Plymouth awarded plastic free status in recognition of fight against plastic pollution

Surfers Against Sewage have awarded Plymouth the Plastic Free City status, the largest UK city to achieve the accolade.

Campaigners in Plymouth are celebrating as the city has been awarded Plastic Free Community status in recognition of the hard work of partners across the city to reduce single use plastics and tackle plastic pollution.

The accolade was confirmed by Surfers Against Sewage, and comes on the anniversary of Plymouth achieving Plastic Free Communities status for its historic waterfront, and the launch of the city’s Plan for Plastics.

The success was announced at the second birthday party of Environment Plymouth; the strategic, citywide ‘green’ network that has led on the recruitment of local ‘plastics’ champions since December 2017.

The event will also see a celebration of the first anniversary of the launch of the Plymouth Britain’s Ocean City Plan for Plastics led by the city’s Plastics Task group.

The Plymouth, Britain’s Ocean City Plastics Task Group is made up of a wide range of partners from across the voluntary, statutory, public and private sector in Plymouth and is committed to reducing single use plastics and tackling plastic pollution.

The news also follows a successful Great British Spring Clean (22 March – 23 April) during which almost 600 volunteers took part in litter picks and beach cleans across Plymouth, collecting 1079 bags of litter on the way. The events were coordinated by local community groups Clean Our Patch and Plymouth Beach Clean Volunteers and the oldest item found was a crisp packet dating back to 1973.

The campaign to raise awareness of our misuse of single use plastics has been warmly welcomed by everyone involved to date and shows no sign of slowing down.

Since Plymouth’s Plan for Plastics was launched in June 2018:

  • 118 schools, community groups, families and individuals have signed up to be Plastic Free Community Ambassadors and 102 local businesses have signed up to be Plastic Free Pioneers as part of the work led by Environment Plymouth.
  • 72 campaigners have taken part in awareness raising ‘plastic surgery’ workshops
  • 800 volunteers took part in 160 litter picks with local community group Clean Our Patch, and collected 4,0000 bags of litter.
  • 748 volunteers have taken part in beach cleans with Plymouth Beach Clean Volunteers and collected 261 bags of rubbish and 5,000 ‘nurdles’ (small plastic pellets used in a number of products)
  • CATERed who provide school meals for 67 of Plymouth’s secondary schools have removed 8,000 plastic straws, removed disposable plastic packaging and moved over to biodegradable
  • A Sea Bin has been installed by Plymouth City Council at Queen Anne’s Battery as part of a pilot project to monitor plastic pollution with the University of Plymouth
  • A ‘code of conduct’ is being developed to enable all event organisers in Plymouth to demonstrate their commitment to reducing single use plastic.
  • Funding for the campaign was secured from Sea Changers and South West Water.
  • Water refill points are being installed at key sites across the city for people to fill up their reusable bottles and help reduce waste, as part of a joint project by South West Water and Plymouth City Council. Refill Devon now has over 30 refill stations across the city.
  • Environment Plymouth have won national recognition for the campaign from Groundwork’s 2018 Community Awards and regional recognition from the Chartered Institute of Waste Management SW for related presentations on ‘The Blue Planet Effect’ and Single Use Plastics.
  • Two Plymouth based projects, Plymouth Marine Laboratory and Blue Marine have recently been awarded national funding by Waitrose and Partners and Hubbub to tackle the biggest and the smallest elements of plastic pollution – ghost gear from the fishing industry and microplastics.
  • The Council has pledged to ban single use plastics on all its premises by September 2019.



Jackie Young, Environment Plymouth’s Co-ordinator, said “We’ve been overwhelmed by the local enthusiasm for this campaign. It owes much to the inspiration of Sir David Attenborough and the ‘Blue Planet’ effect but local support has been inspirational too. We are also very grateful for Surfers Against Sewage’s guidance and the strength of the Task Group’s collaboration. Gaining Plastic Free Community status for the whole city is the icing on the cake in a year that has seen a considerable change in attitudes to single use plastic and the impact it has on the environment.”

Rachel Yates, Plastic Free Communities Project Officer at SAS said: “We have over 500 communities across the UK working to free where they live from single-use avoidable plastic, from the beach all the way back to the brands and businesses who create it. It’s not about removing all plastic from our lives, it’s about kicking our addiction to throwaway plastic and changing the system that produces it.

“Plymouth is the largest city to date to achieve the Plastic Free Approved accreditation, which means they have put in place the five core objectives of the campaign. We hope this accreditation will boost to their continued efforts tackle single-use plastic across the city.”

Councillor Sue Dann, Cabinet Member for Environment and Street Scene for Plymouth City Council said: “It’s been a fantastic year since Plymouth’s Plan for Plastics was launched and we are absolutely delighted the city has been awarded citywide Plastic Free Community status. So much has been achieved by all the partners, but we can all still do more.”

Councillor Darren Winter, Chair of the Plymouth, Britain’s Ocean City Plastics Taskforce said: “I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has got involved, particularly those who have volunteered to give up their time to help the fight to tackle plastic pollution including all the litter pickers and beach clean volunteers, and especially Environment Plymouth who have led on the Plastic Free Community work.”

The Plymouth, Britain’s Ocean City Plastics Taskforce have also unveiled the city’s new Plastics campaign brand.

About Plymouth, Britain’s Ocean City Plastics Taskforce

The Britain’s Ocean City Taskforce has been created to drive the delivery of the new Plan for Plastics. The collaboration of partners and organisations, includes Babcock, the Environment Agency, Environment Plymouth, the Marine Biological Association, National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth City Council, Plymouth Community Homes, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Plymouth Waterfront Partnership, Redrok, South West Water, Theatre Royal Plymouth and University of Plymouth.

Plymouth’s Plan for Plastics

  • There are four main principles in the Plan For Plastics, which are:
  • Avoid – encouraging residents to avoid single use plastics such as straws and stirrers, and to find alternatives such as reusable coffee cups
  • Recycle – continue to work to increase recycling rates in Plymouth
  • Innovate – support academic and industry led research into plastic free alternatives.
  • Connect – developing an education programme to encourage people to visit and connect with the natural environment.