Eastbourne is Awarded ‘Plastic Free Communities’ Status
3rd January 2020
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Eastbourne 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.
Local Community Leader, Oliver Sterno started the campaign in January 2018 after he was inspired by David Attenborough's “Blue Planet 2”.
Registering with the SAS Plastic Free Communities movement, Oliver pulled 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.
Oliver says “I am delighted to have been able to create and manage a collaboration between so many individuals and organisations in order to achieve the Plastic Free Eastbourne award for our town. It began with my carrying out a weekly beach clean. Then somebody spotted me and suggested that someone should try to get our town to become a Plastic Free Community. When I discovered that nobody was doing this, I applied to become Community Leader, got accepted and this is the result so far.
“This campaign has involved whole-town volunteering in parks, on beaches and in publicity events. The most successful event was our Parks Clean in May, which involved over 700 of our townspeople volunteering to clean almost all of our 34 Eastbourne parks! Meetings with people, clubs and interest groups, as well as, of course, our Town Council, have contributed to our success. The Council's Neighbourhood First has worked tirelessly as an ally since the early part of our campaigning. I have worked with so many volunteers who are all determined to play their part in trying to save our Planet. We have listened to live music and singing and stand up comedy. We have run and participated in conferences, watched a campaigning film première and engaged with townspeople from all over Eastbourne and beyond. We have encouraged many groups and individuals to contribute funds generously to our cause.  
“One example of where funds have been spent is the current project for signboards created by our Primary school pupils as the result of an art competition which 15 of our schools took part in. The photo is of our Art Exhibition celebrating the work produced by all the schools. These signboards have begun to be displayed around our town in 20 of our parks to encourage people to keep them clean. They all have “Thank you for keeping our park clean. Please take your litter home with you”.
“I thank David Attenborough, Marine Conservation Society, Surfers Against Sewage and all participants. This campaign, which is gaining momentum and support, is about a dire and serious challenge. With our determination, we must persuade governments and big business to make the necessary massive and urgent paradigm shift from "irresponsible self-centred growth" to "sustainability". I should add that now that we have gained this award, we can not sit back on our laurels and relax. As somebody pointed out to me a while ago, 34 businesses that have become Plastic Free Champions is only a tiny fraction of the total number of businesses in our town. We have to use this award to publicise our campaign to gain more and more support and participation.
We set our target to achieve “Plastic Free Eastbourne” status by January 2020. We did this on 23rd December 2019, with a month to go. This should encourage us all that when it comes to trying to gain our next even bigger challenge “Carbon Neutral Eastbourne” by 2030, we are ready!”
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 Eastbourne has done to reduce the availability of avoidable plastics, raise awareness and encourage people to refill and reuse. 
 “We have over six hundred 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.”
About the Author

Oliver S

Member since: 2nd March 2018

Community Leader ~ Plastic Free Eastbourne and Coordinator ~ Refill Eastbourne Accredited in December 2019 as a Plastic Free Community

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