Environmentally conscious residents and businesses have helped their town become the first 'plastic-free' community in North Wiltshire.

Local residents and community action group Malmesbury Against Plastics (MAP) started the campaign in 2018 after realising the threat plastic poses to the environment.

Their efforts have now seen the town become the first community in North Wiltshire to be awarded Plastic Free status by national conservation charity, Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), in recognition of the work the town has done to start reducing the impact of single-use plastic on the environment.

Registering with the SAS plastic free communities movement provided a roadmap to pull together key organisations and businesses in the 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 council commitment and working with businesses, organisations and community groups to spread the word and minimise the amount of disposable plastics they use.

“The local community have been incredibly supportive and ready to take on board the plastic free message," said Francesca Fearnley of MAP.

"Community spaces such as the library, museum, Riverside Community Centre, St Mary’s Scout hall and even the fire station have all signed up to be plastic free allies."

Businesses in the town got behind the project and worked hard to reduce plastic packaged items for sale in their stores and improve recycling.

The High Street now has several independent shops where customers can buy plastic free essentials like milk, bread, refill cereals and cleaning supplies, even flowers.

Different environmental groups in Malmesbury have teamed up on the issue of plastic waste; the eco-church campaign coordinated in the area by Malmesbury Abbey, the eco-schools project working with local primaries on environmental issues and Climate Action Network who are active on everything from energy use to tree planting.

The groups look forward to continuing to work together to maintain and improve upon Malmesbury’s plastic free community status.

Several events have taken place during the campaign; over 500 people attended the Plastic Unwrapped festival in the town hall, local guides took part in a procession and plastic free picnic, residents attended a free screening of ‘A plastic ocean,’ and volunteers took part in litter picks around the town.

Going forward there are plans to work with the Fruitful Malmesbury project to help grow more unwrapped food locally and there will be a free home screening of ‘The story of plastic,’ on Friday, June 5.

“Getting plastic free status feels fantastic and is an acknowledgement of all the hard work and perseverance Malmesbury has put in to reducing plastic waste and raising awareness of this issue," said Mandy Dobson of Malmesbury Against Plastics.

"Obviously the town is not completely plastic free but this is a welcome milestone on our journey to solving the problem of single use plastic.”

Rachel Yates, SAS plastic free communities project officer, said: “It’s great to see the work that Malmesbury 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 see.”