Newsletter issue 11
31st December 2021
We wish you a hairy chestwig and a bucket of beards! We hope that you're enjoying some time off over Christmas with friends and family, and send our best wishes for an awe-inspiring 2022! We will be doing our best to help fulfill that aspiration.
Roundup of 2021
It's been a positive and productive year for Plastic Free Swindon. We've made plenty of new friends and advocates, and done some excellent work collaborating with a great many organisations and people across Swindon. Thank you so much to everyone who has supported and contributed to the campaign. As a close friend wrote a few years ago to inspire me, "From little things, big things grow, just believe." Here's a brief overview of our collective work for 2021:
- Keep Swindon Tidy Day 2021 kicked off the new year, with positive action and a statement of intent.
- Our Keep Swindon Tidy poster making collaboration took off at the start of the new year. Some great, inspiring entries.
- Marathon litter picking sessions at the Oasis and between Mannington and Blagrove provided many positives during a period of lockdown that was difficult for many. That included the mental health of our litter pickers during a difficult time. This excellent work helped us make connections, progress work, and highlight important issues, as examples.
- We have organised weekly litter picks covering the canal path, West Swindon, and around the town centre for most of the year.
- We delivered 20,000 Plastic Free Swindon / Keep Swindon Tidy / Refill Swindon leaflets in west and south Swindon! This is helping us deliver key messages, bypassing the likes of Facebook and Google. We are an inclusive campaign, we try to cater for all not just the tech-savvy and those on social media. More leafletting for the new year. For those who are interested, we use a company called Vegan Print to print our leaflets, as their means of printing are ethically and environmentally considerate.
- We became a standalone organisation with a bank account to receive funds.
- There has been a focus on cleaning up the area around Cambria Bridge. We regularly litter pick there, sorting out flytipping and other issues. We have been working closely with Central South Swindon Parish Council in various ways. Community gardening co-organised with Jess Halsall and parish councillor Linda Kasmaty compliments this work.
- We have raised awareness of many important issues and contacted local government representatives. Of particular note are unhealthy waste incineration, toxic trade deals, the inept Plastic Packaging Tax, the anti-democratic Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, and The Environment Act 2021 (new, see below). See our government and council sections for further info.
- We have been working on a couple of projects making Keep Swindon Tidy signs at the Men's Shed in Penhill, collaborating with Central South Swindon Parish Council. We're nearly there!!
- We provided regular articles (KST blogs | Articles By Us), resources and a newsletter.
- We engaged with the public, organisations, and local media, raising awareness of important issues and our work.
And more! Check out past newsletters and the timeline for further info on our work in 2021.
Back to the present...
No, it's not a terrible new Hollywood film. Here's what's been going on since the last newsletter and what's coming up:
Keep Swindon Tidy
Get well soon!
Jon Stubbs had been contributing to the campaign in various ways in 2021, including speaking with the public and promoting our work. He's spent the last month very ill in hospital with Covid-19. We wish you a speedy recovery, Jon. Best wishes.
Keep Swindon Tidy Day 2022
The second Keep Swindon Tidy Day is arranged for the weekend of the 8th and 9th January 2022. Due to continuing concerns about Covid-19, participation in the event can again be tailored to suit: litter pick alone, in a group of friends / family / neighbours or in an organised pick. Litter picks that we know of are arranged all over Swindon: Coate Water, Eastcott, Haydon Wick, Penhill, Rivermead, Rodbourne Cheney, the town centre, Westlea. We encourage you to get involved, as you can. Please help us by sharing the event and memes far and wide!! Full info.
Town litter picks
We have been regularly litter picking on Fridays in either Eastcott or West Swindon. It's been interesting. In Eastcott, we are working to deal with flytipping in privately owned alleyways and thinking about ways to facilitate reuse. We'll produce a blog in due course.
Tennyson Street Flytipping
We recently sorted out considerable flytipping on the canal path that had become no-one's responsibility. This is sadly often the case. Although it wasn't a pleasant job and caused many problems, it has been a positive experience engaging with the local community to sort it out. Again, we are thinking about how to stop such incidents recurring.
Support and education
Many thanks to Moya Pinson for her dedication in promoting our work in Westlea. Moya and I will be working together in the new year to put together a presentation for her local school. Moya joked with me about maybe covering the whole of Swindon. That does need to happen but we are still under capacity, so let's see how it goes.
Thanks to Central South Swindon Parish Council for installing 2 new bins at the Cambria Bridge play park, as requested. We hope that they will contribute to transforming the space and help change attitudes towards littering / waste.
