Henley town has been awarded Plastic Free Community status by marine conservation charity, Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), in recognition of the work it has done to start reducing the impact of single-use plastic on the environment. It has joined a network of communities across the UK who are leading the way to tackle throw away plastic at source.
Local Henley resident, Julia Carey started the campaign in 2019, creating a steering committee including four other residents; Jo Dickson, Narelle Chidwick, Sandra Munuera and Henley Town Councillor Sarah Miller.
Registering with the SAS Plastic Free Communities movement, the group pulled together organisations and businesses in town to put in place a five-point plan. The objectives included; setting up a community led steering group, instigating the SAS Plastic Free Schools education programme, getting local council commitment and working with local businesses, organisations and community groups to spread the word and minimise the amount of disposable plastics they use.
Campaign organiser Julia Carey said: “The community backing we have had on this has been fantastic and the ball has only just started rolling. Now that we have the official accreditation and status, we can use this as a springboard to getting more of the community involved.”
“So far we have signed up 20 Community Allies and 10 Business Champions including The Salon of Chi, The Henley Larder, Reids of Henley, Drifters Coffee House, The Kenton Theatre, The Henley Rowing Club, The Rotary Club of Henley on Thames, Warriors on Waste, Badgemore Primary School, St Mary’s School and many more.”
“The Business Champions signed up have each given up three items of disposable plastic, showing evidence of replacing them with reuseable items. Each business has the opportunity to go further with this, as there are three levels Bronze, Silver and Gold. The Community Allies are organisations who have supported this campaign and its message, such as lending their space for talks and films relevant to the cause.”
“I feel very proud to have finished this initial, important step of gaining the accreditation. It took us a while and we were slowed down by the global Covid pandemic, but now we have got there. It is important to me because this is a cause I have been passionate about since I was very young, so I am now actively living out a dream of mine and it makes me super happy to have the backing of so many other people in this community who are also passionate about the environment and helping to reduce disposable plastic in our lives.”
“However, this is only the first step on the journey and we will be continuing the work by promoting the message, organising town litterpicks and hopefully signing up more businesses and allies. Of course the town is not completely plastic free, but this is a campaign to help us re-educate ourselves and the way we live, in the hope we can stop adding to the plastic in the Ocean and water-ways and our environment.”
The Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Free Community network aims to free the places where we live from single-use plastic. Using the five point plan the aim is to empower communities to kick start local grassroots action, which can then be built upon.The marine conservation charity, based in St Agnes in Cornwall, says it wants to unite communities to tackle avoidable plastic from the beach all the way back to the brands and businesses who create it. It says it is not about removing all plastic from our lives, but kicking our addiction to throwaway plastic and changing the system that produces it.
Rachel Yates, SAS Plastic Free Communities Project Manager, said: “It’s great to see the work that Henley-on-Thames has done to reduce the availability of avoidable plastics, raise awareness and encourage people to refill and reuse.”
“We have over six hundred communities across the UK working to reduce single use plastic and the impact it has on our environment. Every step those communities and the individuals in them take is a step towards tackling the problem at source, challenging our throwaway culture and encouraging the habit and system changes we need to