Newsletter issue 9
18th September 2021
Apologies for the delay in putting this newsletter out. It's been a busy time with much change, as well as a difficult time trying to communicate and work with the council.
Farewell & thanks
Sadly, two of the campaign's longest serving members have recently left.
Sue Goddard is well-travelled as a keen diver. She has seen first hand the devasation that plastic pollution is causing in many areas of the world. Sue volunteered at Nude Foods and led the local ecobricks scheme. We were working together with Swindon Town football club and she was to lead on schools before lockdown hampered our plans. I very much respect her knowledge, dedication, and passion to sort out plastic pollution. Sue's currently doing other voluntary work and concentrating at national and international levels on plastic pollution. Thanks and best wishes Sue. We hope to work with you again in the future.
Hollie Snyder wrote to Swindon Climate Action Network in 2018 about wanting to launch a Refill scheme locally, having been part of Plastic Free Falmouth. Refill Swindon launched at Eastcott Community Centre at the Repair Cafe in September 2018. The number of stations has since grown from 2 to over 50. Refill Swindon's work was also hampered by the lockdowns of 2020 and we're still trying to recover. Hollie managed to be studying at university and holding down a job whilst co-ordinating the campaign. Sadly she no longer has the capacity to contribute to the scheme. She finished her degree, is getting married, and is looking to buy a house. Thanks and best wishes Hollie.
New constitution & welcome
Plastic Free Swindon moved away from Swindon Climate Action Network in 2020. We now have this dedicated website and are a standalone constituted organisation. We hope that this will help to build the campaign. Thanks to Carol at Voluntary Action Swindon (VAS) for supporting us through these changes.
I am pleased to welcome Fareed Ahmed to the campaign as a joint committee member for the new organisation. We first met to discuss cleaning up litter and algae at Coate Water. He shares a passion for keeping Swindon tidy, invigorating community and sorting out plastic pollution.
New toy library seeks support
Why buy when we can share? Toy libraries are one way to do that. After being sidelined by the lockdowns, Royal Wootton Bassett Toy Library is again looking to start up at The Pantry (zero waste shop). "We are looking for durable and educational toys, so anything made of wood or hard plastic would be very welcome. We can’t take soft toys, anything with very small parts or button batteries for safety reasons." Can you help? You can contact the group via Facebook or at protected email address.
Keep Swindon Tidy
Care for the Oasis is a mirage
Empty words, a broken contract and abysmal public service. The Oasis continues to be treated like a dump. Public srutiny is required to understand how the interests of a private equity firm have come before the public's. Read more.
We are currently delivering leaflets around West Swindon. Thanks to Moya, Flynn, Jane, Jon, Katie, Ali, James and Rebecca for helping with that. It's been a great team effort! The Keep Swindon Tidy section of our website has been revamped and updated. It includes a 'do your bit' section. The points come from our work and collaboration with the campaign's supporters. Thanks to all for inputting.
Pigeon whisperer required
Well, kind of... A kind and joyous lady called Maggie has spent the last few years looking after pigeons who have been injured by litter, especially plastic. She needs some help to continue this important work. Please read and share her appeal. This work will contribute to an important resource for the campaign.
This has been an area of concentrated focus, working bit by bit with others to tranform the area. We have written two blogs (1 | 2) on our work. Again the borough council seem unwilling to take responsibility for their contribution to the litter in this area through a lack of adequate waste facilitation.
South Swindon parish council have agreed to look at putting bins in on Cambria Bridge and the shops by Faringdon Road / Westcott Place. Thanks to councillor Junab Ali for his work on this.
We have seen on the canal path how positive community projects can help tranform an area. Working again with Jess Halsall, Linda Kasmaty & South Swindon Parish Council, we are inviting the community in to do some community gardening to transform the newly created flower beds at Cambria Bridge. This coincides nicely with Great Big Green Week. We're meeting at the playpark at 10am on Saturday 25th September. Please bring tools, if you have them. This is a good opportunity to meet neighbours, discuss ideas, and work together to help transform a space for the benefit of all. Hope to see you there. Please share with anyone you think might be interested and feel free to contact us with any queries.
