Newsletter issue 15
1st November 2022
Greetings plastic-conscious people of Swindon. We bring you love! Here's our roundup of the last 3 months.
Growing South Swindon Community
The work of the Cambria Bridge Community group to transform the canal path was part of the South Swindon entry to Britain In Bloom 2022. To quote GSSC organiser and South Swindon Parish councillor Linda Kasmaty, "The South Swindon Parish were awarded a a silver gilt, one better than silver last year, and very near the gold they were hoping for". The full marking sheet is here. The judges' assessments of Cambria Bridge Community's efforts were considered to be level 4: Thriving. Congratulations and thanks to all involved! Here's a gallery of our work and the awards.
Keep Swindon Tidy
Oasis - urgent action
A brief history:
- Swindon Borough Council (SBC) lease the Oasis buildings and land to Seven Capital for 99 years.
- It is claimed that the Oasis is financially unviable so it is closed.
- Seven Capital breach the stipulations of the leasehold contract with SBC by not adequately maintaining the Oasis grounds or buildings. Both become run down. SBC take no action. The Swindon community does.
- Amendments to the leasehold contract come to light. Under certain conditions, Seven Capital would be handed a 999 year lease of the Oasis land and would be able to build whatever they like.
- A planning application is submitted for the Oasis. A sports hall is not included.
- The planning application doesn't mention the grounds leased to, not owned by, Seven Capital. According to the Save Oasis Swindon (SOS) campaign , Seven Capital told them that they will build houses on the Oasis grounds, to pay for the Oasis restoration and for profit.
From a public leisure centre and grounds including swimming pool to a reduced-sized leisure centre and private housing. Public assets given away for private profit. The recent examples of energy and water demonstrate that privatisation does not serve the public's best interests.
Please take the time to respond to the planning application and share the action. The deadline is 2nd November 2022. Thanks to SOS and other campaigners for your work!
Wildlife corridor is a dump no more
Our main focus has been on an alleyway between Savernake Street and Hythe Road, which we have renamed Blackberry Alley. Collaborative efforts are helping to radically transform the space. Read more.
Gorse Hill challenges
Our other regular focus has been Gorse Hill. It is proving challenging! Heavy drink and drug use, asbestos, major thoroughfares... On the back of the leaflet deliveries, Gorse Hill Baptist Church hosted an Ecoheroes event for local kids to make Keep Swindon Tidy signs. Karen made up the signs from dumped wood found on our travels. Our thanks to Gorse Hill Baptist Church and its Ecoheroes! Signs are to be used in the local area to compliment our efforts to clean up. We'll produce a blog in due course.
Interesting to see, without any prompting, signs about McDonald's litter. Mc Donald's packaging can be found littered all over Swindon, but is especially prominent in Gorse Hill because of the nearby restaurant.
Again the borough council have let us down. We reported dumped asbestos in 2 locations in Gorse Hill to them several weeks ago. It's still there but now some it is broken up, some of it is in a little area of woodland.
Our best wishes
We wrote a blog in July about Abdul Abbas, who is seeking asylum in this country. Abdul litter picks in the town centre several days a week. Thank you Abdul. Many local people and organisations wrote to commend Abdul and endorse his application for asylum. After waiting almost 2 years, Abdul was recently interviewed by the Home Office, for 4½ hours! I'm delighted to announce that Abdul has been granted residency and will be reunited with his family after 7 years apart! We send you our best wishes, Abdul.
Central north Swindon leaflets
One of the major activities of the last few months was delivering leaflets to all 16,000 residences in central north Swindon. 3 leaflets were delivered: Keep Swindon Tidy and Refill (Swindon), as well as a leaflet for the local RSPCA. Thanks to Central North Swindon Parish Council for part-funding the leaflets. Thanks to Jody Higgins for helping create the KST leaflet. And thanks to Karen Leggett, Josie Lewis, Di Pithers, my neighbour Aimee and Sewcraft for helping to deliver and distribute leaflets. Proper job!
Birds and Bees
We're starting to find our feet for the Birds and Bees radio show on Swindon 105.5. It airs Fridays 2-3pm and is then on catch up for a couple of weeks. Content related to Plastic Free Swindon will be included in the newsletter and hosted on our website. New content includes:
- The work of various organisations to transform Rivermead.
