UK Celebrates First "Plastic Free Coastline" Community

CC BY 2.0. Tim Green

Nearly 100 other towns are working toward the same status.

Whether it's childcare centers banning glitter, the government considering taxes on single-use plastics, or London's mayor proposing a network of water fountains and refill stations to combat bottled water waste, there really does seem to be momentum right now behind the movement to curb plastic use in the UK.

Much of the credit can apparently go to an unusually vocal Sir David Attenborough and his new show Blue Planet II. If last night's Twitter activity around the season finale is anything to go by, millions and millions of Brits are engaging with the issue of ocean pollution and plastic waste, and reacting to heart-wrenching footage like the sperm whale pictured below by committing themselves to changing things for the better.

The latest example of such efforts is the announcement—reported over at Business Green—of Britain's first certified "Plastic Free Coastline" community. The rural town of Penzance, Cornwall, has been working extremely hard to rid its beaches and streets of single-use plastics and, according to the non-profit Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) which is coordinating this campaign, nearly one hundred other communities around the country are striving for similar status.

Although hardly surprising given the prevalence of plastics in our culture, it's still worth noting that being certified "Plastic Free" doesn't mean your coastline is actually plastic free. Rather, it appears to be a statement of ambition and a measure of a community taking significant action in order to get there. Activities encouraged by the campaign guidelines include the formation of a community steering group, encouraging local businesses to replace single use plastics, and coordinating beach clean up efforts. Already the Penzance initiative has worked with 13 local businesses to remove three or more single-use plastic items from their inventory, and it's easy to imagine that other businesses will come onboard as news of the effort grows.

Besides community-wide efforts like Plastic Free Coastlines, Blue Planet 2 has also driven a growing number of people to engage in solo activities like a #2minutebeachclean. Some local authorities are even encouraging the activity by setting up stations with bags and "grabbers" to use for safe clean up.

It's really quite wonderful to see how energized Britain has become around plastic pollution, particularly at a time when so much of the national debate has been depressing and divisive in the wake of the Brexit fallout. Let's hope these efforts continue and, as Blue Planet 2 gets distributed to other channels and networks around the world, let's also hope that this same spirit of cooperation and activism takes hold elsewhere too.