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One Man's War On Plastic

Hi I’m Greg, I’ve lived in Chesterfield for nearly a year and a half, and I’m a person who is passionate about taking environmental action.

Before moving to Chesterfield, I had previously been involved in a campaign to stop fracking for gas in the UK, where I learnt about national companies wanting to frack in Nottinghamshire and North East Derbyshire and use the gas as a feedstock to produce plastics. Around the same time Blue Planet 2 aired, David Attenborough passionately enthused thousands of people to think about our impact on the planet due to the huge swathes of plastics entering our oceans, causing pollution and deaths of marine life. April 2020 and a new documentary is released called ‘The Story of Plastic’, bringing attention to plastic production. Since Blue Planet 2 a big focus has been on cleaning up plastic pollution - beach, river cleans and money invested in technology to collect plastic from the ocean, without attention being drawn to what is really driving our plastic pollution crisis - the oil companies spending billions of dollars on plastic production. The UK government’s move to put a moratorium on fracking in the UK has helped switch attention.

Having watched The Story of Plastic, I discover that $204bn has been invested in 334+ new petrochemical facilities to help produce more plastic. Communities in Indonesia and India were cleaning up their coast from the swathes of plastic pollution, yet every day more and more pollution was continuing to pour in. Clean-up of plastic pollution is still important, and the work that Don Catchment Rivers Trust does around Chesterfield’s rivers and streams is incredible, however, the focus needs to shift to doing something about the $5.2 trillion of subsidies for the fossil fuel industry producing more and more plastics.

Now we are faced with a global pandemic and more people were starting to think ‘what happens as lockdown ends?’ A national poll revealed that only 9% of Britons wanted life to return to ‘normal’. On social media I saw the graphic shown.

There seems to be a growing appetite for a ‘new normal’, and the theme appears to be for an environmental improvement. Lockdown provides us with the opportunity to reflect on and pursue positive environmental changes. ‘The Story of Plastic’ suggests we ‘turn off the tap’ to stop plastic pollution at the source. Perhaps a potential opportunity is through the upcoming piece of legislation, The Environment Bill. So I urge people to investigate plastic production, the Environment Bill, and write to your MPs (

As well as calling for international and national action, I also feel it is very important to take action locally. So in June 2019 I set up Plastic Free Chesterfield to work across the whole community, with businesses, schools, and community groups to take action on single-use plastic. Almost a year on, over 40 businesses, 20 community organisations, and nearly 10 schools have signed up to the campaign where:

  • Businesses make at least three “swaps” away from single-use plastics

  • Community organisations pledge to reduce single-use plastic in their group/organisation

  • Schools sign up to the Plastic Free Schools programme

A recent survey from Surfers Against Sewage revealed that COVID-19 has made people realise they want to do more to reduce plastic use. I love this quote from Anne Bonneau: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” So if you’ve already started or are about to embark on your plastic-free journey, Plastic Free Chesterfield would love to hear from you. Join our Facebook group ‘Plastic Free Chesterfield group’, introduce yourself and share your story. Stories can be incredibly empowering,inspiring and motivate others to act. I look forward to seeing you there.

Words & Image: Greg Hewitt


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