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Plastic-free Penzance: how one Cornish town became Britain’s first ever ‘plastic-free’ community

Plastic-free Penzance: how one Cornish town became Britain’s first ever ‘plastic-free’ community
Source: Facebook/PlasticFreePenzance

Penzance became the UK’s first town to to achieve the Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) Plastic Free Coastline status — the first location to be awarded this prestigious recognition in the fight against single use plastics.

Penzance Plastic Free Coastlines Status Approved

Last December Penzance became the UK’s first town to to achieve the Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) Plastic Free Coastline status. To earn its ‘plastic free’ status, Penzance had to achieve five targets demonstrating its commitment to reducing the use of plastics. Here’s how this small Cornish community earned the prestigious accolade.

This Cornish community was awarded for having the UK’s first ‘plastic free’ coastline To gain Plastic Free Communities Status a community needs to meet five specific criteria, developed by Surfers Against Sewage and designed to tackle plastic pollution at source. Source: Facebook/BrightVibes

Penzance had to meet 5 targets demonstrating its commitment to reducing the use of plastics

After successfully completing the Five Objective Guidelines in the SAS Plastic Free Coastlines (PFC) toolkit, Penzance became the first location to meet the criteria to be awarded this prestigious recognition in the fight against single use plastics. 

The PFC Objectives challenge community, businesses and local government to reduce reliance on single use plastic items, replacing them with sustainable alternatives, educate others toward the threats of plastic pollution and lead community events such as beach cleans and fundraisers.

Penzance proudly gained the accolade of the first SAS Plastic Free Coastlines approved location following a resolution of a town council motion on December 4th to support efforts for Plastic Free Coastlines. 

The local SAS team have also inspired and assisted thirteen businesses in Penzance to remove three or more single-use-plastic items. Some of these items have been removed entirely and others have been swapped out for eco-friendly alternatives. 

A steering group has been set up to continue the Plastic Free Coastlines momentum in the area. Moving forward, the steering group will be meeting regularly to review further positive changes that can be made to reduce the damaging effects plastic can cause to the local and wider marine environment.

Source: sas.org.uk


While the locals have little control over what washes up on their shores, they turn out in large numbers to clear the beach of the plastic menace.
The Cornish town of Penzance has made a name for itself as the UK’s first plastic-free community While the locals have little control over what washes up on their shores, they turn out in large numbers to clear the beach of the plastic menace. Source: Facebook/PlasticFreePenzance

What does the Plastic Free Communities status actually mean?

Penzance is very proud to be the first community in the UK, the world in fact, to be awarded Plastic Free Communities status by Surfers Against Sewage. But what does that actually mean?

To gain Plastic Free Communities Status a community needs to meet five specific criteria, developed by Surfers Against Sewage and designed to tackle plastic pollution at source. These were:

Objective One: Engage with the town council. To meet this they needed the council to resolve to eliminate single use items from their premises, to support Plastic Free Communities initiatives in the town and to have a member on the strategic group (see Objective Five!)

Objective Two: Engage with businesses. To do this they needed a proportion of the town’s businesses to remove or replace at least three single use items.

Objective Three: Community engagement. This is a community movement and they needed to show they were working with and within their local community. They rolled out Plastic Free Schools in twelve schools in the area, and also collaborate with the town’s Marine Group as well as its Tourism Association, BID, Chamber, traders groups, watersports clubs, churches, scouts, brownies, charities and a myriad of other organisations. How? By raising awareness, holding workshops and educating the community on how they can make a difference.

Objective Four: Events. As well as working on the strategic, business and community side of things – they needed to hold events to raise awareness of the campaign. For this they held a series of beach cleans, mobilising more than 200 people to take direct action.

Objective Five: Strategic. Finally they needed to make this all stick! So they had to form a strategic group to take things forward and build on the campaign in the town, to give it teeth and real, positive outcomes. A demonstrable and tangible effort to tackle single use plastics and reduce our impact on their environment.

Source: Plasticfreepz.co.uk

The Plastic Free Penzance campaign is part of Surfers Against Sewage's 'Plastic Free Coastlines' and combines community action, education and political lobbying to tackle single use plastics in our environment.  Officials from the group say the new status demonstrates the community's commitment to improving the environment.
The pulling together of a community in the fight against plastic The Plastic Free Penzance campaign is part of Surfers Against Sewage’s ‘Plastic Free Coastlines’ and combines community action, education and political lobbying to tackle single use plastics in our environment. Officials from the group say the new status demonstrates the community’s commitment to improving the environment. Source: Facebook/PlasticFreePenzance

90+ locations in the UK, Ireland and Portugal are working towards Plastic Free Coastlines status

There are currently more than 90 locations in the UK, Ireland and Portugal that are working tirelessly to achieve Plastic Free Coastlines status. The efforts of the communities to rid themselves of unnecessary single-use plastics are recognition of the upstream thinking to tackle plastic pollution. The public is reaching out for new ideas beyond the beach clean to protect their environments, and by engaging councils and businesses, this is a truly collaborative approach. To see locations working towards Plastic Free Coastline status, CLICK HERE and scroll down.

Source: Sas.org.uk

Make an Impact

What can you do?

Those interested in reducing their own plastic footprint and help to create plastic free coastlines, or register a new Plastic Free Community initiative, can download a Plastic Free Coastlines individual action plan and find out more information here.