Newsletter issue 17

9th April 2023

Keep Swindon Tidy it stays beautiful
Poster made up of a collage of photos of natural places in Swindon.  It reads 'Keep Swindon Tidy so it stays beautiful'

The Keep Swindon Tidy campaign was launched in 2019 by Sarah Church. The main ideas were to have a local hub for litter picks, and to set up a poster-making activity and gallery, some of which would be made into signs and displayed in public. Blimey, what hard work the latter has proven to be!! Changes in staff, lost items, environmental considerations... but it's finally happened!

The design that was chosen by South Swindon Parish Council was made by Bethany Jones, then 8 years old, of Lethbridge Primary School. With limited sustainable options and wanting to avoid plastic, the signs were etched into stainless steel by South Swindon Parish Councillor Vince Ayris. Signs have been put into all south Swindon playparks. Thanks to Bethany for her design and South Swindon Parish Council for getting there eventually. And so many thanks to Sarah for coming up with the idea and for launching the Keep Swindon Tidy campaign!


The SOS campaign started the new year with determination to realise the reopening of the Oasis as soon as possible. We played our part by writing a letter to Seven Capital and the borough council, asking questions and expressing concerns and dismay. This action was one of several which helped secure a meeting at the start of March between SOS, Seven Capital, SBC, the local parish council, Labour Party representatives, and Keep Swindon Tidy. The profit-mongers latest position is to build back the Oasis minus the sports hall and build housing on the surrounding land. Why is a private equity firm being given public land to build private housing? I think a good term is daylight robbery.

Finally capitulating to public pressure, Seven Capital agreed to provide an adequate number of bins in suitable locations, weekly waste collections, regular tidying of the site, and to collaborate to provide education for local schools and colleges. Although the measures are welcome, the maintenance of the site is a stipulation of the leasehold contract that has consistently been breached without any consequences imposed by the borough council. Below is a photo of the Oasis from a few days ago!

Rubbish strewn across the Oasis site

We'll provide a more detailed blog in due course. Many thanks to the SOS team and supporters. Hope in action.


One of the most active SOS supporters has been Josie Lewis. Josie is a driving force who regularly litter picks in Wroughton. She often gets a mention in local groups and papers for her persistent good work. Josie's litter picking is focused on in this recent Adver article. Thanks for all your work and support Josie!

South Marston

We've been helping Loraine Weston at South Marston. Loraine works at for a company based at the industrial estate and is keen to get it clean. Issues to deal with include fly-tipping, a lack of responsibilty by businesses, and lorry drivers using the site as a toilet.

Gorse Hill

We continue to regularly litter pick in Gorse Hill. It feels like we're starting to get somewhere. Central Swindon North Parish Council kindly provided 3 bins for the area around the Cockleberry Roundabout. We have done our best to compliment that by cleaning around the site. We have been engaging with local businesses to make changes. A blog in due course...

Recognition of work at Cambria Bridge / the canal path

I was presented with a certificate from South Swindon Parish Council as recognition and thanks for the work of Plastic Free Swindon at Cambria Bridge and along the canal path, as part of South Swindon In Bloom. Thank you to everyone who has given their time freely to work there. That includes Growing South Swindon Community. It has made a big difference to the area and has helped guide our work.

Certificate of thanks from South Swindon Parish Council to Plastic Free Swindon
Run Against Rubbish

The Run Against Rubbish event has been organised by Matt Jones of Only Footprints Events, a local busines which specialises in hosting sustainable running events.

Run Against Rubbish event poster
Image credit

Events later in the year:

  • Swindon Trial Half Marathon on Saturday 9th September at Lydiard Park.
  • Ultra Trail 50K on Sunday 1st October at Lydiard Park. This year, there is to be an race village which will include stalls and refreshments. Plastic Free Swindon will host a stall.
Clearwaters Swindon to Sea

We are helping organise a Swindon-wide event this September called Clearwaters, Swindon to Sea. It is part of the Marine Conservation Society's Big Beach Clean. This year they are encouraging inland towns and cities to get involved. We want to raise awareness of how litter in Swindon makes it into waterways and eventually out to sea, and work together positively to reduce that. There is good support so far. Watch this space...