- The Small Change Festival: Sustainable(ish) and Archaic Revival.
- The David and Goliath Tapes: An ongoing series to convey the importance of supporting local, independent and organic, by highlighting the uneven playing field that allows Big Business to dominate. We speak with Baristocats and Swindon Pulse Wholefoods.
The new Refill Swindon team have met a few times. We've agreed a series of actions to help us move forward. First up, we've produced a survey for local Refill stations that should help inform us of how we can help them and expand the scheme locally and perhaps nationally.
We've been to a few local events. It's good to get out and talk with people. It's generally a good exchange. Great to see the local environmental movement building. The Small Change Festival, a whole month of events, was brilliant! So nice to see in Swindon.
Only Footprints Events
We were invited to the Swindon Ultra Trail 50k running event by former distance runner Matt Jones. Having seen the waste at events, he set up Only Footprints Events. The business considers all environmental impacts and takes appropriate action: Sustainable drinks packaging, reused running gear, wooden medals, tree planting... It was a pleasure to attend this event. The people were great, highly considerate and mutually supportive.
I talked with most people at the event. Donovan, who runs Light Bulb Coffee, provided hot drinks. He made me a lovely green tea with fine precision; fine art down to a... tea! I usually just leave the bag in! We talked in-depth about environmental considerations for running such a business. I was impressed by the level of consideration and his efforts to be sustainable.
I spent a long time talking with a couple from Wootton Bassett whose son was taking part in the run. It turns out the husband spends his time keeping his part of Wootton Bassett clean. There are so many voluntary litter pickers around Swindon! God knows what Swindon would be like without them. We exchanged experiences, discussed solutions, and generally chatted. A pleasure!
Images have been kindly provided by James Booth Photography. James and I talked about plastic pollution. He wasn't convinced that many people would return to more local and sustainable means. He gave me some sound advice re taking photos that I have already started using in this newsletter. Thanks!
It's possible that we might collaborate with Only Footprints Events for the local Refill campaign, as plastic-free events are being covered nationally, so on our radar. We wish Matt and Only Footprints Events success. Thanks for having us!
Small Change Festival
We had a stall on the first weekend of the Small Change Festival, which was accompanied by some chilled music from Bob Bowles. South Swindon MP Robert Buckland was there talking about a local laptop recycling scheme that he is involved in. I pointed out that we needed legislation at a national level to deal with the gargantuan amount of e-waste exacerbated by built-in obsolescence. The government's pathetic response to the ecological emergency was also mentioned. Snake oil anyone?
The Small Change Festival ran for the whole of September. What a fantastic month of environmental activities organised by the Richard Jefferies Museum. Many thanks to them. The festival brought Swindon community together, highlighted the excellent work going on across the town, raised awareness of issues, got people involved in a variety of activities, and provided topics for debate.
Wroughton Green Festival
Organised by, and hosted at, Wroughton Parish Church, Wroughton Green Festival was excellent. It's a beautiful walk to get there from town. Good to meet the 10 Green Bottles people. Excellent business, ticking all the boxes: local, independent, organic, zero waste, good employer, high animal welfare levels...
It was also good to finally meet Fran O'Flanagan, who lives in Wroughton and is an instructor with the Global Ecobricks Alliance. Although we differ in approach, it is clear that we want similar outcomes of a world free from plastic pollution.
We sadly also missed a few events through poor health.
Local artist Jake Allaway has recently started an HND in Graphic Design at Swindon New College. He contacted us after seeing our leaflets, keen to work together. Jake's passionate about the environment and climate change. Much of his work highlights the role of socially and environmentally destructive corporations, taking light inspiration from subversive marketing / subvertising. We've met with him a couple of times now and he's produced a few designs which we are looking into displaying in various ways.his Instagram page.
Staying with the theme of design... Understanding the harm caused by consumerism, Buy Nothing Day returns on Friday 25th November this year. There is now also a Buy Nothing app, which enables sharing instead. Sharing is caring, after all. I love this page, which has some cool and funny Buy Nothing Day designs.
