Monday, 23 September 2019

Campaigner hoping for ‘plastic-free’ town

Campaigner hoping for ‘plastic-free’ town

HENLEY could be “plastic-free” by next year, says an environmental campaigner.

Julia Carey says the town is already a long way towards meeting all the criteria required by the Surfers Against Sewage, a marine conservation charity and campaign group.

She said: “It does not mean that there won’t be any disposable plastic in Henley but as a town we can show that businesses don’t give out plastic bags and things like that.

“I think it will be achieved by the end of the year but I don’t know how long the body will take to give us the accreditation. I will be applying for it by the end of the year.

“I have had this desire for a long time but I never realised how possible it was until recently when I looked at everything that we have already achieved as a community. Most of the boxes have already been ticked.”

Mrs Carey, 40, who lives in Reading Road, Henley, with her husband Paul and three children, has recently worked as a green consultant with both the Henley Festival and the Royal Henley Regatta.

She had to carry out carbon footprint assessments and consider ways to make the events more environmentally friendly.

Henley Festival went plastic-free this year when it replaced thousands of plastic “glasses” with recyclable alternatives.

In addition, the organisers of the Henley half marathon, which takes place on October 31, have pledged to be plastic-free by 2020.

Surfers Against Sewage created the Plastic Free Communities initiative. Accreditation is awarded when evidence that sufficient efforts have been made to reduce plastic usage has been provided.

Mrs Carey has recruited a team of about 20 volunteers willing to help.

She added: “The team consists of volunteers from the Henley Plastic Reduction group on Facebook that I set up a few years ago.

“We have about 600 people in the group. As soon as I put the post out to say I was looking for volunteers there were lots of people who replied.

“When everyone is back together in Henley after the holidays, we need to make sure we give out official roles to people.

“We need to keep an official record of everything that is being done and then send the evidence off.”

Mrs Carey, a jeweller, has been passionate about the environment, since was a child.

She said: “I used to be a little unusual picking up rubbish off the floor but now it is the norm.”

In 2017, she launched the Henley Refill scheme promoting businesses that will allowe people to fill up their reusable water bottles.

She also started petitions calling on the town’s two supermarkets to introduce plastic-free aisles.

Last year, she staged an exhibition at the River & Rowing Museum on how to reduce plastic use and she has organised a number of litter-picks in the town.

Last month, she persuaded Hobbs of Henley to provide free use of rowing boats for people wanting to remove rubbish from the Thames.

She is working with town councillors Kellie Hinton and Laurence Plant.

Councillor Plant said: “We are going to need a big team to make this work. We need to address each resident’s use of plastic as well as local businesses.

“The biggest challenge will be the multi-national businesses, such as Waitrose. If we can put consumer pressure on them instead of purchasing the more convenient products, then they will have to listen.

“The response so far has been really strong. We want it to be contagious, with more and more people wanting to get involved.”

Councillor Hinton said: “Going plastic-free is certainly achievable and if you can achieve it anywhere it will be in Henley. Community interest and participation is so high.

“We should be looking at sustainability as a whole. We have the Refill campaign, which has been really successful, and we also have lots of recycling schemes and litter-picks.

“I will work on this project with schools and hopefully involve an art competition.”

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