Article 1 for the Dawlish Gazette by Vanessa Ryley, writing for Dawlish Against Plastic.

Making Personal Choices

Dawlish Against Plastic was formed nearly eighteen months ago when our secretary, Dave Hutton put out a post on Facebook saying, “Does anyone want to do something about plastic?”

I had already applied to Surfers Against Sewage to become their Plastic Free Coastlines community leader for Dawlish, so I replied.

There are now eight of us who have formed a steering group and meet regularly to plan our activities.

We report our progress to Surfers Against Sewage and in April of this year we were pleased to announce that we had achieved Plastic Free Community status.

While this represents a huge milestone in our fight to reduce single use plastic, it only means that we have made a good start in our community, not that we have rid Dawlish of single use plastic. There’s plenty more to do and sometimes it seems like one step forward and two steps back, but we will keep at it.

Dawlish Town Council and many local community groups have pledged their support and eleven businesses so far have demonstrated a significant reduction of single use plastic on their premises, thereby qualifying to become Plastic Free Champions. There are many more businesses that have made progress and will qualify for the award in time.

Why bother with trying to reduce plastic? We all use it and it has become an integral part of our everyday lives. However, plastic derives from fossil fuels and production is increasing at an alarming rate, despite all the environmental concerns. It is often used for a very short time, yet lasts for hundreds of years, attracts contaminants, kills marine life and is being consumed by all of us as it enters our food chain. It is estimated that only 9% of all plastic produced goes for recycling, a process which degrades its quality. In so many ways we need plastic, but we must find ways around the need for single-use plastic in particular.

We can all play a part in this reduction by using refillable bottles or buying cans rather than plastic bottles, taking our own cups for take away coffees which may attract a discount in some places, remembering to carry fold away shopping bags, expecting not to be offered plastic straws, stirrers or plastic cutlery, perhaps even carrying a handbag size personal cutlery set.

People love to have balloons at parties, but they can be lethal to wildlife if they end up in the environment, so it is better to find more environmentally friendly alternatives.

Of course, there are many more ways in which we can reduce our plastic use.

Remember the mantra of the four Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Recycle is deliberately last here, as it’s what we do when the other three Rs have not been successful, and plastic can be recycled only a limited number of times due to its chemical structure.

More about recycling in Teignbridge next month.