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MELKSHAM Town Council has declared war on single-use plastic, announcing their plan to become an accredited plastic-free town.
Mayor cllr Adrienne Westbrook said that the council needs to set a precedent for the town and encourage the community to follow. They are to look into ridding the town of plastic straws, look at ways to reduce plastic cup usage and explore setting up a plastic bottle recycling point in the town.
Explaining her vision for a plastic-free Melksham, the Mayor told Melksham News, “The town council needs to set a precedent to minimise plastic use and then after that, we can start a campaign for the town to follow.”
The council took the first step towards the reduction of plastic use by voting unanimously to sign up to the Refill campaign, which will allow the public to use the tap at the Town Hall to fill up their reusable drinking containers with water, rather than purchase plastic bottles.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg, I think single-use plastic is obscene,” said cllr Westbrook. “I would like us to take it a step further and look at single-use plastic in the Assembly Hall and see whether or not we can get rid of plastic straws; carry out an audit of the Assembly Hall and ask them to remove plastic straws. Also see what the possibility is of removing any plastic cups, anything that is single-use.
“I’ve been looking at plastic-free accreditation, which is normally for coastal towns, but I don’t see why that should be an issue for us as, at the end of the day, we have the River Avon that goes into the sea. I think that we ought to be looking for plastic-free accreditation, even if we aren’t a coastal town.”
At this week’s town council community development committee meeting, cllr Hayley Spencer-Illman agreed, saying, “We need to encourage the community to use less plastic, we could maybe have a stand in the town centre, get the town talking. There’s so much we can do that is so easy, we can set the example that it is easy to make the change.”
Other ideas suggested at the meeting included buying paper straws and recyclable cups in bulk for use at the Assembly Hall and to sell on to local businesses who may not be able to afford to purchase the items in smaller quantities; and the possibility of a plastic bottle recycling point in the town.
Last year, the BBC’s Blue Planet showed us how much plastic is getting into our seas and its effect on marine life. The programme made an impact on many viewers, including the Mayor. “Like a lot of people, I watched Blue Planet before Christmas in total disbelief about the state of our oceans and rivers,” she said speaking to the Melksham News. “I think we all knew that the situation needed some control, but the absolute devastation that we were witnessing was far worse than I could have imagined.
“I took the immediate decision to make some small changes in my use of single-use plastic. The grandchildren always have plastic straws for their drinks. I found and sourced paper ones, and will only use those from now.
“I had always applauded the plastic bag charge, but it needs to go further. Plastic bags should not be available in supermarkets, If we only had paper bags, we would soon get used to it.
“A few small changes I know, but if we all make those small changes it could make a huge difference to the pollution of oceans and rivers.”
Tips to go plastic free
Buying a reusable bottle and using the Town Hall tap is one step towards a plastic-free Melksham. But there are many other ways to cut plastic out of our lives. Here are some simple suggestions that could help make a big difference for the future of the planet.
Melksham’s weekly Tuesday market in the Market Place provides the perfect opportunity to make some cutbacks. You can buy loose fruit and vegetables, fresh fish and bread – all without the unnecessary plastic packaging you often find in the larger supermarkets. Stallholder Tracy Collins, from V&P Collins fruit and veg stall said, “I’ve noticed that a lot more people are now refusing plastic bags and bringing their own.”
Sean Taylor of Taylors Traditional Bakers agreed, saying, “We are more than happy to help people cut down on their plastic, I’ve definitely noticed a difference in customers’ choices.”
Fellow market trader Ken Langley, of Ken’s Fresh Fish said, “I remember when people used to bring their own plates out to the stall to collect their fish. Maybe we need to go back to some of the old ways to save on plastic.”
For those who can’t go without their daily fix of caffeine from the local coffee shop, purchase a reusable coffee cup and refuse single-use take away cups.
Like the Mayor, try to resist using a plastic straw and refuse one when offered. If you do want to use a straw, ask for a paper one, or buy a reusable one.
With the introduction of the 5p charge for the use of a plastic bag, most people are already avoiding plastic bags and using reusable ones, but it’s always good to make sure you have a bag before leaving the house.