Toni, one of our regular litter pickers working on Keep Swindon Tidy, has written to Stonewater, a business which owns flats by Cambria Bridge, about the rubbish dumped outside. She sent pictures of the dumped rubbish. Stonewater have replied to say that it will be moved although we are still waiting for that to happen.
Cigarettes and drains
Cigarettes are commonly littered. Our Death By Cigarette Butt blog describes problems with the production and disposal of cigarettes. We are working to resolve these issues.
We regularly litter pick in areas close to the town centre. Have you ever looked in the drains? Our Irresponsibility Is A Drain blog once again highlights a dysfunctional borough council.
Parish councils step up
The parish councils have been a joy to work with, receptive to provide for local communities. We are so grateful for their support: Thank you to the parish councils of Central North Swindon, Central South Swindon, Chiseldon, Haydon Wick, Highworth, West Swindon, and Wroughton for supporting our campaign. The following is an example of parish councils' excellent work and care from Central North Swindon Parish Council, who have supported our work in many ways:
"I think littering and fly tipping are some of our biggest issues. A number of councillors actively participate in regular litter picks... We promote organised activities through our socials. We have installed 15 new bins and replaced 15 other bins this year across the Parish. We have passed numerous fly tips on to SBC for enforcement and will continue to do so. We can remind residents to report street cleansing to our grounds contractor - https://www.centralswindonnorth-pc.gov.uk/grounds-maintenance-service."
Work is ongoing to provide local businesses with information and support. This has been made more difficult because of Facebook. Communication with many businesses is via Facebook but the new Refill Swindon Facebook page admin has been banned from Facebook for over a month now! This happened to me many times for Plastic Free Swindon and was a consideration in leaving. There is often no recourse. Facebook has much power. Many are banned and censored by the tech giant. Danger Will Robinson! See our Facebook article for further info.
Refill leaflets are being delivered along with Keep Swindon Tidy leaflets. The Refill Swindon section has been completely rewritten, and resources provided which make the clear case for plastic reduction and reuse over recycling: The Life of a Plastic Bottle and Beware Plastic Recycling. All local Refill stations have been added to OpenStreetMap. The local stations list has been updated to include these map links. This additional feature is a way to provide for and say thanks to local businesses signed up to the scheme.
Nationally, Refill's petition to ban some of the most commonly used single-use food and drink items such as cutlery and polystyrene containers has encouraged the UK government to launch a consultation. These changes have already happened in Europe. The question arises, why do we need a petition to do this when strong legislation should already be in place? I very much question the UK government's honesty and intentions. See our government section for corroboration of those concerns.
There's often not much feedback as a campaigner, so it's nice to learn that we're having a positive influence. A great deal of time, energy, and consideration has gone into providing key messages, especially the importance of moving towards natural materials and reuse rather than plastic recycling. This blog is from a parish councillor for west Swindon. Work is ongoing to provide further resources.
Local and national government
Carbon reduction strategy
We have been corresponding with borough councillor for climate, Keith Williams about the Carbon Reduction Strategy 2020. There was no mention of plastic in the strategy despite its growing contribution and heavy investment. Concerns are that the borough council are emulating the government's weak stance on dealing with plastic pollution, enabling it to continue. We question the efficacy of WRAP (The Waste Resources Action Programme) and its UK Plastic Pact. It focuses on a failed system of plastic recycling. We have been down this road before and can't continue to do so if we are to effectively deal with plastic pollution. We also question the borough council's incorrect messaging on waste incineration, specifically the Solid Recovered Fuel plant at Cheney Manor. It is an indirect way to burn waste including plastic. The outcomes are not good.
