given presentations to the WI, The Rotary and many local schools and colleges. We have been very busy!

“We are delighted to have been awarded Plastic Free Community Status as it validates all the hard work we have put in to get this far and I hope it will make it easier for us to get other businesses and community groups on board. We are not completely plastic free of course, this is just the first step in an ongoing journey but since embarking on it I have noticed a big difference in Hartlepool and I am looking forward to seeing where we will be in a year from now.”

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 Officer, said: “It’s great to see the work that Hartlepool has done to reduce the availability of avoidable plastics, raise awareness and encourage people to refill and reuse.
“We have over six hundred and fifty 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.”

More information:
Julia Chard, Community Lead, Plastic Free Hartlepool: plasticfreehartlepool@gmail.com
Plastic Free Communities: www.plasticfree.org.uk
Surfers Against Sewage: www.sas.org.uk

Plastic Free Communities is an ambitious community initiative designed to unite and empower individuals, small businesses, local government and community groups to reduce their collective plastic footprint and protect the environment together. Driven by inspirational local volunteers, we are building a new and exciting community movement tackling single-use plastics and plastic litter in our villages, towns, cities and rural locations.   This highly inclusive initiative, created for all ages and backgrounds, is designed to get the whole community active and do something positive to reduce the amount of plastic in the local environment. We believe that united communities lead to cleaner beaches, streets, parks and riverbanks.