Newsletter issue 14
31st July 2022
It's been a busy and positive few months for our organisation. We continue to work on many fronts to help make changes that are so desperately needed. Here'e the roundup of our work:
I'm pleased to welcome borough councillor Jane Milner-Barry as an organiser for the local scheme. Jane's role for the borough council is Shadow Spokesperson For Sustainability. She is also a parish councillor for south Swindon. Jane and I worked together for Swindon Climate Action Network. I'm aware of the enormous hard work that Jane has put into environmental efforts in Swindon. The town is blessed to have her. Welcome Jane.
World Refill Day
With a new core team of organisers for Refill Swindon, we relaunched for World Refill Day. Thank you to everyone who supported us. It was a positive and successful day in many respects. Read our summary of the day. We achieved a lot at short notice; a delay in information being provided meant that we had 8 days to organise this. We're delighted to have been mentioned in City to Sea's national and international roundup of the day!! A good start! Thank you Andy Waylen and Jane Milner-Barry.
Refill were one of the partners for this initiative. Almost ¼ million of us took note of our plastic usage in the largest survey of its kind in the world. Based on the results, UK homes produce 96.6 billion pieces of plastic per year. Only 12% of that is recycled. The rest is incinerated (45%), buried (25%) and exported (17%). UK government, nul points. Swindon Borough Council, nul points. As we have consistently reiterated to local MPs and the borough council, the focus must be on reducing plastic production.
Growing South Swindon Community
The simple life in bloom
Our blog details the community activities and collaboration that have been helping to further transform Cambria Bridge and the canal path.
Keep Swindon Tidy
Regular litter picks
The deep clean at Rivermead is complete but how do we keep the litter and flytipping from returning? Read our latest Rivermead blog.
We have been working regularly in an area close to TK Maxx for the last few months. You'd be forgiven for thinking that this is a rubbish dump. Read our blog on the work there.
We have begun focusing on the alleyway parallel and between Savernake Street and Hythe Road. It has the potential to be a lovely wildlife corridoor but has been treated as a dumping ground for many years. Watch this space because we have plans...
Sustainable travel event
Keep Swindon Tidy were invited to provide a litter pick at a sustainable travel event in Badbury Park. Our blog details the day and addresses important issues, including sustainable transport, unsustainable housing developments, and plastic mulch.
How are the current administration of the borough council not in deep trouble? Amendments to Seven Capital's leasehold from 2017 have provided loopholes which, if exploited, would allow them to build whatever they like on the land, removing the borough council's ability to object or intervene, except through the limited scope of planning. It is noted that Seven Capital usually build flats. They claim that restoring the Oasis is unviable. A building preservation charity disagreed and offered to meet with them to discuss it. The offer was declined. Seven Capital also claimed to regularly look after the grounds, which is not true.
The borough council claim to be seeking funds from central government to restore the Oasis. Swindon Labour leader Jim Robbins made the point, "whilst we would be pleased to see some money come into the town, it doesn’t replace the hundreds of millions stripped out of the Swindon council budget by the Conservative government since they have been in power". Lies, greed, austerity, privatisation... Thank you Josie Lewis for updates and persistence!
Westlea litter pickers keep on giving
This is not actually part of Keep Swindon Tidy but I'm going to mention it because there is plenty of crossover and collaboration. Moya Pinson organises a monthly litter pick in Westlea. It's consistently well-attended. West Swindon Parish Council have a scheme whereby local volunteers accrue money which can be spent in the parish. The great work of this group has earned them £500. The group voted to spend the money on supporting the new BMX track at Rivermead and on a new bin in Westlea. As I've heard Moya say many times, a great team effort. Well done to the Westlea litter pickers!!
Abdul Abbas, a refugee seeking asylum in this country, sets a great example by litter picking around the town. His ordeal has been extraordinarily difficult and painful. It continues because the government won't make a decision on his application for asylum. Read more in our blog.
We mentioned in blogs and a previous newsletter the excellent work of the Flower and Butterflies (FAB) group. My mistake, it's actually the West Swindon FAB group. I recommend checking out their excellent work.
