The region’s largest council and a number of its partners have signed a collective new pledge as part of an ongoing campaign to eradicate single use plastics.
Representatives from Durham County Council were joined at its County Hall headquarters by a number of businesses and partner organisations to sign the bespoke local pledge for County Durham. The agreement commits all signatories to significantly reduce, and work towards ultimately removing, the use of unnecessary single use plastics from their operations.
The Single Use Plastics Pledge was signed by Cllr Simon Henig as leader of Durham County Council as well as partners from Durham University; Durham Constabulary; Beamish Museum; The Environment Agency; Northumbrian Water; County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service; Durham BID; County Durham Housing Group; OASES; Durham Community Action and the North East England Nature Partnership. More organisations across County Durham are being invited to join up to add momentum to the campaign.
Many of the partners have already reduced their consumption of single use plastics through a range of “early wins” such as eliminating plastic straws and cutlery, and reusing cups, and taking every opportunity to recycle the plastic we do use. Measures already being taken by the council include the phasing out the supply of blue plastic overshoes at its leisure centres, swapping plastic confetti at theatre shows for eco-friendly alternatives and even using recycling plastic products in an innovative road surfacing trial.
Northumbrian Water has been promoting its Refill scheme which aims to reduce reliance on single use plastic bottles by encouraging businesses across the region to sign up to become Refill Stations, places where people can fill up their refillable bottles with tap water, free of charge. These range from cafés and restaurants to estate agencies.
Durham University is trialling reusable boxes for students’ lunches, replacing disposable cups with mugs, glasses and reusable cups and planning to stock vending machines with cans, rather than plastic bottles.
Cllr Henig said: “This pledge is not anti-plastic as we recognise its value to everyday life. What we are working together to reduce however is the throw-away materials, of single use, which not only can cause harm to our environment if disposed of incorrectly, but are also wasteful of resources.
“I am delighted that this pledge is a collective one, pooling the efforts of not just one organisation, but several, all working towards a common cause. The signatories here today are just the start, and I am confident given the importance of the issue and the strength of opinion, more will follow.”
Oliver Harmar, area director, Environment Agency North East, said: ‘“Plastic waste is one of the most important issues facing our planet today and we need to take action now to significantly reduce plastic pollution and the impact it has on our environment.
“As an organisation, the Environment Agency has already taken great strides to reduce the amount of single use plastics waste we produce. However, there is still much more that we can all do to reduce this further. We will achieve this by working closely together, sharing good practice and winning hearts and minds to change the culture around single use plastics, which is why I am delighted to sign this commitment.”
Professor Stuart Corbridge, vice-chancellor, Durham University, said: “Social and environmental responsibility is very important to us. We are already testing a number of changes to reduce our use of single use plastics, including giving students reusable cartons for their lunches and replacing disposable cups with mugs and glasses. We are also keen to explore what more we can do and support others to do the same, so we are proud to sign the County Durham Single Use Plastics Pledge.”
Northumbrian Water’s group commercial director, Graham Southall, said: “We’ve already started to reduce the use of plastics at source through our Refill scheme, offering a network of refill stations to help the public top up their water bottles for free.
“Durham was one of the first areas we came to in the North East, and I’m delighted to be able to sign this pledge to continue working with our partners and play our part in reducing single use plastics.”
Lisa Wilkinson, sustainability manager at Beamish, The Living Museum of the North, said: “Beamish is very proud to have signed this pledge. The museum brings the region’s past to life but we’re also committed to ensuring a greener and more sustainable future, providing the highest quality visitor experience while working towards minimising environmental impact. We’re delighted to be working with organisations across County Durham on this very important issue.”
Signatories at the event viewed a video from Durham Heritage Coast Partnership showing a project in Finland, which was inspired by Durham’s work on the plastic free campaign. Another film showed the work that pupils at St Bede’s RC Primary School in Sacriston have done to reduce plastic in their school.
Businesses and residents who are interest in signing the pledge should email [email protected]
More information about rubbish and recycling in County Durham is available at www.durham.gov.uk/recycling
Information, guidance and support will be given to all signatories to the pledge, to assist them in auditing current use, and taking steps to eliminate or find alternatives.