Newsletter issue 18

1st July 2023

Refill Swindon

World Refill Day

...a great opportunity for us to reach people, to raise awareness of the scheme and pertaining issues, and to promote local Refill stations. Our focus this year was on local Refill / zero waste champions. We were kindly hosted in the Swindon Hub. The Birds and Bees show on Swindon 105.5 was dedicated to the day. See our round up of the day.

Cow next to a World Refill Day poster

Zero waste is Lush

Charity Pot

Lush work to be sustainable, aiming for zero waste. They are a local Refill station because they sell naked body care products and have a pot return scheme. They have kindly offered us the opportunity to take part in their Charity Pot Scheme. It will run in the Lush Swindon store in the Brunel Centre from Friday 28th to Sunday 30th July 2023. All the money raised will go to Plastic Free Swindon. If we make enough money, we would like to commission a mural in Gorse Hill to help further clean up an area there that we've been focusing on. Please support us and our work! Read more.

Lush's naked products and cork soap container
5 years old!

Our 5th anniversary was on the 1st July 2023! We launched on the 1st July 2018 with a litter pick with the RSPCA, so it seemed apt 5 years on for Keep Swindon Tidy to be litter picking with staff from Lush's Swindon store.

Keep Swindon Tidy

Blackberry Alley is on the map!

Returning to Blackberry Alley around a year after we started our deep clean there, it's great to see that the area is treated much better and wildlife is flourishing. Thanks to local resident Stella for getting in touch and donating some big daisies from her garden. We hope that they will spring up next year.

Our work at Blackberry Alley will be part of the South Swindon In Bloom entry this year. As a way to celebrate the transformation, we have literally put Blackberry alley on the map, OpenStreetMap. We support this free, open initiative by adding new local Refill stations to it.

Blackberry Alley is part of the South Swindon In Bloom entry to It's Your Neighbourhood. It's great to be part of efforts to transform south Swindon and nice to have our work appreciated. Many thanks to South Swindon Parish Council for organising this.

There is still work to do at Blackberry Alley to clean up the soil. We have an idea to further transform the area. Watch this space...

Oasis: responsibility

Our latest Oasis blog details how Seven Capital and the former administration of the borough council enabled the awful treatment of the Oasis site and buildings. After the meeting in March and considerable public pressure Keep Swindon Tidy secured 5 new bins, weekly waste collections and site litter picking from Seven Capital. The difference to the site was clear to see; it was much tidier. Sadly this didn't last long. We have written to the borough council and others concerned with the Oasis to express our dismay and ask what can be done.

The new administration of the borough council say that they would like to reopen the Oasis asap. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Littered needles

Drug use has become so common over the last few years. Economic inequality is correlated to drug abuse. We find considerable amounts of littered needles. These can be extremely dangerous, potentially fatal.

Littered needle in a public alleyway

Hence we contacted borough councillor Paul Dixon asking for help to deal with this issue. In other towns / cities, there are public sharps disposal chutes, for instance. Paul has confirmed that the borough council will take this matter forward.

Sharps chute

We have also been in touch with the local drug service, CGL. They have agreed to give leaflets provided by us on safe needle disposal to service users. Let's hope this will reduce the number of littered needles.


First time for us litter picking in Walcott. We spent a morning pulling litter and fly-tipping out of an area of woodland by a cycle path. Why would anyone wander into a woodland and dump suitcases when they could be put in bins? It's all very strange! Thanks to Becky (of Swindon Cycle Campaign) and Rafe for helping clean this lovely green part of Swindon!! And thanks to Melanie Hall of The Gap for promoting this for us.

2 litter pickers standing next to fly-tipping removed from woodland
Community bins

The Swindon Advertiser ran an article asking whether anyone knew who was putting out bins for waste and recycling in Gorse Hill. We happen to know who it is because it's one of our litter pickers. Community bins have popped up in several places. Waste facilitation is important. We see the big difference it makes in areas such as Gorse Hill and at the Oasis.

Community bin tied to a road sign

Birds and Bees

We will be joined on a rotating monthly basis by borough councillors for the environment, either Jane Milner-Barry or Chris Watts.

