On Wednesday, 21 November, the 4 Heatons Traders association and the Heatons WI held their first ‘Kick the Plastic’ event at Heatons Sports Club. The aim of the evening was to provide and share information, as well as encourage discussion and ideas around the issue of plastic pollution.

The evening began with guest speaker, Jamie Woodward, Professor of Geography at the University of Manchester. Professor Woodward is a member of the research team whose report on micro-plastics was published in March 2018 in Nature Geoscience; after its publication the report received national press and tv coverage. A summary of this report please refer to this link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-43363545

Professor Woodward’s presentation highlighted the sheer scale of plastic pollution in the river systems of Greater Manchester, including the rivers in and around the Heatons, all of which eventually ends up in the sea. While industrial waste is one source of this plastic pollution, the break-down of plastic rubbish – such as plastic bottles, bags etc – is another significant source. Furthermore, the issue of plastic consumption by humans was raised, as well as the fact that microplastics are continually being ‘recycled’ through our systems – not only by eating fish which consume microplastics in the rivers and seas, but also through crops which are fertilized with treated human sewage that contains microplastics.

Following this presentation, Amanda Fourie, COO of the 4 Heatons Traders Association, introduced the Plastic Free Community initiative run by Surfers Against Sewage. Begun as a way to tackle plastic pollution around the UK coastline, the initiative was extended to include non-coastal communities and provide support for their efforts. The Heatons has been registered with the Plastic Free Community scheme and we aim to work towards official plastic-free status, joining a network of over 400 communities across the country.

Plastic-Free status does not replace the work already underway by various groups within the Heatons community, but rather it acts as a way to pull everyone’s efforts together under the ‘Plastic Free Community’ umbrella, receiving support from Surfers Against Sewage and raising greater awareness for our area. A dedicated Facebook page will keep the Heatons community informed and updated. For more information on Plastic Free Communities please see: https://www.sas.org.uk/plastic-free-communities/

Sue Johnson, Secretary of the Heatons WI, talked about the nationwide WI ‘Plastic Soup’ campaign which highlights the issue of microplastics in fibres and how our laundry is contributing to plastic pollution. Synthetic fibres contribute to plastic pollution as they are released from clothing during the washing cycle, ending up in rivers and causing health risks to both aquatic and human life through consumption. Find out more about ‘Plastic Soup’ here: https://www.thewi.org.uk/campaigns/current-campaigns-and-initiatives/end-plastic-soup

Sue also discussed ideas on how to reduce or reuse single-use plastics in the home. The Heatons WI had made a foot-stool using plastic bottles as the base and Sue also explained how to make plastic-free food wraps using a piece of cotton material and grated beeswax.

Jodi Flannery, a Heatons-based Eco-Consultant, informed the group of the work she has been doing with the 4 Heatons Traders Association to encourage local businesses to replace single-use plastics with sustainable alternatives. The ‘Kick the Plastic’ initiative has received great support, with many Heatons businesses pledging to no longer use plastics. Jodi also discussed some of the ways to reduce the use of plastics in the home and explained the creation of ‘eco-bricks’.

While the ‘Kick the Plastic’ initiative was designed to target Heatons businesses, Jodi aims to widen the campaign to the Heatons community as a whole, as well as involve local schools. Jodi manages the 4HTA Instagram page dedicated to the ‘Kick the Plastic’ campaign, see: https://www.instagram.com/kicktheplastic/

Following the talks, a general discussion was encouraged and those in attendance were asked to note down any ideas on how we can further tackle the issue of plastic pollution. Sustainable Living in the Heatons, the Heatons WI, and the 4 Heatons Traders Association, each had tables displaying information and some of the ways they are helping to reduce plastic use. The evening concluded with a brief mention of TerraCycle stations by Sue, which we are hoping to locate in a suitable place within the Heatons, and which would act as a collection point for those plastics that cannot be recycled through local authority collections – biscuit wrappers, coffee pods etc.

The Heatons WI and the 4 Heatons traders Association aim to continue their collaboration in tackling plastics with the aim of hosting a similar annual/bi-annual organised discussion as a way to keep the Heatons Community informed and continue to share knowledge and ideas.

Any queries, please contact: kicktheplastic@gmail.com