Weston officially announced as plastic-free community following nine-month campaign

Members of the Cleaner Coastlines steering group.

Members of the Cleaner Coastlines steering group. - Credit: Archant

Weston-super-Mare has achieved plastic-free coastline status in just nine months, making it the 30th place in the UK to secure the accreditation – and its population means it is the largest place so far.

The Cleaner Coastlines campaign.

The Cleaner Coastlines campaign. - Credit: Archant

The Mercury launched its Cleaner Coastlines campaign alongside the Weston Chamber of Commerce in October to achieve the status from Surfers Against Sewage.

More than 70 businesses, thousands of schoolchildren and numerous community groups have pledged their commitment to make changes, and the campaign has been supported by North Somerset Council and Weston Town Council.

The work does not stop now, as the Cleaner Coastlines steering group is dedicated to building a legacy for the project – but the award shows Weston is on its way to ditching harmful single-use plastics which get onto our beaches and harm wildlife.

A chamber spokesman said: “The chamber of commerce is thrilled Weston has reached this important milestone in our fight against single-use plastic within just nine months and would like to take this opportunity to say a very big thank you to all the businesses who have so readily and enthusiastically supported the campaign and been part of its success.

Hundreds of people took part in beach cleans.

Hundreds of people took part in beach cleans. - Credit: Archant

“This has been a magnificent start to what we hope will be a lasting legacy for the town, improving the environment for ourselves and our children.

“The award will be positive news for the town and should attract tourism, as well as encouraging more people, businesses and accommodation providers to join the initiative and motivate tourists to keep Weston tidy.

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“It is important to get our message across to visitors so they know too what we are trying to achieve.

“We have already seen a great sense of community with various groups and organisations working together on the campaign, including both the town council and North Somerset Council.

The Uphill Primary School SAS Ocean Guardians inaugural Beach Clean along Uphill beach.

The Uphill Primary School SAS Ocean Guardians inaugural Beach Clean along Uphill beach. - Credit: Archant

“This is just the beginning and each of us really can make a difference if we all have pride in where we live and take action.”

How the campaign started

The campaign launched in October last year, starting with a beach clean attended by 130 people. Future beach cleans attracted close to 200 people who braved the wintry weather to get stuck in.

Environment secretary Michael Gove has congratulated Weston on the campaign, which was buoyed by the release of Blue Planet 2 a few weeks after it started.

Darren Dee and Shell Bateman from Wormwood Rocks highlighted the dangers of plastic waste with their

Darren Dee and Shell Bateman from Wormwood Rocks highlighted the dangers of plastic waste with their plastic art installation. - Credit: Archant

He said the Mercury, chamber of commerce and North Somerset council have ‘led the way by securing backing from businesses, schoolchildren and the community in gaining plastic-free status’.

Weston Town Council was one of the first in the country to unanimously support a plastic-free motion.

Town clerk Malcom Nicholson said: “Weston Town Council is delighted to have been able to support our town in achieving plastic-free coastline status.

“The campaign received the full support of the town council at our meeting in November, and since then we have reduced the use of single-use plastics in the Blakehay Theatre, museum, and the Visitor Information Centre and made them available as free water refill stations.”

Year five and six pupils, at St Anne's Primary School, encouraging others to ditch plastics.

Year five and six pupils, at St Anne's Primary School, encouraging others to ditch plastics. - Credit: Archant

Business support has been critical

Business support has been absolutely crucial to securing the status. Because of Weston’s population size, 30 businesses were needed to remove three single-use items of plastic. By the end of July, 50 businesses had ditched three items of plastic, with another 20 making changes and commitments where they could.

Thousands of schoolchildren have been taking part in litter-picks and beach cleans, and have created artwork and written persuasive letters and posters to tell others how to refuse single-use plastics.

We received more than 100 entries to a poster competition with the message to keep Weston tidy, and these will be placed around the town in the coming weeks.

The Mercury’s campaign was also recognised with a ‘highly commended’ award at the Regional Press Awards.

Cllr Peter Bryant, executive member responsible for waste at North Somerset Council, said: “We are pleased to have been involved in this project.

“It’s made people have another look at how they use plastics and has led to some positive changes in behaviour.

“We have made changes within the council and will continue to look at how we can reduce our reliance on plastics.”

Further initiatives are in the pipeline to ensure the momentum continues.

How to get involved?

The Cleaner Coastlines steering committee will be dedicated to continuing the campaign and creating a legacy for the project. You can learn more on our Facebook page at Cleaner Coastlines: Weston and North Somerset plastic-free campaign. The steering group will be looking for volunteers to continue certain projects.

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