Birds and Bees logo
Image credit

All past shows can be found here. Since the last newsletter there are 3 new pieces relating to plastic pollution:

  • Trade deals: As part of our David and Goliath Tapes series, we spoke with Jean Blaylock of Global Justice Now about concerns of the UK government signing up to the CPTPP / Pacific trade deal. It includes a dedicated section on plastic pollution from a local angle.
  • Local litter / pollution issues: Guests joining Ayaan and Ben - borough councillor Jane Milner-Barry and Keep Swindon Tidy litter picker Ruth Sumner
  • World Refill Day. A show dedicated to the day, to Swindon's Refill / zero waste champions.

Growing South Swindon Community

This new standalone organisation is flourishing. Blooming Smiles and Growing South Swindon Community share a plot at Westcott Rec' allotments and are working in common cause for local people / communities. The allotment has come together nicely. Thanks to Timberland and the staff from their Swindon store for regularly helping out!

Community allotment

The bean patch is back and the fruit bushes we planted at Cambria Bridge a couple of years ago are finally bearing fruit. Free local, organic food for the community by the community at a time when many are reliant on foodbanks.

Bean patch

Huge thanks to Jess Halsall, organiser with Growing South Swindon Community. None of these projects would have happened without her care, consideration, hard work, and expertise. Jess is moving from Swindon. She kindly donated all the money raised from her yard sale to GSSC. We send Jess our best wishes for this new chapter of her life!

Swindon Growers Summit

Local growing can greatly reduce single-use plastics and has many other environmental and social benefits. So it was great to see the Swindon Growers Summit, an event to galvanise local growers, share info, promote organisations and activities, and encourage people to get involved. There were speakers, a wide variety of stands, a seed swap, tool sharpening, plants sales, live music, and more. This was organised by Josie Slade. Many thanks to Josie for organising this great event and for contributing to Plastic Free Swindon in many ways.

Ecofest / Big Lunch

A good day seemed to be had by all at the Ecofest / Big Lunch at Eastcott Community Centre. It was attended by local organisations such as Palm Oil Free Swindon, Kapada Vintage, Artsite, and Swindon Pulse Wholefoods. Many great initiatives for reducing our environmental impacts! Thanks as always to Voluntary Action Swindon (VAS) for helping us be there.

Organised by Eastcott Community Organisation (ECO), these events are usually very well attended. Sadly before this event was promoted, ECO's Facebook page disappeared!! They had around 3000 members. ECO's messages to Facebook have gone unanswered and so they have started a new page from scratch.

Plastic Free Swindon have experienced many problems with Facebook. Some of us consider it to be an unreliable and dangerous platform. There are good alternatives such as The Fediverse, which is decentralised and federated, removing centralised power. There's no advertising and data belongs to users.


We are in the process of revising the website so that it succinctly provides key information. There is a great new article on recycling, "Why plastic recycling doesn't work". It includes a recent study of a UK recycling facility which estimated that 75 billion microplastic particles were released per m³ of wastewater. And that was with a filter at what was considered a good recycling facility! Many thanks to Robert Ayres for providing his writing skill and scrutiny.

New owners sought

Wootton Bassett's zero waste shop, The Town Pantry, is looking for new owners because, with a full life, they are unable to give the business the time and energy it needs. Anyone interested can contact Jo at ***email address protected***.

Government - local and national

Parish councillor

Congratulations to my colleague Fareed Quidwai for being elected to Chiseldon Parish Council. Fareed has worked hard for Badbury Park where he lives. He has organised regular litter picks there to ensure that it is kept clean and tidy. Fareed has delivered thousands of leaflets around the area for Plastic Free Swindon. Our organisation was able to develop because of Fareed. We are grateful for his input and wish him well in his new role.

Fareed at Coate Water litter pick
New borough council

We had so many problems with the former Conservative administration of Swindon Borough Council. When Keep Swindon Tidy was first forming, it took them 4 months and several complaints to respond to queries. They offered us little support, worked against us at the Oasis by refusing to pick up rubbish, ignored the points we made about how plastic is 'managed', and refused to promote Plastic Free Swindon on a fallacious, changing basis. So I'm glad to see the back of the former administration.

SBC logo
Image credit

Welcome to the new administration. We know some of its councillors well because they have participated in, and supported, our organisation and its campaigns over the years.

