Since going entirely plastic-free, the Ceredigion town of Aberporth has been making waves in the news. Emily Newsham caught up with one of the leading members of the town’s plastic free movement, Sue Lewis.
What was the inspiration behind this idea?
Gail Tudor, our founder member, went on an Around Britain sailing ship, which looked at the plastic that’s in our seas. She was so horrified by what she found, she started picking up the plastic that comes in on the tide, and she encouraged the committee to support the plastic-free initiative. After that a local shop stopped selling milk in plastic bottles and looked at selling it in glass bottles.
What has been the most rewarding part of this process?
The fact the whole village has come together. It’s not only the local shops, but the local pub and the local homes, and as a result the village has become the first plastic-free community in Wales.
Do you hope to take the plastic-free movement to other places in Wales, and if so, where?
It’s already happening because of the work that’s gone on in Aberporth. Other communities in Ceredigion have said they’re interested in doing a similar thing and the county council is looking into Ceredigion to become the first plastic-free county in Wales. It really has inspired people locally.
Has there been anything particularly difficult about going plastic-free?
What we’re talking about is single-use plastic, meaning when you go to the shop, you don’t buy a plastic bottle of water that you use then throw away, but you go somewhere where you can fill a reusable container. There’s a great concern about the amount of plastic that is used once and thrown away. For example, the local pub has stopped using plastic straws, they have paper straws. Aberporth is right on the sea, so if people drop plastic it ends up in the sea; it’s important to help keep it as clean as possible.
You’ve had a lot of media attention. Do you hope this will inspire other places around the world to go plastic free?
To start, the initial feed was very local but of course, it’s grown – we had no idea it would explode like it did. The period around Christmas, a huge media circus descended on Aberporth: Sky came down, CNN, and we even made the New York Times. So if this inspires anyone else, then that’s fantastic.
Do you have anything else planned in the plastic-free move?
We’re hoping to get some funding and put leaflets in every holiday cottage and lets, saying “reuse, don’t use plastics,” etc. We’re also looking at getting a board that we can put on the beach, because in the summer it’s a problem when visitors don’t take their litter with them.
What would be the best piece of advice you could give to prevent plastic waste?
Make sure you all work together, it’s just common sense. We can’t keep throwing plastic away, because if we continue doing that, in 20 to 30 years there will be more plastic in the sea than fish and that’s going to kill our planet.
I think the best advice to give is to make sure everybody works together. It’s a relatively modern problem: back in the 70s and 80s you didn’t have the issue of all this plastic being used once and thrown away, so it’s time to look at things like glass bottles and recycling, it’s been done before, so it’s not rocket science.
photo GORDON PLANT