Newsletter issue 20

1st July 2024

It's our 6th anniversary!! Plastic Free Swindon was launched on the 1st of July 2018 for Plastic Free July.

It's been 7 months since our last newsletter. Apologies, that was not intended. It's been an extremely busy time and I've had personal issues to deal with. Here's a round up of our work so far this year.

Swindon Community Computing

A few friends decided to start a computer group at the Swindon Hub on a Friday morning. The idea was to repair and refurbish computers to reduce e-waste (the fastest growing waste stream), installing free / libre software where possible, following the Free Software Foundation's Freedom Ladder campaign. Computers would then be provided for free to those in need.

Around the same time a few other people set up a tech support group at the Swindon Hub on a Thursday afternoon. Before long we decided to amalgamate. Since then, we have been busy doing good work, making friends, sharing information and skills, providing for the community... It's a wonderful group to be part of.

The sessions are on Thursdays 3-5pm and Fridays 10am-12pm. Any computer and phone donations gratefully received. Thanks to those who have donated equipment.

John Stuart (below) was the first person to receive repair and refurbishment help from us. On his laptop we sorted out a problem with the BIOS, installed Debian as the new operating system instead of Windows, and replaced the broken power supply port / cable.

John smiling whilst holding laptop

Website development

Thanks to Robert Ayres for providing extensive feedback on the website. It has helped us reorganise in the short term and plan for the longer term redevelopment of the website which is under way.

Thanks to Max Tarabanov for volunteering his professional web development skills to:

  • Redevelop the library to include extra functionality and make interaction more intuitive. New categories have been added: air, land, and water.
  • Redevelop the local Refill stations app. All stations are now plotted on an interactive instance of OpenStreetMap, and the various refill types offered by each station are now indicated.
  • Develop website visitor analytics. This allows us to view various metrics which can help inform our online activities and secure funding. Our privacy notice has been updated accordingly. Thanks to Andy Waylen.

I often chat with a neighbour, Alex Brown, who is usually out walking his dog. Alex works in cyber security, so I asked whether he would try and hack into the Plastic Free Swindon website. He gave it a go and suggested a few security measures to implement. Thanks Alex!

Liberating social media

"We were drawn to tell the stories of our changing glaciers and changing coral reefs because they were powerful signs of a huge global issue facing humanity: climate change. When we started talking with Tristan Harris and the Center for Humane Technology, we saw a direct parallel between the threat posed by the fossil fuel industry and the threat posed by our technology platforms. Tristan calls this 'the climate change of culture,' an invisible force that is shaping how the world gets its information and understands truth. Our hope has always been to work on big issues, and we now see 'the social dilemma' as a problem beneath all our other problems." - The Social Dilemma.

You may remember that Plastic Free Swindon stopped using its Facebook page in 2020 and instead started a page on Friendica, part of the Fediverse, in 2021. We didn't have the capacity then to keep the page up-to-date but we do now so have restarted posting. The Plastic Free Swindon Friendica page will include all the major posts from Keep Swindon Tidy and Refill Swindon's Facebook pages. It will also include extra posts on the wider plastic campaign and subject of plastic pollution. We've enabled settings which mean that anyone can view the page, even without an account. How cool is that?

Fediverse software offers empowering, liberating alternatives to Facebook and the other Big Tech platforms. It's model enables inclusion, equality, and diversity. Find out more.

Refill Swindon

World Refill Day

With the General Election looming, World Refill Day on the 16th of June focused on legislation this year. We wrote to all local Parliamentary candidates asking them to pledge support for legally binding reuse targets. How did they respond? Please share.

Other local activities included a Birds and Bees radio show dedicated to World Refill Day and a Keep Swindon Tidy litter pick at Rivermead which included a single-use audit. Read more.

Piles of littered single-use packaging
Local stations app

Refill Swindon is the only scheme in the country to have a local stations app on our website. We were keen to do this to be inclusive, a key aspect of equality. As mentioned above, it's been recently redeveloped to include a map and the various types of refill.

Street Cafe steps up for reuse

The Street Cafe, a local Refill station, now offers reusable cups for use by regular customers. They also now provide eco-friendly packaging options. Thanks to Dimitri and Pas.

Street Cafe staff holding reusable cups
Triodos support Refill

City to Sea are now receiving funding from Triodos Bank. What a difference from banks such as Barclays and HSBC, who continue to fund fossil fuels. Does your bank fund plastic pollution and climate disaster? If so, why not switch?

Rethink Periods

We wrote to all schools and the local college with details of the Rethink Periods campaign.

Get involved

We're looking for committed volunteers to grow the Refill scheme around Swindon. We will divide Swindon into smaller areas and have someone cover each area. The idea is to promote the scheme, build relationships with businesses, organisations and local communities, provide information and support, and increase the number of stations. If you're interested in the role, please contact us.

Keep Swindon Tidy


After several years of wanting to do it, we finally had the capacity to clean up Bridgemead. It's a large area to cover and was extensively littered so this was a big challenge. Read more.