Thanks also to south Swindon parish councillor Linda Kasmaty and the Old Town gardening group who came down to Cambria Bridge to sort out another of the big beds. This area is to be transformed for 2022.
Discussions are under way on the formation of a new organisation that will work broadly to regenerate urban areas such as Cambria Bridge. It is to include growing and tending to plants / food. Check out this Guardian article on food production on city allotments.
Responsibility for blocked drains
I was pleased to see that former borough councillor Stan Pajak had picked up on the blocked drains around Eastcott, which we blogged about back in September. The problem is not confined to Eastcott. We are corresponding with Stan to get these cleared.
Banners for litter picked areas
West Swindon Parish Council have told us that they will be putting up banners in areas that are litter picked. This is great news! We wrote to all parish councils in 2020 asking for this to happen. Signs will soon be installed in south Swindon also. We hope that they will further communicate that littering is antisocial and unhealthy.
Lush bottle top recycling
The manager of Lush Swindon contacted us to ask if we would promote their HDPE plastic recycling project. Lush are an awesome organisation, so we were more than happy to oblige. Read more and please share!!
Local and national government
The Environment Act 2021
If, unlike me, you have been paying attention to the news, you will have seen that the Environment Bill was finally passed into law. Read our response to it. Thanks to borough councillor Jane Milner-Barry for her input and for waking me up!
The Plastic Packaging Tax forms part of the Environment Act 2021. We recently produced an in-depth section on it which shows it to be unfit for purpose. Given the importance of this, we sent a letter to the Swindon Advertiser, which they published. However, it is not indexed on their website, so how can anyone find it? We detailed that in correspondence to the Swindon Advertiser and asked them to amend that. They have again not responded to us. The question is, why? Are we being censored? Whatever the situation, please take the time to share our section on the Plastic Packaging Tax, as it's important public information.
Seen in context, The Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill, would contribute with other legislation to make the government unnacountable to the public. If permitted, this could lead to fascism / totalitarianism / similar. Please read and share the following articles:
- George Monbiot: Jailed for 51 weeks for protesting? Britain is becoming a police state by stealth.
- Liberty: 5 ways the Government’s Policing Bill just went from bad to worse.
- Friends of the Earth: Three ways the government is threatening our democracy in the UK.
Swindon Borough Council have been promoting their Be The Change campaign. Where is the mention of plastic pollution? And where's the mention of our vibrant campaign? We wrote to Keith Williams, borough councillor for climate change, on the 8th December 2021 asking these questions and restating the key messages in CIEL's Plastic and Climate report, namely that plastic is a significant and growing direct and indirect factor in climate change. We are awaiting a response.
Litter from waste and recycling collections
It's clear that litter from waste and recycling collections cause a lot of mess in some areas, attracting further litter. We have had to stand our ground to convey that message to SBC / Streetsmart, who were saying that this wasn't the case despite numerous reports and first-hand experience. I'm pleased that Kevin Parry, the borough councillor responsible for waste, has accepted our invitation to see problems first hand.
There is a new colonialism section in our library. It's important to understand the historical context of plastic pollution in order to find genuine solutions. A small note, the 'shopping' category has been renamed 'consumerism'.
Sadly we missed the opportunity to pass on Refill's plastic free Christmas info this year. I would like to draw your attention to the use of plastic tape. It's estimated that "each year we consume 915 billion meters of single-use plastic packaging tape globally, which is the equivalent distance of travelling from Earth to Mars and back twice". Lindsey, the manager at Prospect Hospice's Books and Media shop, recently made the change from plastic tape to FSC certified unbleached / brown paper tape with a natural rubber adhesive. She says that she loves the paper tape becauses it it is environmentally friendly, can be easily peeled off without damaging items, can be written on, and looks nicer than plastic tape.
Given the relatively low cost of plastic tape, here's a good example of why legislation to reduce plastic production is so important. Competing companies who are mindful of their bottom lines will often choose the cheaper option, as will increasingly impoverished consumers as obscene levels of inequality continue to increase. We persist in urging all to take responsibility to help drive change as we continue to press the government for effective legislation.
We just want your money!
It's been a tough year for many, so let's end the year with some music, some online busking if you will. Cornish busking legends Phat Bollard sing rather cheekily, "We just want your money". Keeping the same tongue-in-cheek for a moment, Plastic Free Swindon are accepting donations! Donations will help us fund activities and running costs. If all goes well, you'll find out about the first funded project early in the new year. Please contact us if you would like to make a one-off or recurring donation.