We wrote to the new borough councillor for the environment and transport, Chris Watts. He and the borough council are looking into what can be done to improve waste and recycling in Swindon. Key points:

  • Improve the efficiency of the Household Waste and Recycling Centre (HWRC) to increase low recycling rates.
  • Booking at the HWRC to be improved. There is currently a 20% no show rate (4000 slots per month). The number of slots to be increased by 5% and facilitation implemented to make it easier to cancel appoinments. Better accessibility to the service for residents who are not online.
  • Use of cameras to stop littering and fly-tipping.
  • There will be a review of the number of environmental officers.
  • The new recycling regime will be rolled out in October, which will include food waste.
  • A big challenge will be restoring the dilapidated infrastructure at Waterside, especially considering the borough council's huge debts.
  • An environmental engagement group to be set up and meet regularly with officers and councillors. It is to include stakeholders, organisations, residents. We have been invited to input on that.

Episode 22 of the Birds and Bees show is with Chris Watts. Hosts Ayaan and Gerry (another Swindon Cycle Campaign organiser!) discuss the borough council's plans and its challenges relating to the environment and transport.

UN's global plastic treaty

The treaty has a deadline to be fully developed by the end of 2024 and implemented by mid 2025. It involves 193 member states as well as waste workers, civil rights groups, scientists, indigenous groups, those disproportionately affected by plastic pollution, and the plastics industry.

The first stage of talks in Uruguay in 2022 set out the ambition for the treaty to be legally binding, and to protect human rights and the environment. The second stage of talks took place from the 28th May to 2nd June 2023 in Paris, France. Discussion was on statements and submissions made by member states in the first round of talks.

Just before the second round of talks, the UNEP released a report, Turning Off The Tap, intended to to inform those attending the talks. Sadly the focus of the report is on circularity with plastics. For example, "The vision of a circular, zero-pollution plastics economy..." That doesn't exist and may never do so. To reduce the harm caused to people and environment at each stage of plastic's lifecycle, plastic production must be reduced!!

Also concerning are claims that key groups were locked out and ignored. Corrupt governments such as the UK, US, Saudi Arabia, and lobbyists for the plastics industry are also potential hazards in achieving a treaty fit for purpose.

Petitions for strong legislation: Story of Stuff, GAIA, Greenpeace.

UK government sets waste targets

DEFRA have set interim waste targets for 2028, as part of the Environment Act. But can we trust that this means anything? The government:

  • Is funded by the oil and gas industries (1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7).
  • Has failed to meet environmental targets already (1 | 2 | 3).
  • Has chosen to avoid comprehensive legislation to reduce plastic production instead preferring an inadequate, slow, piecemeal approach (1).
  • Has enabled the dominance of Big Business and, with it, gross inequality. (1, 2 | 3, 4 | 5).
  • Is working in various ways to subvert democracy and shut down political dissent (1) | 2) | 3 | 4 5 | 6).
  • Has signed us up to the CPTPP / Pacific Trade Deal which includes ISDS / corporate courts (1 | 2).
  • Continues to delay the implementation of a Deposit Return Scheme. A motion was first introduced to Parliament in February 2019, now we are told it is delayed until October 2025 at the earliest, and may not happen at all (1).
  • Continues to focus on circularity in plastics even though that is not currently possible. The solution is to reduce plastic production (1).

Big Plastic

Plastic divestment

Does your bank work for you? Does it care for your best interests? Does it care about the environment? Are you inadvertently funding fossil fuels?

The Banking on Climate Chaos Report 2023 shows those banks still funding the fossil fuel industry. If you have an account with one of these banks, why not switch? For example, I am a Nationwide customer. Building societies such as Nationwide have stricter regulations on how they operate and where they can invest. They do not have shareholders. If you have an account, you are a member. Members have a say in how the business is run. It is run for members not the profit of a wealthy few. Indeed most Nationwide customers recently received £100 because the business has been doing so well.

McDonald's lobbying

McDonald's are amongst those lobbying against packaging reforms in Europe. They argue that reusable packaging will undermine Europe's Net Zero ambitions. Read more.


Speaking with a wide range of people about plastic pollution, Terracycle are often mentioned as a way to deal with hard-to-recycle waste such as Tetra Paks. But what do Terracycle actually do with the waste they claim to process? Is Terracycle sustainable or greenwashing? Read more on Ethical Consumer.


Thanks for reading and for supporting Plastic Free Swindon. If you find our work of value, please take the time to share it!