I want to leave the Keep Swindon Tidy section this month with a comment made by Ruth, one of our litter pickers over Gorse Hill Way. When I thanked her for her efforts, she said, "I live here."
Family Eco Summit
This event was held on the National Trust's beautiful estate at Coleshill. It was attended by a variety of environmental groups, initiatives, reuse projects, and so forth. Nice to catch up with Sustainable Shrivenham, who are doing great things on the zero waste front. You may remember that we pointed a Sunday Times journalist their way. Kate, who runs the group, said that the article had been hugely positive for them. Nice to have such a progressive group close by whose efforts are telling. Swindon is different in many respects so there are other challenges for organisations such as ours.
Thanks to Jess Halsall for supporting this event. She got talking with an amazing girl, Heather who had set up a campaign to clean up her home town of Fairford. Her stall was thoughtful and imaginative. Her family supported her efforts. Lovely to meet such a considerate and determined young person.
Birds and Bees
We're still finding our feet with the Birds and Bees radio show. It's been difficult to organise with such a busy schedule. In due course we hope to provide regular updates on content and a way to catch up. For now, a little content info: Gerry Hannon provided a series of interviews on the new South Swindon Green Trail, talking with people and organisations on a journey around it. Gerry also interviewed Steve Russell of Eastcott Community Organisation (ECO) regarding the work to make Eastcott Community Centre more energy efficient. And I provided coverage of World Refill Day from the Swindon Hub. The Birds and Bees show is 2pm on Fridays on Swindon 105.5.
Oil industry lackeys
Open Democracy recently published an article showing the possible connection between the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, and Policy Exchange, a think tank funded by ExxonMobil. Supposed public servants serving private interests; criminal.
A friend contacted many people including me to say that she had measured the pH of rainwater to be 4.8. With focus on plastic pollution, the question arises, is waste incineration a contributory factor to acid rain? The answer is yes. Swindon Borough Council recently signed a contract with Viridor to incinerate Swindon's waste. All across the UK, we are being tied into waste incineration contracts for years to come. Note the EU is moving in the other direction: "Waste incineration has no place in the sustainability agenda".
Staying with waste incineration, we found out that all contents of the public dual purpose waste and recycling bins around Swindon are not recycled but incinerated. With the borough council telling residents to recycle, maybe they should set the example and do that themselves! It is common that waste incineration reduces recycling rates. That's one of many reasons that we need to move away from it. Climate change is another key factor.
Deposit Return Scheme?
How long does it take to implement a Deposit Return Scheme? Well, if you live in Scotland, 4 years. If you live in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland, 6 years at the earliest, we are told. Given the UK government's connections to Big Oil / Big Plastic, will a Deposit Return Scheme be realised? Or will the government attempt to strip away all of our rights, intercept our communications, lock up / torture / kill dissenters, and carry on with business / fossil fuels as normal? I reiterate, beware fascism! Those who sleep in a democracy wake up in a dictatorship.
Cost of living crisis
City to Sea's survey showed that 60% of respondents now prioritise cost over other criteria when shopping. This is forcing people towards single-use plastics. So we wrote to local MPs. Justin Tomlinson has responded, Robert Buckland hasn't. Read full correspondence.
Malevolent organisations seek to control information in order to control the masses. With that understanding, we use the services of an empowering tech collective, Riseup, for some of our online work. I would like to share the following with you, so that you can understand the stark contrast between such organisations and Big Tech.
At the intersection of greed and oppression, our arms are linked with everyone committed to build a better world. We realized years ago that communications is critical infrastructure that our movements need to reduce the control the state and corporations have over our lives, and is necessary for our organizing to thrive.
This is why we work with other tech collectives around the world to autonomously create and operate our own communication systems built specifically around the needs of our communities. Not only is this important, but it is effective! Our hearts flutter when we hear how our work has strengthened your organizing work. Collaboration is beautiful!
Thanks for reading, for getting involved, for all your support. Please take the time to share, if you find our work of value.