Newsletter issue 19

24th November 2023

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”
- Margaret Mead

Britain In Bloom

South Swindon In Bloom won gold in the Tesco Cup for South West In Bloom, part of Britain In Bloom by the Royal Horticultural Society. Cambria Bridge and the Bean Patch were entered for Growing South Swindon Community, scoring 74/100 - "Thriving". Blackberry Alley was entered for Keep Swindon Tidy, scoring 52/100 - "Improving". Congratulations and thanks to all our volunteers! It's great to be part of larger efforts to clean up our neighbourhoods and restore nature. Thanks to South Swindon Parish Council for organising South Swindon In Bloom. They made this video about the entry this year.

It's noted that Tesco sponsored this competition. Every little helps? Check out this video on how supermarkets are putting small farmers out of business and driving poorer environmental standards. There's a related petition which seeks to protect farmers from supermarkets by amending the Grocery Supply Code of Practise.


Updating the website has been a key focus of the last few months. We've simplified, reordered, and revamped the website, and put key articles in place. This includes a summary of plastic pollution, the benefits of supporting local, a journey to zero waste, promotion of local Refill / zero waste champions, and an updated 'take action' section. Any feedback appreciated. Many thanks to Robert Ayres for providing feedback and writing articles.

There is now a section of the website for voluntary opportunities. We need your support. Please have a read and share.

We recently began working with Abdou, a web designer, who is kindly offering his services for free. The whole website will be redesigned. We're aiming to relaunch it early in the new year. Watch this space...

New local Refill stations app

We're delighted to announce that the local stations app on this website has been updated to include a map and the various types of refill. We are the only Refill scheme in the country to offer a Refill web app! Our thanks to Max Tarabanov for developing the app.

Inclusion is a key part of equality. Not everyone uses a smartphone connected to the internet. We do our best to be an inclusive organisation because we are aware of the myriad of maladies which eminate from inequality.

We use OpenStreetMap because it is community-driven and free, as in liberty. This is in stark contrast to opaque, surveillence-, profit- and data-driven models from the likes of Google, which has connections to oppressive governments such as the US and Israel (1 | 2). Say no to 1984!


With the website content in place, we are doing our best to get word out. We have a weekly event from 2-4pm on Tuesdays in the awesome Swindon Hub. We've used this event in various ways such as public engagement, a social, and working on key aspects of the campaign.

Recently we've attended St Mark's Fun Day, Swindon New College Freshers' Fair and the Swindon Vegan Fair. Many thanks to Ruth Sumner for all her efforts. She is an excellent person to work with on stalls as she has a great knowledge of plastic pollution and related issues, and loves talking with people!

Ruth made Ethel, the Plastic Free Swindon mascot, out of reused polystyrene, old clothes, and other reused bits. There's a picture of Ethel in the slideshow below.

Keep Swindon Tidy

Regular picks

We recently reached out to the local community in various ways to ask for committed volunteers to work regularly at Blackberry Alley. We now have a team working there every Tuesday 10am-12pm. We think that local community involvement can help us achieve our aims to transform this wildlife corridor. There is a lot of work to do and plenty of considerations for how to transform Blackberry Alley.

In Gorse Hill, we continue to work on ways to reduce litter and clean up. We've been collaborating with Central Swindon North Parish Council, the Apple Green petrol station, Kwik Fit and Swindon New College. For example, the local parish council has recently installed a bin by the bus stop, an area which was being heavily littered. We're grateful for the support of these organisations, thank you.

Safe disposal of sharps / needles

We have found a great many needles littered around Swindon on our travels. So we approached local drug service CGL to see what could be done. From those meetings, we created a leaflet for drug users on safe needles / sharps disposal. It has been given to CGL, Threshold, and The Nelson Trust to display and to give to service users. Thanks to Sarah March of CGL and Tom Silderberg of Threshold for their help. We have raised issues of drug facilitation with the borough council. They have indicated support for providing facilities for the safe disposal of sharps / needles. For instance, sharps chutes. Watch this space...

Swindon New College

We recently met with Luke Sinnick, a teacher at Swindon New College who is part of a sustainability committee there. A group of his Environmental Science students at the Queen's Drive campus are starting a campaign to reduce littering and clean up the site. We shared ideas and discussed what had worked for Keep Swindon Tidy.

Swindon New College had a Sustainability Week in November. We co-organised a litter pick and talk but it was postponed due to the rain. We did however provide a quiz for students. It includes shocking stats regarding Coca Cola and Amazon's plastic use. How well can you do?

Luke's also helping us at North Star. There's a lot of litter around the college site, much of it from college students. We know this because we compared levels of litter during term time with holidays. In places by fencing, litter was up to 3 feet deep.We're working close by North Star at the Oasis and Gorse Hill, so we're hopeful this will help further transform the culture and clean up the area.


Read our latest blog, "Architects of Austerity". It includes an interesting exchange with Justin Tomlinson. He was caught out being dishonest.


Thanks to Central Swindon North Parish Council for agreeing to our request to install a bin on the pathway next to the Oasis between Ferndale and town.