Participate by not participating!
Buy nothing now!
Buying nothing is not available in any shops...
We wrote to both local MPs because the moratorium on fracking was lifted. Justin Tomlinson responded, albeit to pass the buck. We're still waiting for a reply from Robert Buckland.
“We will deliver the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on Earth”
- Former Environment Secretary George Eustice, February 2020
Yet, to quote Wiltshire Wildlife Trust:
...the Government has:
- Threatened to revoke hundreds of laws that currently protect wild places and ensure standards for water quality, pollution and the use of pesticides.
- Decided to ‘review’ the long-awaited Environmental Land Management schemes; instead of rewarding farmers for restoring nature, preventing pollution from entering rivers and climate-proofing their businesses, we could now see a return to simply paying landowners based on the area of land they own.
- Lifted a ban on fracking in England, despite there being no evidence that proves fracking is safe.
- Announced a new planning and infrastructure bill as well as investment zones as part of the growth plan, which threaten to weaken vital protections for habitats and wildlife.
These pose serious threats to nature, climate and food security.
On the 19th October 2022 the Labour Party motion to ban fracking in the UK was defeated. This was aided by an amendment put forward by Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg:
“...if evidence of appropriate local support for any development is insufficient, that development should not proceed”
“local communities will have a veto”.
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg
Yet according to reports, such as this from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, "A leaked email from the private office of Jacob Rees-Mogg has revealed that they are exploring ways to roll out fracking and other fossil fuel projects without public scrutiny."
Public Order Bill
As the government are increasingly found out, they continue their quest to restrict civil liberties, control communications, and quash dissent. The Public Order Bill includes aspects of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which were rejected by the Lords. Read guidance from Liberty; includes a petition.
Our section on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act documents the lies of the mainstream media and the brutality of police. This Canary article further details the brutality of the State in their attempts to deceive the public and pass legislation described as draconian by civil rights organisations including Liberty.
Plastic reduction target
Our government section details the inadequacy of the government's measures to deal with plastic pollution, and how they bypassed effective legislation by way of the Plastic Pollution Bill to introduce the weak, ineffectual Environment Act of 2021. The Big Plastic Count highlighted the extent of plastic pollution in the UK and the pathetic government response so far. With the government due to announce environmental targets, Greenpeace have created this simple action to contact local MPs to ask for a serious, ambitious target to reduce plastic pollution.
Legislation and education are imperative
A lack of strong, effective legislation enables plastic pollution and other environmental maladies to continue and further. Here are a few examples of issues that I've recently come across:
- Whilst looking for a guitar strap, I came across a supposedly eco friendly guitar strap. Just one issue, it seems to be made from the highly toxic PVC!
- Thank goodness for natural rubber eh? Except that black colour derives from Carbon Black, listed as "possibly carcinogenic to humans".
- I got talking with Fi, a trader at the new Swindon outdoor market. She had researched good options for alternatives to plastic bags. The bags that she bought are Oxo-degradable. To cut a very long story short, Oxo-degradable plastics have many problems.
- Globally we use enough plastic tape each year to travel from the Earth to Mars and back twice! Plenty of supposedly eco-friendly brown paper tape options out there. But, for example, how many people know how Kraft paper tape is processed or the variety of sustainable and non-sustainable sources available?
I could continue with examples and indeed may do so on another occasion. Legislation that includes standards and simple labelling could help us significantly reduce negative environmental impacts.
- Thanks to Jody Higgins for sharing the amazing work of Sungai Watch to clean up rivers devastated by plastic pollution in Indonesia.
- Thanks to Peter Cowdy for sharing "Kayaking the sickest urban river in Australia", an adventure to discover (plastic) pollution in a river in Sydney. Please note that it contains colourful language!
- Microplastics found in human placenta.
- The Equality Trust urges government to tackle the cost of inequality crisis.
- PFAS chemcials destroyed with new technique.
- Swindon plastic recycling firm enters administration.
You can view all additions to the library, ordered by date. Please contact us with any additions.
That's it for this newsletter. Please take the time to share. Thanks for reading, thanks for your support!