Sports teams' rubbish

We received a couple of reports of sports pitches in central north Swindon being badly littered after events. We contacted Central North Swindon Parish Council. They told us that they situation is monitored and that they will recontact teams to ensure that they clean up after themselves. Thanks to Jody Higgins and Central Swindon North Parish Council Estates Manager, Andrew Briggs.

Disposable vapes

A common item that we find littered is disposable vapes. 1.3 million are thrown away each week in the UK! A consortium of concerned organisations wrote a joint letter to the government, urging them to take action. Oxford City Council, as you will see in the Birds and Bees section below, have gone another route to ban their sale via local traders.

Get involved

If you would like to get involved in litter picks with us, we have a Facebook page and email list.

Refill Swindon

After a lot of work behind the scenes, the new team is starting to make headway!

Fountains of hope

South Swindon Parish Council have put in an application for water fountains at 3 locations as part of a pilot scheme by City to Sea / Refill called Fountains of Hope. It aims to provide free water fountains through local sponsorship. We'll keep you updated.

Reusable cup scheme guidance
Refill cup
Image credit

We've sent out Refill's reusable cup scheme guidance, Solutions on Tap to event organisers in the borough of Swindon. It's not easy to come up with a definitive list of events, so please do share or contact us with any suggestions.

Cut the Cutlery win

I spent a lot of time before Christmas dealing with politicians. That was one of the reasons for a particularly bleak newsletter in January. It didn't highlight the campaign win for City to Sea's Cut the Cutlery campaign. Well done to all those who supported it. Although we need comprehensive legislation, this will at least reduce single-use plastic production.

However, I am not sure that it will have the required effect. From discussion with the Outdoor Street Cafe, a local Refill station, it's become apparent that this win is not necessarily a win for reuse. They showed me the new containers provided by their suppliers, made from 'recyclable' polypropylene. A step, but a small one. We wrote to City to Sea to express concerns:

  • A system of plastic 'recycling' is far from ideal.
  • Low recycling rates.
  • Inadequate waste facilitation in Swindon meaning that waste plastic is often incinerated when it could be 'recycled'.
  • Fast food packaging is commonly littered.

City to Sea agreed that it wasn't ideal but was positive in many ways and helps us move in the right direction. Their website includes a guide to takeaway packaging.


City to Sea are supporting a petition to ban plastic packaging from 5 types of fruit and veg'. If you agree with it, please sign and share.

Swindon Growers Summit 23

Swindon Growers Summit poster
Image credit

A big chunk of single-use plastic use comes from the unsustainable and oppressive global industrialised food system. Growing locally can significantly reduce single-use plastics and our environmental impacts.

Swindon Growers Summit 23 is an opportunity to connect with other growers for a day of speakers, stands, tool sharpening, seed swap, demonstrations, plant sale, raffle and live music!. Tickets are available from Eventbrite. You can connect with Swindon Growers on Instagram You can contact the organiser, Josie, at ***email address protected***.

Thanks to Josie for helping organise a stall for us in the Swindon Hub at the start of the year and for designing posters for us!!

Birds and Bees

Birds and Bees radio show logo - a bird and bee snuggling with a love heart in between
Image credit

The website has been updated to include past shows, with descriptions.

Plastic-related content:

  • Waste incineration: Robert Ayres, the co-oridinator of SKIP (Stop the Keypoint Incinerator Project) talks in-depth on waste incineration, as part of the show's focus on air pollution.
  • Fracking: We spoke with Clive Trevor of Keep Wiltshire Frack Free (KIWFF) about his work, the attempted imposition of fracking on communities, the government's connections to the fracking industry, and an interesting alternative.
  • Council plastic motions: Swindon Borough Councillors Jake Chandler and Jane Milner-Barry discuss Swindon's plastic motion. We talked to Oxford City councillor Lois Muddiman about the proposed motion to stop street traders using single-use plastic.