Diana Toogood runs an art group at the Hub on Wednesdays 10am-12pm and Fridays 12-2pm. The group have been enthusiastically painting Keep Swindon Tidy signs which we will use to help reduce littering and fly-tipping after cleaning areas. Issues of litter, pollution, and waste strike a resounding chord with many of the group.

The wood used for the signs is all reused, generally found dumped around the town. We were using eco-friendly chalk paint from the Scrapstore but colours were limited and the supply ran out. After some research, it seemed that gouache paint would be an eco-friendly option. However local suppliers provided it in plastic tubes, which seems to defeat the point of having eco-friendly paint. Sadly we are now using paint made from acrylic, a type of plastic. Although it will last, I'm not particularly happy about conceeding but thankful to be making signs which should help our environmental efforts. Diana and I have discussed making natural paints. Watch this space.

Many thanks to Diana and her art group. Signs will be coming soon to a neighbourhood near you...

Gorse Hill and Blackberry Alley

We host weekly events in Gorse Hill (Thursdays 11am-1pm) and at Blackberry Alley (Tuesdays 10am-12pm) where we make a good difference. Thanks to our volunteers. Blogs in due course...

2 minute litter picks

Central Swindon North Parish Council provided facilities for the 2 minute litter pick initiative at St. Mark's Rec'. The manager of the cafe there told me that it was popular and helping keep the park clean. Litter pickers would generally pick for much more than 2 minutes. So we wrote to all parish councils detailing the benefits of the scheme and encouraging them to facilitate it. Inglesham got in touch expressing interest and asking for support. We'll pick this back up in the next newsletter...

Lush Charity Pot

The kind folk at the progressive, ethical, eco-friendly big business that is Lush are supporting us again this year through their Charity Pot scheme. We will be joining Lush instore from the 26th-28th July. Please come and support us!!

End of an era

Swindon Pulse Wholefoods provided ethical, sustainable food, and a co-operative workers model which served them and Swindonians well for over 48 years. In a desperately difficult climate for many small businesses, Pulse were no longer able to sustain themselves and closed on the 26th March 2024. We recorded interviews with its worker's co-operative members and staff, past and present for the Birds and Bees show. Thank you Swindon Pulse Wholefoods for your great service!

Hub Displays

Uni student and ex-Hub volunteer Summer Carta created a poster for the Swindon Hub which has key aspects from Swindon Growers and Plastic Free Swindon. And Ruth Sumner created an awesome display for Earth Day, which included the Plastic Free Swindon mascot, Ethel, who is partly polystyrene. Aren't we all these days? Check out Plastic People: The Hidden Crisis of Microplastics. Thanks to Summer and Ruth.

The Big Plastic Count

Back for another year, 1 in 300 people across the UK took part in The Big Plastic Count. The results show that we are throwing away 1.7 billion pieces of plastic per year, which is clearly not sustainable or healthy. Effective legislation is required. The problem is that delivering it is anathema to profit / power, which leads us onto the next section.

UN Plastics Treaty

The 4th session of the UN Plastics Treaty (INC4) took place in Ottawa in April this year. As usual, lobbyists for the fossil fuel and chemistry industry seek to water down proposals. Read more.

" The low-ambition efforts are not surprising, given how much fossil fuel interests have been increasing their presence at the negotiations. Early in the week, a CIEL analysis of the UNEP list of INC-4 participants revealed that 196 lobbyists for the fossil fuel and chemical industry registered—which is seven times greater than the Scientists’ Coalition for An Effective Plastic Treaty and seven times greater than the Indigenous Peoples Caucus—representing a 37% increase compared to INC-3 only six months ago."
- Break Free From Plastic.

This Greenpeace press conference details what they would like from the treaty and the disproportionate harm caused to poorer communities. Plastic production is a part of colonialism.

"Just as there was no excuse to violate the rights of my slave ancestors, there is no excuse to continue the international human rights violation that is toxic plastic production. Excuses like recycling, chemical recycling, detoxifying plastic, and other fairy tales cannot be a part of the negotations."
- Jo Banner, The Desendants Project.

No to propaganda!

I was nominated for a BBC Make A Difference award for the work of Plastic Free Swindon and voted into the finals. I've lived and breathed this campaign for the last 6 years. The work means a great to deal to me, there a lot of great people involved in the organisation, and I think what we're doing is vital, so I was moved to receive recognition. However, after much consideration, I declined the award nomination. Here's the nub of my response:

There is alternative media such as The Byline Times, The Canary, Cold Type, Consortium News, Declassified, Double Down News, New Internationalist.

In related news, Julian Assange is free!! This article by Jonathan Cook shows the mainstream media's complicity in Julian Assange's 14 year detention for daring to expose tyranny as a journalist. Journalism is not a crime, it's a public service.


Thanks to everyone who has contributed / contributes to our positive work. If you would like to volunteer, check out our volunteering section and / or contact us.

If you find our work of value, please give this newsletter a share. Thanks for reading and goodbye for now.