Trainee journalist Rachel Walton is trying hard to reduce her family’s use of plastic and shares here some of the things she has discovered in Uckfield that will help with the challenge.
If you have started a similar challenge and have more tips to add to Rachel’s list please email your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read Rachel’s report here:
Back in April 2018, Cllr Paul Sparks of Uckfield Town Council kicked off an initiative to radically reduce the council’s use of plastic.
I caught up with Cllr Sparks to find out how his project was going and have also looked at what Uckfield’s businesses and organisations are doing to cut down on plastic use and pollution across the town.
Cllr Sparks said he realised how much plastic was being thrown away when he went to a concert in the Weald Hall in the Civic Centre.
He said: “I saw the large number of plastic glasses being used, and then disposed of. This also applies to straws, plastic cutlery, etc.”
When he raised the issue fellow councillors agreed the council should take action and they started by focusing on getting rid of single use plastics.
Cllr Sparks said the council looked hard to find alternatives for use in its premises and “will in future be using compostable glasses in place of plastic and looking at replacing other single use plastics”.
He hoped his move would be a catalyst to make Uckfield a plastic free town and on Friday (February 8) he will be attending a breakfast meeting of Uckfield Chamber of Commerce which will look at how businesses across the town can replace single use plastics.
Community volunteer group, Brighter Uckfield, will be giving a presentation there.
In the meantime, I have looked around Uckfield to see what local businesses and organisations are already doing to reduce the amount of plastic in the local environment, and at how we can all get involved.
Plastic-free food shopping
Plastic-free food shopping is becoming a little easier.
Plastic packaging can be hard to avoid at the local supermarket but at the monthly Uckfield Farmers’ Market most products are sold loose and can easily be packaged in customers’ own re-usable bags or containers.
Stallholders sell an impressive range of locally grown fruit and veg, Sussex meats and cheeses, and freshly baked cakes and pastries. You will find them in the Luxford Car Park on the first Saturday of the month from 9am to 1pm.
In the weeks between farmers markets there are farm shops within easy reach of town at Isfield, Buxted and in Piltdown.
They too offer a wide range of loose fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, fruit juice and preserves.
Bishops Butchers on the High Street welcomes customers bringing their own containers and Truffles Bakery sells loose pastries, cakes, biscuits and bread.
On trips to the supermarket, plastic can still be saved by remembering reusable bags, weighing loose fruit and veg at the check-out, and bringing containers to put other loose items in.
A growing range of household products can be refilled on the High Street
Basic household products, from washing up liquid bottles to liquid soap dispensers, can bring with them an unwanted supply of plastic waste. But Lansdown Health on the High Street has made refilling bottles and containers much more of an option.
The shop also offers refills of ECover and BioD laundry and washing up detergent. Most recently, they have introduced a plastic-free range of cloths, scrubbers and compostable bags.
Liquid soap dispensers, washing up and laundry liquid bottles can also be refilled at The Fair Trade Café, which opens on the first Saturday of each month between 10am and noon at The Source, next to Luxford Car Park.
Refill your water bottle
You can refill your water bottle in town for free.
Costa Coffee in Uckfield has already signed up. Although Costa might not display a Refill logo in their window, staff enthusiastically reassured me they are happy to refill bottles, and a company representative confirmed: “This is something we do offer in our stores.”
Uckfield Picture House is getting on board and working towards being as plastic-free as possible with its consumable products.
Cinema manager Rachel Tout said the cinema now used bio-degradable straws, Vegware compostable thermal cups and lids, and Vegware pint glasses.
They also use thick plastic wine glasses which they wash and reuse and their hot drinks stirrers are wooden. Going forward this year they hope to ramp up their efforts with recycling.
Uckfield’s charity shops offer endless opportunities to reuse and recycle
At my last count, Uckfield’s High Street boasted no less than 11 of them. Not only do these outlets raise thousands of pounds every year for local and national charities, but they sell a huge range of plastic products, all in good condition and looking for a new home.
Brighter Uckfield continues to lead the way with removing plastic from our environment.
The group describes itself as “a growing bank of volunteers dedicated to improving the look and feel of our town”.
Every week they clear bags of litter from around the town and anyone who would like to help is welcome to join the team at Waitrose every Sunday morning at 9am.
The volunteers are also encouraging local residents to “adopt” an area to litter pick regularly.
Plastic often finds its way into the local waterways and Brighter Uckfield are hoping to run their annual river clean again this year alongside the Ouse and Adur Rivers Trust.
Members say there is still a long way to go in the battle against plastic waste.
They say industrial plastic waste, such as plastic sheeting, sacks, bubble wrap and shrink wrap, is a particular problem.
It flies off the back of trucks and gets stuck in trees and bushes in hard-to-clear areas. Discarded rubbish from local takeaways, and fly tipping, are also common sources of plastic litter waste.
But there are good changes too.
Brighter Uckfield have noticed that fast food outlets are beginning to reduce the amount of plastics used.
They say charging for plastic bags has made a big difference, and the level of volunteer support is very encouraging.
Let’s hope that 2019 sees Uckfield go from strength to strength in its efforts to reduce plastic use and clear plastic waste from the town.