After over 5 weeks without response from Keith Williams, we sought to make this information public via a number of avenues starting with the Swindon Advertiser. The day after we sent our letter to them, Keith Williams responded. Did the Adver contact him? We have asked that question in our response to Keith Williams. The Adver have covered our letter, in print only at the time of writing. Read correspondence.
As the EU states that "waste-to-energy has no place on the sustainability agenda", the UK government is signed up to 25 year waste-to-energy contracts such as the Severnside energy centre in South Gloucestershire; a clear case of profit coming before our welfare.
Not long ago in the galaxy we're in...
Work on the plastic Death Star continues. The Rebel Alliance attempt to quell the Empire's plans to dominate the galaxy. Sensing growing opposition, the Empire work to block communications, remove rights, and kill the remaining Jedi...
Global Justice Now state that, "Corporate courts give fossil fuel companies the power to sue governments for taking action on the climate emergency." This includes plastic pollution. There are no guarantees from local MPs that this won't be the case. It's important to understand that trade deals are fundamentally a part of globalisation; the removal of legislation to allow big business to dominate. If you haven't already, please sign and share this vital petition to stop corporate courts from hindering our efforts for a healthy planet.
Amnesty International: Stop the Rights Raid
We are looking to support Amnesty International's week of action, Stop the Rights Raid, as these are threats to liberty and so our ability to effectively communicate, campaign and make change:
"From 10-17 October 2021, Amnesty UK, Liberty, Stonewall, Freedom from Torture, the British Institute for Human Rights, Equally Ours, The End Violence Against Women Coalition, the Quakers and The Humanists are holding a Week of Action for Human Rights in the UK. This is in the context of major pieces of proposed legislation that threaten to undermine fundamental Human Rights including: the Policing Bill and Nationality and Borders Bill. To make matters worse the Human Rights Act itself is under review."
Chemical pollution, the other driver of the nature crisis
Plastic pollution is part of wider chemical pollution, a major factor in loss of biodiversity and so climate change. In my experience, these correlations are generally not well considered / understood even by many environmental campaigners. Post-Brexit, there are concerns about ineffectual legislation regulating chemicals in the UK. See this article with input from the Marine Conservation Society and CHEM Trust for further info.
"What was clear from the scientists’ perspective was that chemical regulation needs to be much more proactive by preventing new ‘problem’ chemicals from entering widespread use to avoid having to mitigate the impacts retrospectively."
Working against efforts for a healthy environment are the oil and chemicals industry. This example from Greenpeace examples how they are lobbying against the global regulation of microplastic chemicals.
Ominous music, misery, robo-presenters, propaganda... it's the news! Here's a brief roundup of recent news regarding plastic pollution. Check out the library for all recent additions.
Reason 4007 not to support Amazon
Amazon have refused to share information about its plastic footprint, including omitting plastic from their sustainability report. Such large corporations rely on cheap, light plastic and deregulation in order to exist. Cue free trade deals etc. in this race to the bottom. It turns out that Amazon send c.130,000 products to be destroyed a week! PLEASE DO NOT SUPPORT AMAZON!!! And beware the Orwellian Amazon Ring. There are ethical and sustainable alternatives to supporting large corporations / our own demise. For example, the empowering, bookshop.org, software as a genuine service for businesses and customers rather than a means to profit and control.
Big Business = cheap = pollution + inequality + environmental destruction + war + mass surveillance = totalitarianism
"A team of international lawyers has unveiled a definition of 'ecocide' that, if adopted, would treat environmental destruction on a par with crimes against humanity." This could be a game-changer. Read more.
Banks funding fossil fuels
Extinction Rebellion have been highlighting the role of banks in funding fossil fuels. Barclays, HSBC, Natwest, RSBC, Santander... Please stop supporting these banks and support a more ethical bank such as Triodos, or a building society. Read more.
Inside Exxon’s playbook
The reality of waste-derived fuels: up in the air
A GAIA report: "Turning waste into fuels has not been successful for over three decades. Would it work any better for jet fuels? Most likely not." Read more.