Off-topic: One of our interviews was with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust about their urgent Great Wood Appeal. Please consider donating if you can.

Eat local, act global!!

Swindon Pulse Wholefoods logo
Image credit

Swindon Pulse Wholefoods, aka Pulse, is one of the oldest workers co-operatives in the country, founded in 1976. Like many small businesses, they are struggling to stay afloat in an economic system rigged to favour big business interests, aka globalisation. There's a Birds and Bees interview with Cath from Pulse which goes into further detail.

One of Plastic Free Swindon's key tenets is to support local, independent and organic because we recognise the benefits of reduced environmental impacts, better health for all, a stronger local economy, and movement towards equality. We urge you to support Pulse, if you can, and to spread the word.

Where the soft plastic recycling really goes...

Here is an excellent bit of journalism, tracking soft plastics collected for recycling at 3 Tesco stores.

Government: local and national

Questions of the borough council

Without an adequate response or action to the points that we made to Councillor For Climate Change, Keith Williams, we attended a borough council to ask the questions:

  1. When will Swindon Borough Council take plastic pollution seriously?
  2. When will the correct messaging on plastic recycling, waste incineration and landfill be communicated with the public?

A meeting with Keith Williams was offered. From that meeting, key points were agreed. However, the refusal to link to or support Plastic Free Swindon remains. The reasons are unfounded. Apparently we can't provide evidence of government corruption on our website and be linked to or supported by the borough council. In response we provided examples of government corruption. He has not responded to the evidence provided. Hence we will make a formal complaint. The public interest is not being served and scrutiny is being avoided.

Plastic motion

A few weeks after our question to the borough council, a plastic motion, which we were told was unrelated, was proposed by borough councillor Jake Chandler. An amendment to the motion was proposed by borough councillor Jane Milner-Barry. Further info in our Birds and Bees interviews.

Swindon's waste problem

Jake Chandler, the Swindon Borough Councillor who put together the recent plastic motion, provided us with the following information regarding Swindon's waste between April and December 2022: "According to the figures in the period in question, 21.6 tonnes of unplasticized polyvinyl chloride (UPVC), 10.4 tonnes of soft plastics at the recycling centre - this does not include curb side collections as I understand it... For context, the total amount sent to Viridor in that period was 4592.29 tonnes, as I said yesterday this is residual waste (aka black bin waste) and as much as possible we need to minimise the proportion of this which is comprised of recyclable materials, including plastic."

Deposit Return Scheme

The government's Deposit Return Scheme was conceived in 2018 and a public consultation was held in 2019. We are told that it will be further delayed until October 2025 at the earliest. In Scotland, it is on the brink of collapse. The economic and regulatory systems that have been created are core to the problems with introducing a DRS.

Ban on new incineration capacity

UKWIN are campaigning to ban new waste incineration capacity. We took part in the action by writing to both local MPs. No response so far.

Selling us out to Big Business

On the 31st March 2023, the government signed up to the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership). This includes an ISDS (Investor State Dispute Settlement) mechanism, which enables corporations to sue governments for perceived loss of profits when legislation affects their operations. This can hinder our ability to introduce effective legislation to protect our planet and us, serving corporate interests over the public's. Remember neither of our local MPs would guarantee that trade deals wouldn't affect the UK's ability to deal with plastic pollution.

Little Bag of Herbs

We'll leave this month on a positive. Some of you may know Mandy of Little Bag of Herbs. She sells organic teas, herbs, and preserves which are grown and produced in Swindon. Mandy has extensively researched sustainable packaging and decided to move away from even compostable plastics. She has just repackaged her range of teas in carboard tubes. Cup of Purple Rain anyone? These can be refilled. Contact Mandy to find out how to do that. Why buy plastic-packaged tea that has travelled across the world when we have sustainably-packaged tea made here in Swindon? Support local, independent, organic!!

That's all folks!

Thank you to everyone who contributes to our organisation and its campaigns. If you value our work, please take the time to share this newsletter. Thanks for your support!