Plastic Free Axminster is one year old! How they got here and where they’re going…

Launch day, Nov 22. All photos copyright Plastic Free Axminster

The first step …

It is a year since Axminster was awarded Plastic Free Community (PFC) status. This doesn’t mean that the whole town is plastic-free; no town/city ever will be! It does mean, however, that the marine conservation charity, Surfers Against Sewage, recognises the work we have done to start reducing the impact of single-use plastic on the environment.

The Axminster campaign was started in 2019, had to take a back seat during Covid, but has continued apace since 2021. We believe that plastic, especially single-use plastic and the world’s addiction to it, is ruining our countryside, our rivers and oceans and our health. It is not an environment we want to live in and it is the worst legacy we can leave successive generations. Of all plastic produced, 40 per cent is for single-use; that is a horrifying statistic with very little sign of this figure reducing … unless there is a concerted effort by the consumer to make small but impactful changes in lifestyle, as well as lobbying supermarkets and the government.

Plastic free status! All photos copyright Plastic Free Axminster

Registering with the SAS Plastic Free Communities movement, along with over a thousand other communities, we worked to set in motion the plan, developed by PFC. The objectives included setting up a community-led steering group; securing local council commitment; getting local businesses, organisations, schools and community groups on board, plus holding events open to the public. The Steering Group has welcomed the enthusiastic support from all these different groups and for what they have contributed to bring about this great result for Axminster.

The on-going journey …

Boomerang bag

One year later we are building on this campaign, continuing to work with all the groups mentioned above, holding numerous litter picks, giving talks to schools, holding craft sessions for children at the local library on an eco theme, manning information stands at local shows, writing for local monthly parish magazines (and WCV!). We have had three successful Christmas Eco Fairs so far, focusing on sustainable and plastic-free gifts. A Boomerang Bag scheme has been introduced, whereby donated fabric has been whipped up into shopping bags by volunteers. These are given to participating retailers in the town to offer their customers who have popped in without a bag. Mind you, these are so popular that the bags seem reluctant to boomerang back to the shops! Our latest campaign is to encourage people to ‘Bin That Butt’, as cigarette ends are the most littered item on the planet, causing harm to wildlife, marine life and waterways. And yes, they have plastic in them, as well as a plethora of other ooh-nasty ingredients! The campaign will aim to help people to understand this.

Here’s what some of our partners say:

“Our experience of becoming a Plastic Free Business Champion with Plastic Free Axminster was really positive. As a start-up business, the PFA team made us aware of some really simple, early changes that would make a big difference to our plastic footprint including the straws we were buying in and the cloths we were using to wipe down tables. The biggest impact though has been in how plastic-free decision-making has become normative in the organisation.”

Matt, Community Waffle House, Axminster

“We were delighted to join Plastic Free Axminster as a Community Ally in their quest to spread the message of the dangers of plastic, especially single-use plastic, to human health and the environment. The ethos of the group aligns with our core values around sustainability and community engagement and to care for our local environment. We have joined with PFA on litter picks as well as organising our own around the industrial estate where we are based. We have taken advice on, and implemented, ways to reduce our single-use plastic consumption. One example was to supply drinking glasses for water as opposed to plastic cups as well as encouraging recycling etc.”

Julie Burke, Xylem Water Solutions, Axminster

“We invited Plastic Free Axminster to come alongside us and host some of their litter picks based from the Community Cafe within the Centre. The cafe was originally set up to offer a warm, welcoming space with a cuppa and home baking. The litter picks have been well supported and a lot of fun and Pippins is pleased to support the team with a free cuppa and cake to enjoy after their litter picking. This has all led to Pippins, who is already a very eco-conscious Centre, becoming a passionate Community Ally of Plastic Free Axminster. It feels like a very happy partnership all round.”

Rev Kay d’Albertanson, Pippins Community Centre

For more information on the work of Plastic Free Axminster, together with eco tips and simple swaps that we can all make in our everyday lives, join our Facebook group, take a look at our Instagram (#plasticsavvyaxminster) and visit our website.