Thanks to South Swindon Parish Council for providing a full-length bin and cleaning up the area by Robert Le Kyng Primary School. It's made a good difference to how that area is treated.

Growing South Swindon Community

South Swindon Parish Council recently approved an application from GSSC for a mud kitchen and picnic table for Cambria Bridge. These welcome additions were installed in early November. Thanks to South Swindon Parish Council, Jess Halsall and Linda Kasmaty, and to all who have helped transform Cambria Bridge.

Related activities

Here are a couple of related events organised by other local organisatons / people:

Swindon Crop Drop

Swindon Growers organised the first Swindon-wide Crop Drop. Here's a summary of it by organiser Josie Slade:

Clear Waters, Swindon to Sea

This event was set up as part of the annual Big Beach Clean by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS). The MCS have been encouraging inland towns and cities to participate in cleaning up waterways, a common route for (plastic) pollution to get to sea.

Wiltshire Wildlife Trust set up 5 events in support of Clear Waters. Hreod Burna Urban Forest also hosted an event.

Organiser Trevor Carlton lives in Westlea. There have been a series of events there to clean up litter / fly-tipping from a section of the River Ray. They collected 49 black bags of general litter, 3 wheels and tyres, 7 wooden pallets, a child's bike and scooter, work tops, garden furniture, a suitcase with an old laptop, 1/2 ton of rubble, part of a slide, and numerous other items including... an actual kitchen sink!

The removal of waste from the stream has helped it flow. (Dead) foliage was cut back from woodland to allow light in and new growth, and in preparation for planting flowers. There are plans to restore a path and, in time, perhaps a bridge also.

There's been great local support for Clear Waters. A huge amount of work has been done. Work which according to Trevor hasn't been done for 40 years. We spoke with Trevor in more depth about the project for the Birds and Bees radio show.

Local government

Changes to local collections

Swindon Borough Council said that 40% of black bag waste in Swindon is food waste. Hence they have arranged for food waste collections. Black bag waste is incinerated, so it's good for the environment if food waste is instead composted. It also makes financial sense. Swindon are in a contract with Viridor where they are charged for waste by weight. Food waste though makes the borough council money. So, this can be a much-needed source of revenue for the borough council who are supposedly in debt to the tune of £400 million. I say supposedly because the debt emanates from the pack of lies that the government and its allies told the public about the need for austerity. Why should the public pay this fraudulent charge?

Plastic waste collections have also changed. We have provided information on plastic pollution to the 2 councillors for the environment, Jane Milner-Barry and Chris Watts. A committee on dealing with plastic will be set up in due course which we have been invited to. It's nice to work with a receptive borough council.

National government

Ban of single-use items

The government's ban of certain items of single-use plastics came into force on the 1st October 2023. This was not the government's own initiative. It came about through public pressure from Refill's Cut the Cutlery campaign. The campaign has not eliminated single-use plastics and moved towards reuse. Instead the types of plastic used have changed to supposedly recyclable types. For instance, polystyrene food containers have been replaced by polypropylene containers, on the basis that polypropylene is recyclable. Except we know that recycling rates are poor and that public bins, including the few recycling bins in Swindon, are not sorted through and so contents are instead incinerated. Now take into account that the creation of polypropylene containers is highly polluting, using energy and resources. All these harmful impacts when we could simply reuse. And why do the government resist implementing reuse? Profit and power.

UK exit from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)

The UK government continue its quest to subvert democracy and remove rights. They would like to opt out of parts of the ECHR, claiming that, “The UK is committed to the European convention on human rights and to protecting human rights and championing them at home and abroad".

Does championing human rights abroad include extraordinary rendition, coups, and selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and Israel to bomb civilians? Does championing human rights at home include removing the right to peaceful protest, removing the ability of people seeking safe refuge in this country, and removing the ablitiy of people to feed and home themselves?

Liberty Human Rights Organisation commented, "Dragging us out of the Convention will allow the Government to knowingly commit human rights abuses against anyone – so we must protect our rights and protect the Convention". They have created a petition to protect everyone's rights.

UN Plastic Treaty

After the 2nd session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC), a zero draft has been created which guided the 3rd session of the INC. Question is, can this treaty deliver actual change rather than broken promises and missed targets? I'm concerned by the use of terms like "waste management" because there is currently no good way to deal with plastic waste. Plastic production must be reduced.

Shop less, live more

Today, the 24th November 2023, is the annual consumer gorge that is Black Friday. Thankfully there is a counter-culture alternative, Buy Nothing Day. Consumer culture has been sewn into the fabric of society as a means to profit and control. Let's undo that stitching and develop healthier ways to live happily together. Good to see a focus on plastic pollution for this year's Buy Nothing Day.

Image credit


Latest articles ordered by category and date can be found, as usual, in our library.

Gratitude and sharing

Thanks to everyone who contributes to this campaign. Your efforts are very much appreciated and help us towards our key aims.

If you find our work of value, please take the time to share it. Thanks for reading, thanks for your support.