Tackling the plastic scourge

Three members of Greener Waldringfield have signed up to be Plastic Action Champions. The scheme is run by the East Suffolk Greenprint Forum and led by the quietly indomitable Jason Alexander of Rubbish Walks. Open to both individuals and groups, it invites anyone to join “who:

  • wants to stop plastic misuse, who wants to stop it getting into nature and causing harm and who does not like to see waste
  • is already taking or is willing to take action in their own life
  • likes other people enough to engage others in a friendly positive way and knows or is willing to learn when to walk away and let enforcement action by someone else take the place of engagement without getting angry or disheartened
  • is willing to try to make action on waste fun whilst recognising the serious need to act”

Volunteers commit to 20 hours of action, depending on their interests and strengths. This could be anything from running litter picks, giving presentations, talking to local businesses, writing or sharing articles, to supporting events outside your own area. Knowledge sharing online or in person is central to the project.

I was prompted to join after an evening hosted by Transition Woodbridge where they showed ALBATROSS, a harrowing film which I defy anyone to watch and come away unchanged.

Plastic Action Champions

I went with fellow-GW member Alexis of GW to the first evening’s training at the end of April. As well as introducing the new champions -whose diverse backgrounds represented plastic-free business, Instagram-ing mums, the local AONB team and community green groups like our very own Greener Waldringfield – Jason shocked us with some quite staggering facts and demonstrations, then inspired us with a range of creative ideas.

Did you realise, for example, that cigarette butts contain plastic?
And if you did, would it surprise you to know that Jason has picked up around 250,000 butts so far – including 6,000 near Ipswich Hospital in just two hours?

He also demonstrated the scourge of wet wipes, showing how they doggedly stay intact in a bottle of water. Jason collected thousands recently under the Orwell Bridge. Tragically, when filters need opening to cope with storm surges, wet wipes (along with raw sewage) flood into the river. Those from January are still there.

We talked a lot about the issues of cost and time, in trying to be plastic-free; and how some choices aren’t as eco as they first seem. The plastic brushes of a bamboo toothbrush still have to be cut off from the handle for disposal, for example.

All very sobering, but with a sustained effort over time, there are things we can do. Talking to local businesses – recongising the positive, as well as the negative; engaging with communities and schools… There are lots of avenues open to share the message.

I’m pleased to say that Greener Waldringfield has already started to challenge our plastic addiction. The Wildlife Group put on a plastics display, and GW look forward to putting on another at our Green Day in October. Some of us are building eco-bricks for what we hope will be a brilliant art project on the day.  I now carry a litter bag on my weekly dog-walk for a friend – tho’ it’s hard once you get into the habit, not to always pick up stray litter whenever out and about. Betsy, another of GW’s Plastic Action Champions, organised a village litter clean last month which was well-attended and was highly praised.

The important thing, we learned from our first Plastic Action training session, is that it’s OK to take baby steps, and work to your own strengths. It’s better that we all act imperfectly, rather than none of us act for fear of failure or feeling overwhelmed at the size of the problem.

No ifs. No butts.

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